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394. Intelligence Assessment Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

PA 80–10482

Deadlock at the NPT Review Conference: Causes and Consequences

Key Judgments

The recent conference in Geneva to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) failed to produce a declaration assessing how effectively the treaty has been implemented over the past five years. None of the 75 participants questioned the need for or basic purpose of the NPT, but they were unwilling to make the compromises necessary to reach a final declaration reaffirming the value of the treaty. Widespread concern now exists that the failure to reach a consensus will undermine confidence in the global nonproliferation regime.

Causes of Failure

A longstanding conflict over the intent of the treaty between the nuclear weapons states and nonnuclear weapons states, primarily those in the developing world, was the root of the problem. Ever since the negotiation of the NPT in the late 1960s, the two groups have disagreed over the delicate balance of rights and obligations in the treaty. The developing nations have consistently argued, and did so forcefully at the conference, that the problem of nonproliferation is a matter of controlling the nuclear arms race between the nuclear powers as well as containing the spread of nuclear weapons to other states. The three nuclear weapons states that are party to the treaty—the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the United States—prefer to emphasize the containment purposes of the NPT, arguing that a global nonproliferation regime is valuable in its own right and its implementation should not be made dependent on progress in the arms control area.

The developing nations at the conference, acting as spokesmen for the Group of 77 (G–77), alleged that there had been no meaningful progress toward disarmament since the 1975 Review Conference and insisted that their viewpoint be expressed in a final declaration. They also sought commitments from the nuclear weapons states to increase the role of nonnuclear weapons states in arms control negotiations.

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The G–77 entered the conference with a wide range of arms control demands. These were eventually narrowed to three items that they insisted be included in the final declaration:

The establishment of a multilateral working group on a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTB) in the Committee on Disarmament.

A pledge by the Soviet Union and the United States to observe the terms of the SALT II agreement pending ratification.

Language that would single out Israel and South Africa for criticism and prohibit nuclear cooperation with these two nonsignatories unless they accepted international safeguards over their entire nuclear programs.

Significant concessions by the industrial nations giving assurances about the supply of nuclear fuel and technical assistance to nuclear programs of Third World signatories of the NPT were not sufficient to lead to compromise in the arms control area. Indeed, G–77 leaders like Yugoslavia and Mexico apparently persuaded the more moderate nations within the Group to dig in their heels because the nuclear weapons states showed no signs of agreeing to any of the arms control demands until well into the last week of the conference. The United States eventually indicated a willingness to accept a CTB working group under certain conditions, but by that time most of the developing nations had decided that an inconclusive conference outcome would provide a dramatic warning to the superpowers.

Consequences of Failure

The failure of the review conference to reaffirm the NPT in a final declaration is likely to have a number of far-reaching consequences:

It will weaken the global nonproliferation regime. The inconclusive outcome does not alter the treaty obligations of signatories, but the failure to agree on whether the treaty has been effectively implemented raises serious questions about its long-term viability.

No signatory is likely to withdraw from the treaty in the next few years because of the conference outcome, but the prospects for persuading nonsignatories to adhere to the treaty have been greatly reduced. Some nonsignatories may conclude that the costs of nonadherence and the potential penalties for crossing the nuclear threshold have been reduced.

The issue of nuclear weapons programs in the Third World is likely to be further politicized. The G–77 nations at the conference, for example, were unwilling to discuss the question of how to deal with potential proliferators within their own ranks.

The developing nations’ insistence on discussing nuclear arms control between the superpowers probably will complicate future discussions of nuclear proliferation. This linkage may make any strength[Page 1003]ening of the global nonproliferation regime conditional upon progress in arms control, thus providing an additional excuse for some developing nations to resist specific US proposals for tighter control of international nuclear commerce.

The ability of the developing nations to mold and pursue a unified negotiating position at the review conference is likely to reinvigorate their efforts to negotiate as a bloc on other international issues that can be cast in North-South terms. G–77 unity has been under considerable strain recently, particularly on economic issues such as the cost of oil. Stimulated by their success on nuclear matters, the G–77 members are likely to redouble attempts to find issues of common concern around which they can achieve consensus.

The increased cooperation among developing nations does not necessarily imply, however, that the dialogue with industrial nations will become more acrimonious. Nations normally considered moderates within the G–77 and the related nonaligned movement assumed leadership roles at the NPT review conference. This may presage a trend against Cuba and other radical nations that have attempted to steer these organizations in a distinctly anti-Western direction.

The results of the review conference may even stimulate a leadership role for Third World moderates, particularly in the nuclear proliferation field. Many developing nations wish to preserve, in upcoming meetings of the new International Atomic Energy Agency Committee on the Assurance of Supply and in other forums, important concessions on nuclear trade issues already won from the industrial nations.

Finally, the outcome of the NPT review conference is likely to affect future arms control negotiations and deliberations. At minimum, it will reinforce the G–77’s allegations that the nuclear weapons states are dragging their feet on arms control negotiations, and this attitude may serve as a basis to oppose as ineffective and discriminatory almost any multilateral arms control initiative sponsored by the superpowers. In any event, the nonaligned nations probably will lobby in the UN General Assembly for a broader mandate for the Committee on Disarmament, including the creation of a working group on CTB.

If the CTB issue is not resolved in the UN, nonaligned nations are certain to insist on such a working group in the 1981 sessions of the Committee on Disarmament, knowing that Washington has accepted the idea, at least in principle. Even if the procedural issue is resolved in the Committee on Disarmament, there is little reason to expect the developing nations to be in a cooperative mood at the Third NPT review conference in 1985 unless the nuclear weapons states have by then concluded a comprehensive test ban treaty and other arms control agreements.

[Omitted here is the body of the assessment.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Oplinger/Bloomfield File, Box 50, Proliferation: Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, 9–11/80. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Original paragraph classification and handling restrictions not declassified.