The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
The Nuclear Weapon Debate
Steps to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons
The elimination of nuclear weapons must be a global endeavour involving
all states. The impetus and driving force however must come from the nuclear
weapon states and particularly the United States and Russia. A decisive
signal from these longstanding nuclear powers that the risks associated
with nuclear weapons far outweigh the presumed benefits would be of historic
importance. Indeed, such a definitive commitment to a nuclear weapon free
world would accelerate a course of events set in motion well before the
Cold War ended.
Movement toward a nuclear weapon free world has begun. That movement rests
fundamentally on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and was significantly
advanced with the ratification of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces
Treaty. The INF was unprecedented in that it was the first negotiated treaty
to actually reduce nuclear weapons. More to the point of this report, it
was also the first agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.
In more recent years the United States and Russia have agreed to deep cuts
to their nuclear arsenals which today in total approximate 40,000 to 50,000
warheads. The START I and START II agreements require a two thirds reduction
in US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals from pre-START levels of approximately
10,000 deployed strategic warheads each to 3000-3500 by 2003.
Both the United Kingdom and France have unilaterally reduced their nuclear
postures by measures including withdrawal from deployment and elimination
of elements of their nuclear forces. Tactical nuclear weaponry has been
mostly withdrawn from deployment and removed from ships and sea-based aircraft.
China has reiterated its support of the goal of the elimination of nuclear
weapons, and its declaration of no first use of nuclear weapons. The experience
the United States and Russia have accumulated through decades of negotiating
and implementing nuclear arms control agreements will prove invaluable both
as a basis for further bilateral reductions and as a store of knowledge
that can be drawn upon by the other nuclear weapon states.
The first requirement for movement towards a nuclear weapon free world is
for the five nuclear weapon states to commit themselves unequivocally to
proceed with all deliberate speed to a world without nuclear weapons, not
as an objective for the far distant future, but as an objective which deserves
action from the time the commitment is given. A commitment of this kind
would transform the whole process.
The process followed must ensure that no state feels, at any stage, that
further nuclear disarmament is a threat to its security. To this end nuclear
weapon elimination should be conducted as a series of phased, verified reductions
that allow states to satisfy themselves, at each stage of the process, that
further movement toward elimination can be made safely and securely. Political
commitment and allocation of adequate resources will be needed to overcome
technical constraints such as the current slow rate of weapons dismantlement
­p; around 2000 per year each by the United States and Russia.
The rate of present dismantlement should not be the factor which determines
the rate of elimination. The important condition is to have agreed procedures
for establishing new targets, which drive the process forward to the ultimate
objective of total elimination.
While the nuclear weapon states have a special responsibility, all states
must contribute to development of and support for an environment favourable
to nuclear weapons elimination, including an end to nuclear testing and
prevention of further horizontal nuclear proliferation.
The Commission reaffirms its strong conviction that immediate and consequential
steps are possible. These would both convey a powerful signal of commitment
to elimination by the nuclear weapon states, and enhance global security
by widening the firebreak between the onset of a crisis engaging a nuclear
weapon state and the risk of a deliberate or inadvertent nuclear detonation.
Progress towards a nuclear weapon free world should not be made contingent
upon other changes in the international security environment. Successful
nuclear weapon negotiations will benefit other security related negotiations
and progress in regional and other political and security related negotiations
will enhance the prospect of building a nuclear weapon free world.
Nuclear Weapon State Commitment to a Nuclear Weapon Free World
The nuclear weapon states should commit themselves unequivocally to the
elimination of nuclear weapons and agree to start work immediately on the
practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement. This commitment
should be made at the highest political level.
Non-nuclear weapon states should support the commitment by the nuclear weapon
states and join in cooperative international action to implement it.
Such a commitment would constitute a concrete expression of the intention
of the nuclear weapon states to implement the 'Principles and Objectives
for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament' agreed at the 1995 Review
and Extension Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons (NPTREC). It would receive the enthusiastic support of an overwhelming
majority of states.
