The first project of final document at the NPT Conference was written on Friday the 14th of May. This project accord, distributed to the delegates present at the NPT Conference held in the UNO main Office in New-York, encourages all States to act in order to rid the world of nuclear arms. Its goal is to implement "peace and security for a world without nuclear weapons." With this aim, it stipulates 26 points on the expectations and possible courses of action. This project affirms the universality of the NPT treaty and therefore exhorts all non-signatory States to join "without delay and without conditions". The main aim of this project is to palliate to the constitutional weaknesses of the NPT of 1969.
The present project of a world without nuclear weapons seems very ambitious and oriented towards the achievement of a more secure global arena. Although at prima facie this process of denuclearization, by asserting itself as universal, seems likely to be implemented, after deeper analyze, it becomes clear that the NPT does not entail the necessary constraining capacities for obliging states to implement the project.
The apparent cogent obligation of all States to ratify the NPT project and follow its policies effectively faces three antagonistic variables: (i) State sovereignty,(ii) global anarchy and the (iii) economic prospects. All these variables are strongly anchored into a realist prismatic of the world and are deeply imbeded with the prospect of "raison d'Etat."
With regard to the State sovereignty issue, how could the NPT project supplant the will of a sovereign State? The NPT project does not entail necessary coercive capabilities for performing its goal, denuclearization. Its auto-called universal acceptance is mainly based on a free-will acceptance. Henceforth the NPT has not a global legitimate character and has no power to overwrite Governments.
With regard to the variable of global anarchy, it drives actors and States to become more reluctant and mistrustful. Due to the Hobbesian nature of the international relations, a climate of mistrust is created. In the frame of this climate each State prefers to rely on its intrinsic capacities and to develop its capabilities for facing potential threats. In such a perspective the possession of nuclear weapons constitutes a very good "atout", since its possession determines favourably (for the possessor) the timing, intensity and outcome of the conflict. Moreover, this Hobbesian nature of the international arena has as consequence the prisoners dilemma. The fear of a potential threat tends to lead some States - particularly failed, shadow States - to preserve their atomic power. Although their choice is rational (preservation of State's interest), it leads the players, the States, to play defect (hence achieving a Pareto-suboptimal solution). Each State's reward would be greater if everyone played cooperatively (adhering the NPT project), but the inward-looking rational "raison d'Etat" dictates the action of the States.
Lastly, the economic advantage prospect provides another variable explaining why the NPT project would not be implemented by each State in part. Owing the current global economic crisis, there is a need for Governments and other agents to invest in new sectors of economy, for securing the capital. Among these, the sector of nuclear development and weapon industry count. In 2009 for instance, Switzerland exported worldwide weapons in value of 722 Millions Francs. The NPT project lacks enough monitoring capacities for tackling these trade markets in order to inhibit them.
To conclude, on account of the above-mentioned realist prospects, the universal adoption of the NPT project seems to move towards a more "individual" adoption, due partly to its weak enforcement capacities.
Alexandra Dobra is currently studying Politics with International Relations at the University of York, UK. She is member of the editorial board of the academic journal of IAPSS, Politikon, and has had several articles published in academic peer-reviewed journals.
- Editorial Team: Memo 19, An End in Itself - Focus on First Steps!
- Saeb Sal Kasm: The Iran Nuclear Weapons Programme, Toward Renewed Diplomatic Engagement