Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Submission from Dr Nick Ritchie, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford[59]

The Legitimacy and Effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Decision to Renew Trident

  1.  The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. It recognised five states as "nuclear weapon states", defined as those that had "manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967". These were the United States, the Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation), Britain, France and China.

  2.  The treaty is often presented as a "grand bargain" between the five nuclear weapon states and the rest of the world in which the nuclear weapon states agreed to work towards nuclear disarmament, not provide nuclear weapons or weapon materials or technology to other countries and assist non-nuclear weapon states with peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Non-nuclear weapon states in return agreed not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons and to accept international safeguards on their civil nuclear programmes monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

  3.  Compliance with the NPT and support for nuclear non-proliferation activities is widely regarded as a vital contribution to global security. The government argues in its National Security Strategy that the proliferation of nuclear weapons will increase "the risk of instability in the international system and ultimately the risk of nuclear confrontation".[60] The government also acknowledges that the NPT is the cornerstone of international efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons[61] and that "the NPT has helped ensure that fewer states have acquired nuclear weapons than many predicted" even if the number of nuclear-armed states has slowly increased.[62] Ambassador John Duncan, head of Britain's delegation to the 2008 NPT Preparatory Committee, stated that "the NPT remains the foundation stone of international non-proliferation architecture. If it didn't exist, the world would be a much more dangerous place, and we would assuredly need to re-invent it".[63]

  4.  The government also places considerable emphasis in its National Security Strategy on the benefits for international peace and security of a multilateral rules-based international system. The government is "committed to a multilateral, rules-based approach to international affairs, where issues are resolved through discussion and due process, with the use of force as a last resort".[64] This applies equally to addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction where the government's approach reflects its "commitment to multilateralism and the rules-based international system".[65]

  5.  The effectiveness of multilateral institutions depends on their legitimacy. The government argues that addressing today's international security challenges requires "Multilateral engagement, ideally through international institutions…to allow the international community to draw on the full range of political, economic, and security resources at the disposal of different countries, and to provide the legitimacy on which effective action demands" (emphasis added).[66] This applies equally to the NPT.

  6.  We can therefore conclude that the government considers a) the spread of nuclear weapons is detrimental to national security; b) the NPT is a vital international institutional tool for stemming the spread of nuclear weapons; c) national and international security can best be achieved through a multilateral rules-based international order, of which the NPT is an important component; and d) the effectiveness of the NPT is innately tied to its perceived legitimacy.

  7.  The government has claimed that its decision announced in December 2006 to begin the process of replacing the current Trident nuclear weapons system will have no impact on the NPT and the efforts to stem the further spread of nuclear weapons. It claims that the decision to replace Trident and maintain a strategic nuclear weapons capability is benign with no negative international political repercussions. It asserts that Britain must continue to field these weapons for the foreseeable future as a necessary element of its security in order to deter the use nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction by other states or potentially terrorist groups.[67]

  8.  This government is wrong. Its decision will have a detrimental impact on the NPT by undermining the treaty's legitimacy. The question is how much, not whether it will or will not.


  9.  The NPT embodies two crucial norms: a norm against nuclear proliferation; and a norm of legitimate expectation of progress towards nuclear disarmament. The first norm is widely accepted and supported by the world's major powers, particularly following the accession of France, China, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and all the post-Soviet states to the NPT in the 1990s. The second norm is contested by a number of nuclear weapon states.

  10.  Norms are a vital part of international security. They operate in two ways. First, they can define a state's identity and therefore its interests such that upholding or disregarding specific norms defines and validates what sort of state the state is, for example a "civilised", "Western", "non-aligned", or "rogue" state.[68] Second, norms perform an instrumental role by regulating the behaviour of states by prescribing or proscribing particular actions in a particular situation based on a state's established identity and interests.[69]

  11.  Norms do not determine state behaviour but provide collective expectations about proper and therefore legitimate behaviour.[70] The non-proliferation norm, for example, may not prevent states that are determined to possess nuclear weapons from acquiring them but it does provide a vital framework for legitimising condemnation and sanctions against norm violators. Without the NPT regime the norm against nuclear proliferation would lack a robust and legitimate foundation.[71]

  12.  Norms and the institutional structures that embody them may shape state identity and behaviour but they have no independent existence beyond the actions of states. If all states ignored a norm it would eventually cease to exist. Norms and normative institutions must be continually reproduced and reconstructed through state policies and actions, even as they are guided by them.[72] State practices therefore affect what a norm means, its strength, legitimacy and therefore effectiveness in international politics.[73]

  13.  The non-proliferation and disarmament norms embodied by the NPT are a very valuable part of international security and stability, but they are not immutable and will not endure without support. The actions and policies of the nuclear weapon states will either reinforce or undermine these norms to varying extents. To pretend otherwise is a fallacy.


