The Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons also referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), was signed in New York on July 1, 1968. The document divided the countries of the world into two groups: those which possess A-bombs and those which do not and must not have A-bombs.
The document appeared during the Cold War era. The USSR, the USA and Great Britain became the first countries to sign the Treaty. US President Lyndon Johnson submitted the NPT to the US Senate for ratification on July 9, 1968. However, the Senate refused to ratify any agreements with Moscow after the Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia in August of that year. USA’s new President Richard Nixon submitted the document for ratification again only in the beginning of 1969. The Senate approved the Treaty on March 13, 1969, whereas the President signed the draft law about the NPT coming into effect on November 24, 1969. The Treaty came into effect in March 1970 as an international legal document.
The NPT determined that France and China could join it as full-fledged nuclear powers. The elite club welcomed all countries which had tested A-bombs before January 1, 1967 . However, Beijing and Paris did not mean to hurry with that. The Chinese administration described the Treaty as the conspiracy of two superpowers aimed to preserve the nuclear monopoly of the USSR and the USA. Beijing believed that the prohibition of nuclear weapons development would be effective only if the superpowers liquidated their nuclear arsenals.
France promised to follow regulations of the NPT, but refused to sign it. As a result, France and China joined the Treaty only in 1992.
The Treaty has three basic goals: non-proliferation, disarmament and the right for the peaceful use of nuclear technologies. The goals seem to have been partially achieved as the nuclear race between the USA and the USSR ended with the end of the Cold War period. However, the world stands too far from the complete nuclear disarmament, which gives NPT critics a reason to reproach nuclear superpowers of hypocrisy and their aspiration to uncompromisingly dictate their will to other nations.
There are positive examples, though. South Africa tested nuclear weapons in the 1970s, but then destroyed them and signed the NPT in 1991. This is a unique example when a country turns down its A-bombs made on the base of the national scientific and industrial base. Western experts like to remind of the time when Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan refused to keep the Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories after the three countries obtained independence. It is true, but one should bear in mind the fact that it was only Russia that could technically play the role of the nuclear successor of the USSR.
Not all countries dealing with nuclear developments aspired to become NPT members. India actively participated in NPT negotiations, but eventually refused to join it having referred to a nuclear threat from China. Pakistan acted similarly and referred to India’s decision. Israel also decided not to tie its hands with the Treaty.
All of that was not so dangerous during the 1970s and the 1980s against the background of the bipolar world order formed as a result of the opposition of two systems. Nowadays, nuclear programs in the Middle East and South Asia threaten to develop into the regional arms race. India, Israel and Pakistan supposedly own about a hundred A-bombs each.
Non-nuclear states are entitled to develop peaceful nuclear power under the NPT and build their own nuclear power plants under the control of international supervisors. In this case there is no reason to ban such countries from enriching uranium for those purposes. The situation with Iran has unfolded into a major international problem. Iran is a member of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty; the nation cooperates with the IAEA, although the West is still deeply concerned about the Iranian nuclear program.
NPT members agreed in May 1995 to indefinitely prolong the document. However, the decision does not remove the internal conflict between the members of the Treaty. The USA is concentrated on the problems of Iran and North Korea, whereas other countries continue to ask questions about the promised total nuclear disarmament. To crown it all, Washington’s wish to solve international problems with the use of the military force can only strengthen the wish of USA’s opponents to develop an A-bomb.