High level political commitment has proven time and again to be the crucial
condition for the resolution of seemingly intractable situations and reconciling
embittered foes. A declaration by the nuclear weapon states, in clear and
unambiguous terms, would have a dramatic impact on the way the world thinks
about nuclear weapons. It would change instantly the tenor of debate, the
thrust of war planning, and the timing or indeed the necessity for modernisation
programs. It would transform the nuclear weapons paradigm from the indefinite
management of a world fraught with the twin risks of the use of nuclear
weapons and further proliferation, to one of nuclear weapons elimination.
Finally, much as the end of the Cold War greatly accelerated the broad agenda
of arms control, a commitment now to eliminate nuclear weapons would generate
the necessary political momentum and give a new coherence to the entire
spectrum of non-proliferation, disarmament and arms limitation efforts currently
being pursued at global and regional levels.
The Commission recommends that negotiation of the nuclear weapon states'
commitment to a nuclear weapon free world should begin immediately, with
the aim of first steps in its implementation being taken in 1997.
Additional Immediate Steps
The commitment by the nuclear weapon states to a nuclear weapon free world
must be accompanied by a series of practical, realistic and mutually reinforcing
There are a number of such steps that can be taken immediately. They would
significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war and thus enhance the security
of all states, but particularly that of the nuclear weapon states. Their
implementation would provide clear confirmation of the intent of the nuclear
weapon states to further reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security
postures. These steps would also signal that the nuclear weapon states were
unequivocally of the view that continued possession of nuclear weapons was
incommensurate with the risks they pose.
The recommended steps are:
- Taking nuclear forces off alert
- Removal of warheads from delivery vehicles
- Ending deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons
- Ending nuclear testing
- Initiating negotiations to further reduce US and Russian nuclear arsenals
- Agreement among the nuclear weapon states of reciprocal no first use
undertakings, and of a non-use undertaking by them in relation to the non-nuclear
- Taking Nuclear Forces Off Alert
The continuing practice of maintaining nuclear-tipped missiles on alert,
whether on land-based or sea-based platforms, is a highly regrettable perpetuation
of Cold War attitudes and assumptions. It needlessly sustains the risk of
hair-trigger postures. It retards the critical process of normalising United
States-Russian relations. It sends the unmistakable and, from an arms control
perspective, severely damaging message that nuclear weapons serve a vital
security role. It is entirely inappropriate to the extraordinary transformation
in the international security environment achieved at such staggering cost.
Taking these missiles off alert is a natural counterpart to the stand-down
of bombers from nuclear alert which was implemented in late 1991.
Terminating nuclear alert would reduce dramatically the chance of an accidental
or unauthorised nuclear weapons launch. It would have a most positive influence
on the political climate among the nuclear weapon states and help set the
stage for intensified cooperation. Taking nuclear forces off alert could
be verified by national technical means and nuclear weapon state inspection
arrangements. In the first instance, reductions in alert status could be
adopted by the nuclear weapon states unilaterally.
Removal of Warheads from Delivery Vehicles
The physical separation of warheads from delivery vehicles would strongly
reinforce the gains achieved by taking nuclear forces off alert. This measure
can be implemented to the extent that nuclear forces can be reconstituted
to an alert posture only within known or agreed upon timeframes, much as
is the case with bomber forces today. Adequate response to nuclear threats
would remain certain, but the risk of large scale preemptive or surprise
nuclear attack and the imperative for instantaneous retaliation would be
obviated. Further, the barriers against inadvertent or accidental use would
be greatly strengthened. The range of verification procedures which are
already in place between the United States and Russia could likely be applied
as the basis of a regime to ensure that no state would have a meaningful
advantage in terms of the ability to reassemble its nuclear force for a
first strike capability.
Ending Deployment of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons
The nuclear weapon states should unilaterally remove all non-strategic nuclear
weapons from deployed sites to a limited number of secure storage facilities
on their territory. This would be a logical follow-on to the 1991 unilateral
declarations of the United States and the Soviet Union, whereby each pledged
to remove all non-strategic nuclear weapons from ships and submarines and
store them on shore. As regards NATO, with the dissolution of the Warsaw
Pact and all that has followed in its wake, the nuclear threat long felt
by the alliance has evaporated. United States tactical nuclear weapons deployed
in Western Europe serve no security purpose. To the contrary, they send
a subtle but unmistakable message that Russia is still not to be trusted,
thus feeding the fears that NATO harbours aggressive designs against it.