  14.  Compliance with international rules and institutions is achieved through a combination of coercion, pure self-interest and legitimacy.[74] Legitimacy can be defined as "the normative belief by an actor that a rule or institution ought to be obeyed".[75] When an institution or rule is considered legitimate it is invested with authority by the actor, such as a state, and the rule or body becomes an "authority".[76] States will comply with rules and institutions considered legitimate because they become motivated "by an internal sense of moral obligation: control is legitimate to the extent that it is approved or regarded as 'right'."[77]

  15.  Legitimacy is crucial because without it the exercise of control either through coercion or through provision of sufficient levels of incentives to induce self-interested compliance becomes costly and difficult.[78] Ian Hurd argues that "a common lesson of studies of complex organizations is that coercion and repression tend to generate resentment and resistance, even as they produce compliance, because they operate against the normative impulses of the subordinate individual or group."[79]

  16.  Nina Rathbun argues that equality is a defining dimension of legitimacy: "Legitimacy refers to the degree to which regimes ensure sovereign equality. Legitimate regimes are universal and nondiscriminatory".[80] The NPT does not discriminate when it comes to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons or benefiting from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but it does discriminate between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. This "is the major factor reducing the legitimacy of the treaty" and it is here that the norm of progress towards nuclear disarmament is so vital because it "strengthens the legitimacy of the regime by creating the expectation that the special rights of the nuclear weapon states will end at some point in the future".[81] As a result the legitimacy of the NPT is based on "a fine balance of interests and principles that work together to circumscribe and limit the fundamental discrimination inherent in the treaty".[82]

  17.  Compliance with and support for the NPT is therefore intimately linked to its legitimacy, and its legitimacy is underpinned by the fundamental principles of sovereign equality and non-discrimination. The discrimination between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states that weakens the legitimacy of the treaty is ameliorated through an expectation of progress towards nuclear disarmament that will end the treaty's discrimination by eliminating the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. Progress towards nuclear disarmament alongside progress in preventing nuclear proliferation is therefore intrinsic to the legitimacy and consequently the effectiveness of the NPT.


  18.  Efforts to galvanise support for containing and rolling-back illicit nuclear weapon programmes in North Korea and Iran and efforts to negotiate and implement new initiatives to enhance controls on peaceful uses of nuclear technology as a means of impeding further proliferation draw on the legitimacy of these actions under the NPT as a multilateral, rules-based international institution.

  19.  This has become particularly salient with the prospect of a proliferation of nuclear energy capabilities in response to climate change and energy security demands. The world's major powers are anxious to ensure these emerging and expanding civil nuclear programmes cannot be put to military use. This will require a broader and deeper international verification and inspection regime and additional non-proliferation measures.[83]

  20.  For the majority of states the legitimacy of further non-proliferation measures is dependent upon further nuclear disarmament measures. New initiatives by the nuclear weapon states to impose further obligations on non-nuclear weapon states under the NPT in terms of restricting access to nuclear energy capabilities are likely to be resisted unless the nuclear weapon states take further concrete and irreversible steps towards nuclear disarmament.[84] James Acton and George Perkovich's recent study on nuclear abolition for the International Institute for Strategic Studies argues that the recent momentum behind calls to take nuclear disarmament seriously have been motivated by "the belief that it will be impossible to curtail nuclear weapons proliferation without serious progress towards nuclear disarmament".[85]

