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I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb.

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College (Takoma Park, Maryland)
July 1, 2020
Western Governments Assess Nonproliferation Measures

Christine Kucia

The Group of Eight (G-8) and the European Union (EU) issued declarations in June supporting the potential use of force against countries that do not comply with nonproliferation regimes, reflecting a growing concern over Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs. The declarations also emphasized international commitment to efforts to secure and destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

At the G-8 summit, held June 1-3 in Evian, France, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States issued a declaration describing WMD proliferation as “the pre-eminent threat to international security.” The statement noted that G-8 member states place a high value on diplomatic nonproliferation tools, such as inspections, export controls, and treaties. But the statement also indicated support, if necessary, for “other measures in accordance with international law,” a phrase that implies the use of force.

A senior U.S. official told the Associated Press June 3 that the United States interprets the statement—which includes strong condemnations of Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear activities—to mean that the G-8 condones the use of force against countries that violate nonproliferation regimes. French President Jacques Chirac, however, took exception to that interpretation, calling it “extraordinarily far-fetched,” and asserted, “There was never any question of using force against anyone in any area,” Reuters reported June 3.

Soon after the Evian meeting, EU heads of state met June 19-20 in Thessaloníki, Greece, and endorsed a statement titled “Basic Principles for an EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Citing the international security threat posed by the spread of WMD and related materials, they professed the need for a “broad approach” to address the problem, which could include “coercive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and international law.” The statement notes that the use of force by EU member states “could be envisioned.”

EU diplomats agreed that, although the statement represents a departure from previous declarations, they must keep all options open to deal with nonproliferation threats. Despite its strong dissent earlier in the month regarding the interpretation of the “other measures” that the G-8 leaders had sanctioned, the French government says it supports the EU’s endorsement of using force in extreme circumstances. “Traditional nonproliferation approaches have their limits. This new strategy is a way to expand the means available to countries,” said Martin Briens, political counselor with the French Embassy in Washington. Another Western official noted that the declaration “clearly shows our commitment to the use of force—as a last resort.”

The G-8 Partnership

At their meeting, the G-8 leaders also reviewed the first year of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of WMD, in which the United States pledged up to $10 billion—an amount to be matched by G-8 and other partner states—over the next 10 years to help safeguard and dispose of Russian weapons and radiological materials. (See ACT, July/August 2002.) A G-8 report on the partnership’s progress to date noted that although several obstacles to implementation, such as Russian tax issues, are being resolved, others, such as liability protection for foreign contractors, still remain. And while noting that many countries have undertaken bilateral projects with Russia to dismantle decommissioned submarines, dispose of fissile material, or destroy chemical weapons, the report stressed that “sustained and broadened efforts will be needed.”

The report also applauded efforts to solicit new donors to the partnership, and the United States announced June 2 that Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland had joined the assistance effort, which was first laid out at the 2002 G-8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada. Additionally, an “action plan” endorsed at the Evian meeting indicated the partnership intends “to enter into preliminary discussions with new or current recipient countries…that are prepared to adopt the Kananaskis documents, as the Ukraine has already done.” Rozanne Oliver, U.S. State Department senior policy coordinator for the partnership, noted, “It was the intent all along to be open to recipients from other countries.” Although Ukraine’s application was not acted upon at this meeting, Oliver said, “The Global Partnership will be looking at this issue more after the initial phase.”

G-8 states also discussed the task of securing radioactive sources that could be used to develop a “dirty bomb,” the focus of a meeting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had hosted in March. (See ACT, April 2003.) G-8 leaders endorsed the findings of that meeting, which advocated enhanced national controls and stepped-up international measures to secure radioactive materials, particularly those that have been abandoned, and they agreed to support the IAEA’s programs to do so. France offered to host another international conference in 2005 to assess the IAEA’s progress and discuss new strategies to tackle the problem.