These nuclear weapons can be returned to US territory and stored so that,
much like strategic forces removed from alert, they can not be readily redeployed.
Ending Nuclear Testing
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be a major impediment to the development
of new generations of nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapon states. It will
perform an equally vital non-proliferation function by inhibiting nuclear
weapons development by potential new nuclear weapon states, including the
undeclared nuclear weapon states and nuclear threshold states. Most important,
the CTBT obligation permanently to cease or forgo nuclear testing sets the
psychological stage for moving toward elimination of nuclear weapons. Pending
universal application of the CTBT, all states should observe at once the
moratorium it imposes on nuclear testing.
Further US/Russian Bilateral Reductions
The nuclear arms race was driven by competition between the United States
and the former Soviet Union. The United States and Russia must continue
to show leadership in reversing the nuclear accumulations of the Cold War.
Their purpose should be to move toward nuclear force levels for all the
nuclear weapon states which would reflect unambiguously the determination
to eliminate these weapons when this step can be verified with adequate
The immediate steps discussed above deal with the manner in which residual
nuclear forces are deployed that diminish to the greatest possible extent
both the risk of inadvertent or accidental use and the adverse political
signals transmitted by poised nuclear forces. With respect to the size of
arsenals, there are two notional targets. First, the United States and Russia
should, in consultation with the other nuclear weapon states, establish
the relative force levels that would allow all five nuclear weapon states
to proceed in concert with reductions beyond that point. Second, the five
nuclear weapon states should agree on the minimum residual forces to be
retained until the stage had been set for complete elimination.
The Commission considers it inappropriate to try and forecast the stages
involved in reaching these targets. Clearly, there will have to be at least
one further reduction agreement on the part of the United States and Russia.
It should be noted in this context that the entry into force of the START
II agreement is in some doubt because Russia may be required to invest in
new nuclear weapon systems in order to reach parity. To obviate this undesirable
development, and to facilitate the ratification of START II, lower ceilings
could be promptly negotiated in a START III agreement. President Yeltsin
has already proposed the figure of 2000 (compared with the 3000, 3500 the
agreement currently specifies) but lower levels should be considered to
hasten the achievement of force levels that would bring all the nuclear
weapon states into the process.
Similarly, the Commission considers it presumptuous to try and specify from
its present vantage point the minimum residual forces that the nuclear weapon
states would regard as the appropriate final way-station pending complete
elimination. It would observe, however, that the considerations that the
nuclear weapon states would bring to bear in determining this level would
be profoundly different from those that have shaped these negotiations to
While of signal importance, the existing START agreements do not require
that withdrawn warheads be disassembled and destroyed. Hence actual stockpiles
of warheads in the United States and Russia post-START II are likely to
be much higher than the figures set by the agreement. Nor do the START agreements
address disposition of the fissile material content of warheads removed
from deployment. This material represents the core element of a 'virtual
arsenal' existing outside the START framework, and which would be available
to the United States and Russia if ever a political decision were taken
to reassemble dismantled warheads.
This concern was mitigated in part by agreements reached at the 10 May 1995
US/Russian summit to develop procedures for ensuring that excess nuclear
warheads are dismantled and the reduction process made irreversible. The
1996 Moscow Nuclear Safety and Security Summit also underscored a need to
identify appropriate strategies for the management of fissile material designated
as no longer required for defence purposes. The summit undertook to convene
by the end of 1996 an international meeting of experts to examine available
options and identify possible development of international cooperation in
the implementation of national strategies. The knowledge gained from implementation
of these undertakings should prove valuable for development of systems for
verification of warhead dismantlement and fissile material control. The
Commission considers arrangements for the control and verification of the
dismantlement to be essential for the stability and sustainability of the
process of reducing nuclear weapons.