  21.  The norm of a legitimate expectation of progress towards nuclear disarmament must be adhered to in order to reproduce and strengthen the norm against nuclear proliferation. The lack of much greater progress towards nuclear disarmament will undermine the NPT's legitimacy and risks an erosion of the non-proliferation norm as non-nuclear weapon states become increasingly disillusioned with the NPT leading to withdrawals from the treaty and a potential cascade of nuclear proliferation.[86]

  22.  Efforts by the nuclear weapon states to place further obligations on non-nuclear weapon states that curtail their access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy without the legitimising authority of the NPT risk a backlash that may undermine non-proliferation efforts and could have counter-productive consequences. As Professor John Simpson writes, "the use of raw power without legitimacy generates the anarchy it may be claiming to moderate".[87] Such initiatives could also destabilise the NPT's "fine balance" by threatening to institute an additional level of informal discrimination between "nuclear fuel cycle" states and "non-nuclear fuel cycle states".[88]

  23.  The policies and actions of the nuclear weapon states that implicitly or explicitly support the prospect of permanent discrimination through indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and downgrade or even dismiss the disarmament norm simultaneously support the prospect of a permanently illegitimate NPT and the attendant consequences in terms of its effectiveness. Professor William Walker, for example, questions whether "the non-proliferation norm [can] possess meaning and legitimacy if its grounding in disarmament is denied, and if the NNWS come to regard the NPT as a duplicitous instrument for locking them into permanent inferiority and dependence?"[89] David Broucher, former British Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, warns that if the nuclear powers implicitly or explicitly abolish the idea they are on a path towards nuclear disarmament and "if you say there are always going to be nuclear weapons in the world, then it becomes very much more difficult to maintain the moral authority for saying that some countries can have it [a nuclear arsenal] and some cannot".[90]

  24.  Statements and actions that reinforce the value of nuclear weapons and the logic of nuclear deterrence can only stand in opposition to the norm of progress towards nuclear disarmament and in support of the discrimination at the heart of the treaty that weakens it legitimacy.[91]

  25.  The NPT's legitimacy therefore depends on the realistic expectation of a non-discriminatory NPT through nuclear disarmament, universal application the non-proliferation norm and acceptance by the nuclear weapon states that their possession of nuclear weapons is a temporary phenomenon. The two norms are innately connected through the powerful and mobilising notion of legitimacy.


  26.  The majority of non-nuclear weapon states accept a clear relationship between the NPT's non-proliferation and disarmament norms in which the strength of one norm depends on the strength of the other. The argument that the NPT is primarily about non-proliferation is refuted, the argument that the nuclear weapon states have done more than enough to meet their nuclear disarmament obligations is rejected, and a norm of expectation of progress towards nuclear disarmament is considered integral to the NPT and cannot be dismissed.[92]

  27.  This view maintains that the NPT acknowledged the possession of nuclear weapons by the five NWS not as a permanent situation but as a "temporary trust" until nuclear disarmament is achieved.[93] The decision taken at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference to extend the NPT indefinitely cannot and must not be interpreted as legitimising the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapon states.[94] The double standard at the heart of the NPT that allows some states to enjoy the supposed security benefits of nuclear weapons whilst denying those benefits to others cannot last indefinitely.[95]

  28.  This view that progress on nuclear non-proliferation and the strength and legitimacy of the non-proliferation norm is linked to progress towards nuclear disarmament and the strength and legitimacy of the nuclear disarmament norm is reflected in the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament agreed at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the "13 steps" to work towards nuclear disarmament agreed at the 2000 Review Conference, the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that confirmed "an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control",[96] and concerted pressure from the New Agenda Coalition[97] and Non-Aligned Movement to establish a programme of action on nuclear disarmament.

  29.  It is reflected in widespread dissatisfaction with progress towards nuclear disarmament.[98] A 2007 working group report on "The P-5 and Nuclear Proliferation" by the Center for Strategic and International Studies directed by Robert Einhorn, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation from 1999-2001, acknowledges that "One of the factors weakening the NPT today is the perception by many nonnuclear weapon states party to the treaty that the nuclear powers are not living up to their obligation under article VI to pursue nuclear disarmament".[99]

  30.  It is reflected in statements from the UN including those by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,[100] former Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations Jayantha Dhanapala,[101] and Ambassador Sergio Duarte of Brazil who presided over the 2005 NPT Review Conference.[102]

