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CCADD International Conference, 19-23 September 2008

Cathedral College at the Washington National Cathedral




The Future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty

presented by Bernard Georgeot


Before speaking about the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it seems to me necessary to remind you of its elaboration.

The NPT has been proposed to nations in the late sixties at the height of cold war.

The United Nations, founded to promote peace on the Planet, realized that the multiplication of countries possessing nuclear weapons increased occasions of armed conflicts and occasions of using nuclear weapons.

The Treaty was signed on the 1st of July 1968 and ratified by some 40 countries on the 5th of march 1970.

In that treaty, in compensation for renouncing to develop that technology, the signing nations would be helped to develop nuclear civil applications, especially in energy production through nuclear power stations.

In parallel, article VI required from nations already possessing nuclear weapons a reduction of their armoury.

China, India and Israel have not signed this treaty.

More than 30 years later what is the situation?

The Cold war has ended.

Countries inclined to nuclear proliferation have multiplied, disarmament of nuclear countries has been realized in quantity but not in quality; on the contrary, nuclear weapons have been improved.

The United Nations concern of protecting the planet from a nuclear conflict is always present.

Moreover, reflections on consequences of a nuclear conflict have become deeper and their conclusions are not very optimistic.

It will not be necessary to drop hundreds of nuclear bombs or missiles in order to destroy our planet; tens of them dropped on heavily populated regions would spread clouds of radioactive dust which could obliterate all life on full regions and even the whole planet.

Can we go on with our lives under such a big threat?

Can we accept as a reference a treaty signed so many years ago, partly emptied of its substance by the refusal of nuclear nations to reduce their potential, and also by the new situation created by the delivery to non-nuclear nations of nuclear power stations producing enriched uranium making them likely in some years to develop nuclear armament?

The present strategies in all nation are anticipating the next twenty or thirty years.

Decisions made by government for their security cannot be called into questions every four or five years.

Modernisation programs for armament require ten to twenty years for a good technical and financial progress.

The sooner we start the process the better.

At the moment, different declarations have been issued in western countries.

A document signed by former chiefs of General Staff of NATO member countries advocates to maintain and improve nuclear armament to be able to meet new threats which could come from nations supporting more or less openly international terrorism.

A declaration by the French President, some days after his election, underlines that France would not ban preventive strike if its major interests (a notion not clearly defined) were threatened; this vision is close to that developed by the former Chiefs of general staffs quoted above.

On the other hand, Henry Kissinger and some former high level officials of US defence advocate a progressive disarmament but without specifying a precise process or agenda.

It is time now, we believe, to think about an other commitment in a different way from the one developed by the NPT which looks much more like a survivor from the past than a guide for the future.

In order to examine other types of armament which have been eliminated by an international approach, let us look at the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This Convention has succeeded in dismantling collectively chemical armament with a control of the reality of improvements by inspections.

The Convention was signed in 1997 for a total eradication in 2012

Two main reasons have contributed to this success.

    -chemical arms are double effect armament, dangerous for the two opponents if winds change direction

-chemical arms are considered obsolete by nearly all nations.

We cannot invoke that last reason for nuclear armament any way not immediately, although new arms called “hyperbar”are emerging, able to destroy a whole region by firing off an explosive cloud, giving the same results as a nuclear strike but without radioactivity.

Nevertheless we have to go towards the proposal of a convention for elimination of nuclear armament with stipulations for implementation and agenda.

Such a convention has been proposed by Costa Rica in 1997 as a paper to examine. It has not been followed through.

Starting from the same project a new proposal has been presented but some countries (France for example) have refused any discussion.

It is regrettable.

The convention proposes:

-         The creation of an international agency in charge of defining a procedure for controling the implementation (comparisons may be made with conventions prohibiting chemical weapons or land mines)

-         Governments will take the responsibility of implementation under controls of the UN, the Security Council, the IAEA, the Conference on disarmament...

Implementation may be decided very quickly. The ban on ground nuclear tests has been decided in 10 days in 1963. after long years of failure.

The convention proposes three approaches:

-         step by step

-         general negotiations with a strict agenda

-         a mix of these two approaches


The convention will require all nations to disclose accurately the number of their nuclear weapons and vectors and their position.

Nothing will be easy and fast and we have to accept discussions on that project
Pax Christi France supports this approach for eliminating nuclear weapons in agreement with recent declarations of His Holiness Benoit XVI