The security benefits of the START agreements and their value as a staging
point to wider nuclear disarmament would be increased if START III or a
separate agreement required the verified dismantlement of warheads withdrawn
under past and future US/Russian bilateral reduction agreements, tactical
warheads withdrawn unilaterally and reserve warheads. This would establish
warhead numbers (strategic and tactical, active and in reserve) as the basic
unit of account in US/Russian reductions and provide a common basis for
considering relative force levels when nuclear disarmament moves beyond
the bilateral phase.
Agreements on No First Use and on Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons
In the post-Cold War world the only conceivable residual role of nuclear
weapons is to pose a threat of retaliation against nuclear aggression. It
follows that a joint no-first use undertaking would be at no strategic cost
to the nuclear weapon states. Indeed as a significant confidence building
measure it would in fact enhance their security.
As one of the immediate steps, the nuclear weapon states should agree and
state that they would not be the first to use or threaten to use nuclear
weapons against each other and that they would not use or threaten to use
nuclear weapons in any conflict with a non-nuclear weapon state. The Commission
considers that such an agreement should be brought into operation as soon
The recommended nuclear weapon states' political statement of commitment
and other 'Immediate Steps' would firmly orient the defence and bureaucratic
establishments of all nuclear weapon states to the goal of elimination and
to the development of a practical program of nuclear disarmament. The following
steps would build on the solid foundation of commitment, accomplishment
and goodwill established through implementation of the steps recommended
for immediate action:
Action to Prevent Further Horizontal Proliferation
- Action to prevent further horizontal proliferation
- Developing verification arrangements for a nuclear weapon free world
- Cessation of the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive
The problem of nuclear proliferation is inextricably linked to the continued
possession of nuclear weapons by a handful of states. As long as any state
has nuclear weapons, there will be others, state or sub-state actors, who
will seek to acquire them. Other national security reasons also motivate
states to acquire nuclear weapons. The task of preventing further proliferation
becomes even more urgent as existing nuclear arsenals are being eliminated.
A world environment where proliferation is under control will facilitate
the disarmament process and movement toward final elimination and vice versa.
The emergence of any new nuclear weapon state during the elimination process
would seriously jeopardise the process of eliminating nuclear weapons. It
would not, of course, rule out forever the possibility of elimination, although
it would probably retard it.
Action is therefore needed to ensure effective non-proliferation controls
on civil and military nuclear activities, and to press for universal acceptance
of non-proliferation obligations.
At the level of national action, states have the fundamental obligation,
under a variety of treaties and in moral terms, to ensure that sensitive
nuclear material, equipment and technology under their jurisdiction and
control do not find their way into the hands of those who would misuse them.
A breakdown in national nuclear controls could lead to nuclear material
coming into the possession of would-be proliferator states or sub-state
groups, including terrorists. States must have competent systems of nuclear
materials accountancy to keep track of nuclear material. Nuclear establishments
and the transport of nuclear material need appropriate physical protection
and states need to have effective procedures to control what leaves their
territory, know where it is going and for what purpose. All member states
of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the future Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty Organisation should ensure that they meet in full their financial
obligations so these bodies can properly perform their functions.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons remains the cornerstone
of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. It is the legal and
political means by which almost all states give effect to their decisions
to renounce nuclear weapons. Because of the near universality of the non-proliferation
regime those states operating significant nuclear programs without comprehensive
safeguards stand exposed to the international community as being of possible
proliferation concern. Application of IAEA NPT or equivalent fullscope safeguards
in non-nuclear weapon states promotes national, regional and global security
and stability by providing a high level of assurance that nuclear material
remains in peaceful, non-explosive use.
A small number of states continue to refuse to join the NPT or accept equivalent
non-proliferation commitments. Bringing these states into the non-proliferation
regime through acceptance of internationally verifiable, legally binding
non-proliferation obligations will be an essential step in the process of
eliminating nuclear weapons. The NPT Review and Extension Conference identified
universal adherence to the NPT as an urgent priority and called upon all
states not yet party to the treaty to accede to it at the earliest date,
particularly those states that operate unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.
This process would be enhanced by the unequivocal commitment of the nuclear
weapon states to the elimination of nuclear weapons and concrete movement
towards that goal.