  31.  It is reflected in statements by many of Britain's "Western" allies including Switzerland, Norway, South Korea, Japan, and Australia and it is a view widely held beyond the "West" by the Non-Aligned Movement comprising 118 nations from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the League of Arab States comprising 10 countries from North Africa and the Middle East.[103] This majority view is reinforced by a review of a representative sample of government delegation statements made to the 2002, 2003 and 2004 NPT Preparatory Committees.[104]

  32.  It was also acknowledged, with a degree of surprise, by a 2006 report on "Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy and Posture" by the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). One of the report's conclusions was that America should rethink its approach to nuclear disarmament in order to secure help from others for its non-proliferation objectives. This was judged "the most controversial potential implication of this exploration of foreign perspectives on U.S. nuclear policy and posture".[105]

  33.  A particularly salient statement was made by the Brazilian delegation to the NPT in 2007. Brazil hesitantly acceded to the NPT in 1998. It has a significant civilian nuclear power programme that now includes a uranium enrichment capability, a nuclear research programme that dates back to the 1930s and had a secret nuclear weapons programme that was terminated in 1990. It represents a state that may in the future opt to leave the treaty if the nuclear weapon states fail to make significant progress towards nuclear disarmament.[106] In 2007 the Brazilian delegation stated that "the implementation of a sustainable and long-term strategy in the field of non-proliferation depends on the simultaneous adoption of concrete measures as far as nuclear disarmament and fissile material are concerned… Without effective, verifiable and irreversible progress in the field of disarmament, non-proliferation regimes can provide little—if any—sustainable results…an essential step to face nuclear proliferation is the fulfilment by the nuclear armed states of their unequivocal commitment towards nuclear disarmament, assumed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Brazil understands that, notwithstanding the changes which eventually took place in the international security scenario, agreements reached at earlier conferences are necessarily valid and shall by no means be overlooked." In the context of the Trident decision Brazil also stated that "We are also concerned with modernization processes of nuclear arsenals which seem to ensure that nuclear weapons will remain operative for at least a quarter of a century".[107]


  34.  The nuclear weapon states generally do not accept this view. They tend to argue that their nuclear weapons policies and actions have little or no effect on the legitimacy of the NPT, on nuclear proliferation, or on the willingness of other states to assist them in achieving their non-proliferation goals. They argue, for example, that the major reductions in nuclear forces by Russia and the United States throughout the 1990s did little stop North Korea or Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.

  35.  Several nuclear weapon states have attempted to "de-link" the disarmament and non-proliferation norms.[108] The extent to which the NPT represents a "grand bargain" between the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states to halt proliferation in exchange for eventual nuclear disarmament is disputed.

  36.  They have traditionally placed far greater emphasis on the non-proliferation norm. America's Ambassador to Conference on Disarmament, for example, declared in 2007 before UN First Committee that the US had done more than its fair share of work towards nuclear disarmament under the NPT and that it was now time to focus on the "crisis of noncompliance with its core of nonproliferation provisions". She declared that "To those who say progress on disarmament and non-proliferation are out of balance, I say that the United States fully agrees. It is time for the international community to make the kind of gains on strengthening nonproliferation norms that we have made in reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons and the degree of reliance on those weapons in national security strategies."[109]

  37.  They also tend to argue that the NPT is a treaty to halt nuclear proliferation rather than a treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament. Dr. Christopher Ford, US Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, insisted in 2007 that "aside from this obligation to "pursue" negotiations, Article VI [of the NPT] requires no specific disarmament measures."[110]

  38.  The British government claims that the decision to begin replacing Trident to maintain the capability to deploy nuclear weapons into the 2050s will have no detrimental effect on the NPT. Defence secretary Des Browne, for example, argues that "there is nothing destabilising about our plans. Under the NPT regime all the recognised nuclear weapon states, have taken equivalent steps to maintain their deterrents, including ourselves in the 1980s, without any perceptible "destabilising" effect."[111]

  39.  The government carefully limits the definition of "effect" to whether the decision to replace Trident will affect the decisions of the handful of states that are currently seeking nuclear weapons.[112] This limited conception of "effect" obscures the wider impact of the British decision on the legitimacy and therefore effectiveness of the NPT.

