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Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Adam Mount, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
May 4, 2015

The Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has helped curb the spread of nuclear weapons since 1970. Over the next month, diplomats from around the globe will gather at the United Nations to review progress on the accord. Its future depends on the commitment of member states to reduce existing stockpiles and address new proliferation challenges. Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Adam Mount offers three things to know about the NPT.

Nuclear Cornerstone: “The treaty is the cornerstone of the nuclear order,” says Mount. Signatories to the 1970 treaty that do not have nuclear weapons have agreed not to build them, while the five designated nuclear-weapons states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—have agreed to reduce their arsenals. “A lot has changed since 1970, but the basic bargain remains in the interest of all states,” he adds.

Treaty at Risk: The NPT may suffer if governments do not make steady progress on core nonproliferation objectives, explains Mount. He warns that Russia and the United States have significantly slowed the rate of nuclear-arms reductions in recent years. “Some wonder whether the NPT is obsolete,” Mount says.

Difficult Next Steps: Mount says the 2016 presidential election may jeopardize U.S. leadership on nonproliferation, and he encourages President Barack Obama to focus on nuclear issues, including diplomacy with Iran and Russia, for the remainder of his term. “These steps are not politically easy, but must be taken to make sure the NPT continues to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons worldwide,” he says.

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