Proliferation pressures in South Asia, the Middle East and the Korean peninsula
may prejudice the prospects for eliminating nuclear weapons. Determined
efforts, particularly on the part of the states in these regions and the
nuclear weapon states, are urgently needed to address the long-standing
differences that fuel proliferation in these regions. Just as the nuclear
weapon states need to be convinced that giving up nuclear weapons will not
harm their security so too will the undeclared weapon states and threshold
states need to be convinced that ending their nuclear ambiguity will not
damage their interests.
Past experience points to a variety of ways in which such situations can
be resolved. Unilateral action is possible, as in the case of South Africa's
unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear weapons. In this case, close attention
was needed by the IAEA to ensure completeness of initial inventories preparatory
to the application of fullscope safeguards to South Africa's remaining nuclear
Bilateral negotiations can also be successful as in the case of Argentina
and Brazil. After decades of nuclear competition and uncertainty about the
direction of their nuclear programs these states took joint action. Both
now accept comprehensive IAEA safeguards and have established a bilateral
nuclear inspection agency, the Argentina-Brazil Accounting and Control Commission.
Both have ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco and Argentina has joined the
NPT. Of particular note is that safeguards are applied bilaterally and by
the IAEA. Each state thereby has direct access to information about the
other's nuclear program, providing high transparency and confidence.
A combination of bilateral and multilateral approaches is also possible.
The Denuclearisation Declaration between the ROK and the DPRK coupled with
the US-DPRK Agreed Framework and the Korean Peninsula Energy Development
Organisation (KEDO) is an example of how dialogue, encouragement, assistance,
some security guarantees (in this case negative nuclear security assurances)
and give and take on both sides can help to wind back nuclear weapon ambitions
on the part of an insecure state.
In situations of regional tension, such as India and Pakistan in South Asia
and Israel and its neighbours, the security needs of all parties involved
have to be identified, acknowledged and addressed systematically to find
solutions. Action should be taken as a matter of urgency, and if necessary
discretely, to prevent a regional dispute acquiring a nuclear dimension.
This points to a multilateral approach involving relevant regional and possibly
neighbouring powers. Bilateral or regional involvement could be employed
as a means of providing additional assurance and confidence building above
and beyond international inspections. The overall security environment,
including conventional armaments and other weapons of mass destruction,
would be highly relevant to a negotiated solution. There could be a role
in this regard for assistance and assurances from outside powers, particularly
the nuclear weapon states, covering such matters as security assistance,
positive and negative nuclear security assurances, assurances about access
to imported technologies and agreed restraint in arms exports to the region.
Developing Verification Arrangements for a Nuclear Weapon Free World
Effective verification is critical to the achievement and maintenance of
a nuclear weapon free world. Before states agree to eliminate nuclear weapons
they will require a high level of confidence that verification arrangements
would detect promptly any attempt to cheat the disarmament process whether
through retention or acquisition of clandestine weapons, weapon components,
means of weapons production or undeclared stocks of fissile material. Formal
legal undertakings should be accompanied by corresponding legal arrangements
for verification. To maintain security in a post-nuclear weapon world the
verification system must provide a high level of assurance as to the continued
peaceful, non-explosive use of a state's civil nuclear activity.
To be adequate, the verification regime must provide a high probability
that cheating of proliferation significance would be detected promptly.
This is essential to provide confidence that nuclear weapons have been eliminated
and to discourage potential violators.
A political judgement will be needed on whether the level of assurance possible
from the verification regime is sufficient. All existing arms control and
disarmament agreements have required judgements of this nature because no
verification system can provide absolute certainty. The likelihood that
the verification regime for a nuclear weapon free world will involve a small
probability that attempted breakout might go undetected does not alter the
fact that a nuclear weapon free world would be, fundamentally, a safer place.
Development and implementation of the verification arrangements needed for
each step toward elimination will provide immediate benefit through reducing
the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear proliferation
including nuclear terrorism.
Verification is likely to involve bilateral US/Russian measures, verification
among the nuclear weapon states and multilateral verification during various
stages of the dismantlement and elimination of nuclear weapons. Bilateral
or regional involvement in inspections on nuclear facilities and in monitoring
the dismantlement of any nuclear weapons could be employed as a means of
providing additional assurance and confidence building above and beyond
international inspections particularly during the early stages of disarmament
while states develop confidence that multilateral verification is operating
effectively. The verification regime will take many years to develop. To
ensure that movement toward a nuclear weapon free world is not held up by
lack of adequate verification, higher priority should be given to the development
of the verification techniques that will be needed.