  40.  The decision by the British government to renew the Trident system with what initially appears to be a like-for-like replacement can only reinforce the value of nuclear weapons and the logic of nuclear deterrence in international politics. The decision to replace Trident and the rationales presented to support it reveal a commitment by the government to what it considers an inescapable and fundamental logic: nuclear weapons are an essential capability in an increasingly uncertain world. Declarations of retaining only a "minimum deterrent", of not targeting nuclear weapons at any particular country and of only using them in extreme situations of national survival are overshadowed by this logic. This makes it very difficult for the government to fully support efforts to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons and support a universal norm against nuclear proliferation whilst insisting that it needs these weapons for its own security for the foreseeable future, particularly when Britain faces no strategic nuclear threats.[113]

  41.  The decision to replace Trident therefore reproduces rather than ameliorates the discrimination at the heart of the NPT and by its very nature fails to support or reproduce the norm of progress towards nuclear disarmament, despite some government rhetoric to the contrary. In doing so the decision intrinsically undermines the legitimacy of the NPT and the norm of non-proliferation because of the commonly accepted linkage between the NPT's two core norms.

  42.  Clearly this is not the government's intention but it is nevertheless the outcome. The government stated before the NPT gathering in 2008, for example, that "the UK does not belong to an opposite camp that insists on "non-proliferation first." The UK fully accepts the proposition that progress must be made on the disarmament and non-proliferation tracks in parallel".[114] Nevertheless, the government fails to acknowledge the detrimental impact of the decision to replace Trident on the legitimacy of the NPT.


  43.  The nuclear weapon states, particularly in the West, have a different interpretation of legitimacy under the NPT. They argue that the distinction drawn in the NPT between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states represents a legal, and therefore legitimate, entitlement to possess and deploy nuclear weapons.

  44.  The British government legitimised its decision to begin replacing Trident based on this legal definition of legitimacy: "The UK's retention of a nuclear deterrent is fully consistent with our international legal obligations. The NPT recognises the UK's status (along with that of the US, France, Russia and China) as a nuclear weapon State. The NPT remains the principal source of international legal obligation relating to the possession of nuclear weapons. We are fully compliant with all our NPT obligations, including those under Article I (prevention of further proliferation of nuclear weapon technology) and Article VI (disarmament)."[115]

  45.  The problem with this legal interpretation of legitimacy is that by extension it appropriates the logic of nuclear deterrence for just those five countries the treaty recognises as "nuclear weapon states" and no others. Yet the logic of nuclear deterrence as an abstract process of reasoning can be objectively applied to and appropriated by any state that feels militarily threatened regardless of whether they have accepted legal obligations and the legal designation of a non-nuclear party to the NPT.

  46.  The Western nuclear weapons states proceed as if the logic of nuclear deterrence is not applicable to non-nuclear weapon states because they have accepted the designation of "non-nuclear weapon states". The danger is that the nuclear weapon states feel free to extol the virtues of the logic of nuclear deterrence secure in the knowledge that such activity has no adverse persuasive effect on the non-nuclear community of states in the NPT because the logic of nuclear deterrence cannot be appropriated to them or in some cases is ameliorated through extended deterrence guarantees. It is this legal definition of legitimacy under the NPT that is used to justify the nuclear weapon states' "do as I say, not as I do" approach to the possession of nuclear weapons.

  47.  The problem is that it does have a persuasive effect precisely because the logic is universally applicable on its own strategic political-military grounds. Non-nuclear weapon states recognise that the logic of nuclear deterrence articulated by the nuclear weapon states is objectively applicable to all states. They recognise that the logical destination of the non-discriminatory application of this logic is a world brimming with nuclear-armed states and argue that the only legitimate alternative is the non-discriminatory rejection of the logic of nuclear deterrence to avert a frighteningly dangerous nuclear-armed world.[116] It was just such a prospect that motivated states to negotiate the NPT in the 1960s.

