The recently released report card in the series of the Arms Control Association (ACA) analyzes states' nuclear capabilities and evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states. The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent organization and contributes in the global findings upon nuclear, arms, disarmament and strategic issues, time in and time out.
In this report titled Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016, it has measured the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security categories over the past three years. Like the previous similar reports it has evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea — all nuclear countries in one or the other way. It has also incorporated Iran and Syria owing to the concerns of proliferation within them.
One of the two authors of the report, Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association said that Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
The ratification and signing of international treaties is also acknowledged by the report that is taken into account while grading the states in those terms. Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties. For instance Pakistan’s improved grading in terms of nuclear security commitments is because of accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNAM) amendment this year. Resultantly, it got a B+ in this report whereas in 2013 report it was B.
In the report card the grading is given on the under study state’s commitments in 10 broad categories, e.g., banning nuclear-weapon test explosions; ending the production of fissile material for weapons; reducing nuclear weapons alert levels; verifiably reducing nuclear force size; assuring non-nuclear weapons states they will not be subject to nuclear attack; establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones; complying with international safeguards against the diversion of peaceful nuclear activities for weapons purposes; controlling nuclear weapons-related exports; implementing measures to improve the security of nuclear material and facilities; and criminalizing and preventing illicit nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism.
Analyzing some highlights or some general outcomes of the report, states possessing nuclear weapons demonstrated little to no progress on force reductions. The United States and the United Kingdom slightly reduced numbers of deployed warheads whereas according to the report China, India, and Pakistan are demonstrating otherwise in terms of the size of their nuclear arsenals. North Korea remains a serious proliferation concern, due to its continued nuclear tests, development of ballistic missiles, and illicit trafficking. No positive progress has been made on ending fissile material production in the timeframe assessed by this report, or the two prior. The grades for all 11 states assessed have not changed since the first report was published in 2010. Several states are taking actions to increase alert levels and store warheads mated with delivery systems for the first time. Positive progress was made on nuclear-weapon-free zones, particularly in Central Asia due to four of the five recognized nuclear states taking action to ratify the treaty’s protocol. A key nuclear security treaty entered into force, in part thanks to ratifications from the United States and Pakistan. Nuclear security grades generally improved across the board for all states except Russia and North Korea.
Despite extensive workout, still a few discrepancies could be laid down from the report. For instance there are states that are violating norms and principles of non-proliferation (NPT and NSG’s principles) that are not downgraded at all in the report and even their domestic laws were granted exceptional trade waiver in 2008. Ignoring such states, it criticized China and Pakistan for their civil nuclear cooperation that is well under safeguards. The deal does not violate any international law, including that of the NSG. The Sino-Pak deal was signed before China became a member of the NSG and as per international law, it is well within its legitimate right to honor the bilateral commitment predating participation in the NSG.
Ironically there are many cases in which these standards are not high enough and additional measures are needed to reduce and eventually eliminate the nuclear threat. The report card, however, assesses whether key states are meeting internationally recognized nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security commitments. It does not take into account recommendations for strengthening the standards assessed that the Arms Control Association supports.