The following are some of the main components of a possible verification
regime. These and other verification issues are discussed further in Annex
- Effective, cost-efficient non-proliferation controls on the civil nuclear
industry in all states
- Detection of undeclared nuclear activity
- Ceasing production of fissile material for nuclear weapons
- Nuclear warheads dismantlement and elimination
- Disposition of warhead uranium and plutonium
- Controls on nuclear weapons components other than nuclear material
- Dismantlement of nuclear weapons infrastructure.
A key element of non-proliferation arrangements for a nuclear weapon free
world will be a highly developed capacity to detect undeclared nuclear activity
at both declared and undeclared sites.
Progressive extension of safeguards to nuclear activity in the nuclear weapon
states, the undeclared weapon states and the threshold states will be needed
with the end point being universal application of safeguards in all states.
Few facilities in the nuclear weapon states are safeguarded at present and
a number of other states operate unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. The first
stage of extending safeguards in these states is likely to be verification
of facilities and material covered by a convention to end fissile material
production for weapons.
Systems will be needed to verify that nuclear warheads are dismantled and
destroyed and their fissile material content safeguarded to provide maximum
confidence that such material cannot be reintroduced to weapons use. Controls
on important components of nuclear weapons other than fissile material such
as tritium and non-nuclear components will need to be considered. To ensure
that a nuclear force of strategic significance cannot be reconstituted quickly
a staged process for verified destruction of the nuclear weapons infrastructure
is likely to be considered necessary.
Even allowing for future developments it seems unlikely that technical verification
alone can provide the levels of assurance needed for the elimination of
nuclear weapons. Supplementing technical verification by other measures
such as transparency in nuclear activity, relevant information obtained
by national technical means and passed to verification bodies, exchange
of information between verification bodies and application of effective
export controls can increase the levels of assurance from technical measures.
Societal verification or citizen's reporting may prove to be an additional
means of supporting the verification system for a nuclear weapon free world.
The political commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons must be matched by
a willingness to make available the resources needed for nuclear disarmament
including effective verification. The amounts involved are likely to be
considerable, especially for the dismantlement of weapons and disposition
of their fissile material content, but very much less than developing, maintaining
and upgrading nuclear arsenals. In addition, the costs of the verification
system should be weighed against the substantial contribution to global,
regional and national security that effective verification of a nuclear
weapon free world would make. Consideration should be given to creating
an international fund for this purpose.
As the verification regime is developed it will be necessary to ensure that
institutional arrangements are appropriate. Some probable institutional
elements such as the IAEA and the CTBT verification organisation are existing
or soon will be. Other institutional requirements should be considered as
the disarmament process develops. Elaboration of technical aspects of verification
should be initiated without delay within the framework of the Conference
States must also be confident that any violations detected will be acted
upon. In this context, the Security Council should continue its consideration
of how it might address, consistent with specific mandates given to it and
consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, violations of nuclear
disarmament obligations which might be drawn to its attention. This should
demonstrate that the collective security system enshrined in the Charter
will operate effectively in this field.
Cessation of the Production of Fissile Material for Nuclear Explosive
Ending the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear
explosive devices (cut-off) would require the dismantlement or placement
under international safeguards of all enrichment and reprocessing plants
in the nuclear weapon states and in undeclared weapon states and threshold
states. A cut-off convention would contribute to nuclear disarmament by
capping the amount of nuclear material available for nuclear weapons use
and by extending safeguards coverage over currently unsafeguarded sensitive
nuclear facilities. The Conference on Disarmament has agreed a mandate for
negotiation of a production cut-off convention and the negotiations should
proceed as a matter of urgency.