  48.  Repeated articulation of the legitimacy of the strategic political-military reasoning that underpins the logic of nuclear deterrence whilst denying the appropriation of that logic by others based on a legal (rather than strategic) distinction reinforces the discrimination at the heart of the NPT. This erodes the regime's legitimacy and with it the legitimacy of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. William Walker, for example, argues that "to pay open homage to nuclear deterrence is to jeopardize the non-proliferation norms and regime".[117]

  49.  By framing the issue of compatibility with the NPT in a purely legal context, the government avoids discussion of whether the decision to replace Trident is compatible with reinforcing or undermining the NPT as a legitimate and therefore effective normative framework for state behaviour regarding the possession of nuclear weapons. The government's position may arguably be legal, but that does not mean it is legitimate. As Rathbun states, "although legality is a necessary prerequisite for legitimacy, it is not sufficient."[118]


  50.  The NPT has a crucial normative effect in legitimising efforts to constrain proliferation, hold proliferators to account and mobilise international action and opprobrium against them, and to provide a vehicle through which states can define their identity and consequently their interests as a law-abiding non-nuclear weapon state.

  51.  Progress on nuclear disarmament is widely regarded as essential for maintaining the integrity of the non-proliferation norm and the legitimacy of the NPT. The treaty's legitimacy and therefore effectiveness is contingent upon concrete actions that reproduce and reinforce both the non-proliferation and disarmament norms.

  52.  The government's argument that the decision to renew Trident will have no impact on the NPT is wrong. The decision to begin renewing Trident based on the claim that nuclear deterrence remains a necessary part of British security undermines the legitimacy of the NPT by reinforcing value of nuclear weapons, the intention to remain a nuclear weapon state for the indefinite future, and consequently the discrimination at the heart of the treaty. This, in turn, undermines the legitimacy of new initiatives to enhance nuclear non-proliferation measures that draw on the legitimacy of the NPT, despite government proclamations to the contrary.

  53.  At a fundamental level the government's nuclear weapons policies and actions can either support or undermine the NPT's norms and the decision to replace Trident falls under the latter. This reality cannot be escaped. The decision can be argued to be legally permissible, but legality should not be conflated with legitimacy.

  54.  Diplomatic initiatives to agree concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament are therefore essential at the 2010 NPT Review Conference if the nuclear weapon states are to successfully negotiate additional effective and legitimate steps to stem nuclear proliferation.

  55.  The government should therefore commission and publish a detailed study of steps Britain could take to further de-value and reduce its own nuclear force on a verifiable path from the current definition of "minimum deterrence" based on having at least one submarine from four on patrol at all times armed with 48 warheads under a "continuous-at-sea deterrence" policy, towards zero nuclear weapons. This would be a significant step towards former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's vision of Britain as a nuclear "disarmament laboratory".[119]

  56.  Britain should seriously consider further de-valuing nuclear weapons by formally restricting its nuclear deterrence doctrine to the deterrence of the nuclear arsenals of other major nuclear powers. The government currently insists that the logic of nuclear deterrence still pertains in four broad areas:

    i. Deterrence against aggression towards British/NATO vital interests or nuclear coercion/blackmail by major powers with large nuclear arsenals.

    ii. Deterrence against nuclear coercion or blackmail by regional "rogue" states.

    iii. Deterrence against state-sponsored acts of nuclear terrorism.

    iv. A general "residual" deterrent to preserve peace and stability in an uncertain world.[120]

  57.  It also asserts that British nuclear weapons are not only meant to deter possible threats from other nuclear forces, but also the threat from chemical and biological weapons and general threats to British "vital interests" anywhere in the world. This broad and controversial remit for nuclear weapons extends far beyond extreme threats to the survival of the nation to include the deterrence of threats to the security of the European continent, global economic interests based on the free flow of trade, overseas and foreign investment and key raw materials, the safety and security of British citizens living and working overseas and its Overseas Territories, and general international stability.[121] The government also retains the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict.

  58.  Finally, the government should introduce a working draft of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) to the Conference on Disarmament to ban the further production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. An FMCT is widely accepted as the next step towards multilateral nuclear disarmament after the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Conference on Disarmament has failed to initiate negotiations on such a treaty despite agreement on a negotiating mandate in 1995. The government should consider sponsoring either directly or indirectly high-level meetings with other government delegations to explore how an FMCT could be negotiated and to invest the negotiation of such a treaty with the full political will and capital of a nuclear weapon state.

