An escalating nuclear arms race was a chief hallmark of the Cold War between the NATO Alliance and the Warsaw Pact. In the mid-to-late 1960s, as tensions ratcheted up and to many a nuclear conflict seemed inevitable, the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament, a United Nations-sponsored forum in Geneva, Switzerland, negotiated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons, or NPT. Every country except India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan has joined the NPT.
The treaty, which entered into force in 1970, has three pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. NPT Parties have met every five years since, and in 1995 they agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely.
“Since its inception over 50 years ago, the NPT has made irreplaceable contributions to international security,” said Bonnie Denise Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, before the United Nations First Committee. “However, we cannot take the NPT’s enduring success for granted. Its continued success requires constant vigilance and effort. As such, we reaffirm our commitment to the NPT and to preserving and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.”
Ambassador Jenkins noted that in the many years since the NPT entered into force, the world has come a long way toward nuclear disarmament. “In 1967, the United States had 31,255 nuclear weapons in our active stockpile,” she said. “By 2017, this number was just under 4,000, a more than an eight-fold decrease in our nuclear arsenals. This historic success was achieved through our commitment to easing tensions, reducing risk, and negotiating in good faith towards nuclear disarmament.”
Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go toward full nuclear disarmament. To demonstrate its commitment to disarmament and transparency the United States on October 5 released newly declassified information regarding our nuclear weapons stockpile. It is “an act of good faith, and a tangible, public demonstration of the U.S. commitment to transparency,” said Ambassador Jenkins. Transparency also helps build on our prior successes by building trust and confidence in arms control regimes and reducing the risk of strategic miscalculation.
“As we, along with the United Kingdom and France, demonstrate transparency about our nuclear stockpiles, we call on other states with nuclear weapons to do likewise,” she said. “We commit to do our part in cooperation with other UN Member States and the United Nations to advance our common objectives for peace and international security.”