  59.  It should be re-called that when the government introduced its motion to the House in March 2007 to authorise its decision to begin the process of replacing Trident it assured the House that it would renew its efforts to secure measures pursuant to nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT, in particular to bring about negotiations on a FMCT.[122]

September 2008

59   Nick Ritchie is a research Fellow at the Department of Peace Studies, university of Bradford. Back

60   The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an Interdependent World, Cm 7291 (London, Cabinet Office, March 2008), p. 12. Back

61   Ibid, p. 30. Back

62   Ibid, p. 11. Back

63   John Duncan, "UK General Statement to the 2008 Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee", (Vienna, United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the Conference on Disarmament, April 28, 2008). Back

64   The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom, p. 47. Back

65   Ibid, p. 29. Back

66   Ibid, p. 37. Back

67   Major problems with the government's deterrence justification for replacing Trident are examined in Nick Ritchie, "Trident: What is it For?-Challenging the Relevance of British Nuclear Weapons", Bradford Disarmament Research Centre Briefing Paper, (Bradford, University of Bradford, April 2008). Back

68   Martha Finnemore & Kathryn Sikkink, "International Norm Dynamics and Political Change", International Organization 52: 4, Autumn 1998, p. 903 Back

69   Peter J. Katzenstein, Alexander Wendt, et al., "Norms, Identity, and Culture in National Security", in Katzenstein, P. J. (Ed.) The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York, Columbia University Press, 1996), p. 54. Back

70   Ibid, p. 54; Vaughn Shannon, "Norms are what States Make of them: The Political Psychology of Norm Violation", International Studies Quarterly 44: 1, June 2000, p. 295. Back

71   See Jayantha Dhanapala, Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT: An Insider's Account (New York, United Nations, 2005) chapter 7. Back

72   Katzenstein, Wendt, et al., "Norms, Identity, and Culture in National Security", p. 63. Back

73   Antje Wiener, "Contested Compliance: Interventions on the Normative Structure of World Politics", European Journal of International Relations 10: 2, 2004, p. 192. Back

74   Ian Hurd, "Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics", International Organization 53: 2, Spring 1999, p. 381. Back

75   Ibid, p. 381. Back

76   Ibid, p. 381. Back

77   Ibid, p. 387 and p. 400. Back

78   Ibid, pp. 383, 388. Back

79   Ibid, p. 384. Back

80   Nina Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime", The Nonproliferation Review 13: 2, July 2006, p. 228. Back

81   Ibid, p. 233. Back

82    Ibid, p. 237. Back

83   See James Acton & George Perkovich, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons (London, Routledge for IISS, 2008). Back

84   Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime", p. 236. Back

85   Acton & Perkovich, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, p. 7. Back

86   Michael MccGwire, "The Rise and Fall of the NPT: An Opportunity for Britain", International Affairs 81: 1, 2005, p. 124. Back

87   John Simpson, "The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime: Back to the Future", in Vignard, K. (Ed.) Strengthening Disarmament and Security (Geneva, Disarmament Forum, UNIDIR, 2004, No. 1) Back

88   Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime", p. 237. Back

89   William Walker, "International Nuclear Order: A Rejoinder", International Affairs 83: 4, 2007, p. 752. Back

90   The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: The Strategic Context, HC 986, (London, The Stationery Office, June 2006), Ev. 22. Back

91   See Harald Muller, "The Future of Nuclear Weapons in an Interdependent World", The Washington Quarterly 31: 2, Spring 2008, p. 72. Back

92   See William Walker, "Nuclear Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment", International Affairs 83: 3, 2007, p. 436. Back

93   Ibid, p. 436; Tariq Rauf & John Simpson, "The 1999 NPT PrepCom", The Nonproliferation Review: Winter 1999, p. 128. Back

94   Ambassador Paul Kavanagh, "The First Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons", (Vienna, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the Conference on Disarmament on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, May 1, 2007). Back

95   See Ivo Daalder, "What Vision for the Nuclear Future?" The Washington Quarterly 18: 2, 1995, p. 139; George Perkovich, "Bush's Nuclear Revolution: a Regime Change in Nonproliferation", Foreign Affairs 82: 2, March/April 2003, p. 2; and Lewis A. Dunn & Victor Alessi, "Arms Control by Other Means", Survival 42: 4, Winter 2000/01, p. 130. Back

96   "Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion at the request of the UN General Assembly", ICJ Reports, (The Hague, International Court of Justice, July 8, 1996). Back

97   The New Agenda Coalition comprises Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden. It represents a group of middle power countries seeking to build an international consensus for progress on nuclear disarmament. Back

98   See Dhanapala, Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT, p. 120. Back

99   Robert Einhorn, "The P-5 and Nuclear Proliferation", Washington, D.C., Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 2007, p. 12. Back

100   Ban Ki-moon, "Message to the First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference", Vienna, United Nations, April 20, 2007. Back

101   Jayantha Dhanapala, "Multilateralism and the Future of the Global Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime", The Nonproliferation Review: Fall 2001, p. 3. Back

102   Sergio Duarte, "Keeping the NPT Together: A Thankless Job in a Climate of Mistrust", The Nonproliferation Review 13: 1 March 2006, p. 9. Back

103   See statements made by government delegations to the 2007 and 2008 NPT Preparatory Committees, available at Back

104   Nick Ritchie, "Contrasting views at the NPT", (Oxford, Oxford Research Group, working paper, October 2004). Back

105   Lewis Dunn, Gregory Giles, et al., Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Policy and Posture (Ft. Belvoir, VA, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, 2006), p. 7. Back

106   Daphne Morrison, Brazil's Nuclear Ambitions, Past and Present (Washington, D.C., Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2006), retrieved from on September 20, 2008; Mitchell Reiss, Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington, D.C., Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1995), pp. 48-66. Back

107   Sergio Duarte, "The First Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons", Ministry of External Relations, Brazil, April 30, 2007. Back

108   Nabil Fahmy, "An Assessment of International Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts After 60 Years", The Nonproliferation Review 13: 1, March 2006, p. 83. Back

109   U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Christina Rocca, "Statement by Christina Rocca Permanent Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament", delivered in the General Debate of the United Nation's First Committee, October 9, 2007. Back

110   See Christopher Ford, "Nuclear Disarmament and the 'Legalization' of Policy Discourse in the NPT Regime", (Washington, D.C., James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, November 29, 2007) and Joachim Krause, "Enlightenment and Nuclear Order", International Affairs 83: 3, 2007, p. 486. Back

111   Des Browne (2007), "The United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent in the 21st Century", speech at King's College London. London, Back

112   The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent: The White Paper: Government Response to the Committee's Ninth Report of Session 2006-07, HC 551, (London, The Stationery Office, May 2007), p. 9. Back

113   See Nick Ritchie, "Trident: The Deal Isn't Done-Serious Questions Remain Unanswered", Bradford Disarmament Research Centre Briefing Paper, (Bradford, University of Bradford, December 2007). Back

114   John Duncan, "Statement by Ambassador John Duncan to the First Preparatory Committee for the Eighth Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty", (Vienna, United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the Conference on Disarmament, April 30, 2007). Back

115   Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, Cm 6994, (The Stationery Office, London, December 2003), p. 14. Back

116   On the logic of nuclear deterrence carried to its logical conclusion see Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better (London, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Adelphi Paper 171, 1981). Back

117   Walker, "International Nuclear Order: A Rejoinder", p. 752. Back

118   Rathbun, "The Role of Legitimacy in Strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime", p. 242. Back

119   Margaret Beckett, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?", Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Keynote Address, June 25, 2007. Back

120   See "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent", pp. 5, 18, 19; Geoff Hoon, "Intervening in the new Security Environment", speech by the Secretary of State for Defence, Foreign Policy Centre, November 12, 2002; "Deterrence, Arms Control and Proliferation", Office the Secretary of State for Defence, Ministry of Defence, July 1998; Browne, "The United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent in the 21st Century". Back

121   See Ministry of Defence, Strategic Defence Review, Cm 3999 (The Stationery Office, London, 1998), chapter two, paras 18-20; Ministry of Defence, Delivering Security in a Changing World, Cm 6041-I (The Stationery Office London, 2003), p. 4; National Security Strategy for the United Kingdom, pp. 31, 44. "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent", p. 14. Back

122   Official Report (Hansard), March 14, 2007 column 301. Back

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