Final steps towards elimination will require a negotiating process involving
all nuclear weapon states and any remaining undeclared weapons states and
threshold states. The detail of how this might be achieved will principally
be a matter for the states involved at the time, but some general comments
can be offered. Steps suggested are:
Other Nuclear Weapon States Joining the Process
Further START agreements and nuclear confidence building measures should
establish a receptive international climate for negotiations on global reduction
of nuclear arms. Following the achievement by the United States and Russia
of appropriate force levels, the next step might be to reduce the levels
of all nuclear weapon states to 100 warheads each. The United Kingdom, France
and China have given undertakings that they will join nuclear arms reductions
when the arsenals of the United States and Russia are reduced sufficiently.
These undertakings would need to be given concrete form and acted upon.
Preparations for negotiations involving all nuclear weapon states need not
await the achievement by the United States and Russia of the appropriate
force levels. The United States and Russia could commence a process for
bringing the United Kingdom, France and China into the nuclear disarmament
process. For example, early exploration of a comprehensive exchange of information
on each state's nuclear arsenal and stocks of fissile material will be needed
to establish baseline data for nuclear weapon state negotiations. Further
early steps could be for the United States and Russia to prepare the ground
for verification of nuclear weapon state reductions including by sharing
information and expertise on START verification, on weapons dismantlement
and on verification and control of fissile material from dismantled weapons.
US/Russian experience on nuclear confidence building should be extended
to the other nuclear weapon states, and new measures developed which involve
With respect to reductions involving all nuclear weapon states, as their
arsenals are substantially reduced, the levels of warheads or warheads components
thought to be held by any remaining undeclared nuclear weapon states and
threshold states will become a more serious concern. It is therefore essential
that states with a presumed nuclear weapons potential take early action
and enter into international legal constraints as they will have to resolve
their ambiguous nuclear status before the nuclear weapon states will finally
move to zero nuclear weapons. As part of the process, it will be necessary
for these states to acknowledge the progress made toward nuclear disarmament
and to demonstrate their own intentions in this regard including through
cessation of production of fissile material until production facilities
are subject to international monitoring.
During the early part of nuclear weapon state reductions there are likely
to be asymmetries in the arsenals which would reflect the different starting
points of the participants. Progressive reductions in these asymmetries
could be expected, leaving all nuclear weapon states with similar residual
stocks of weapons as they approach the elimination stage.
For nuclear disarmament to be genuine and stable it should not be easily
or unevenly reversible. There must be confidence that any attempt by a state
to reverse disarmament would be a drawn out, highly visible, resource-intensive
exercise. As nuclear disarmament extends beyond US/Russian bilateral reductions,
so too must arrangements to provide a high degree of assurance that it would
not be reversible. These arrangements include verified dismantlement and
destruction of warheads and ending fissile material production for weapons
Getting to Zero
Each successive phase toward elimination of nuclear weapons will provide
a guide to possible legal arrangements for a nuclear weapon free world.
These measures could include further US/Russian bilateral agreements, a
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a cut-off convention and any no-first-use
treaty that may have been negotiated. Further new treaties will be needed
at the global or regional level and existing instruments may have to be
modified or replaced.
Separate but mutually reinforcing instruments could be one way to give legal
effect to nuclear disarmament. As nuclear disarmament nears the elimination
stage, consideration should be given to whether the legal obligations to
sustain a nuclear weapon free world would be best given effect by the incremental
approach of a number of separate instruments or through a comprehensive
approach which would combine all relevant instruments into a single legal
instrument, a nuclear weapons convention. A comprehensive treaty would be
a fresh start, removed from acrimonious debate, such as that over the NPT.
It may also be possible to include in a new treaty provisions which would
minimise any danger to the NPT such as a requirement that the new treaty
would enter into force only after it had been ratified by all states party
to the NPT. These questions and other legal considerations are discussed
in further detail at Annex B.
In any reflection on the legal regime required as a basic part of the architecture
for a nuclear weapon free world, it is fundamental to recognise that the
legal regime supports but cannot itself bring about such a world. The prospective
components of the nuclear weapon free world legal regime will play an important
role in the political negotiations through which a nuclear weapon free world
will be established. But it is these political negotiations and the determination
to make them effective which are central to the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The maintenance of a nuclear weapon free world will require an enduring
legal framework, linked to the Charter of the United Nations, possibly in
the form of a convention on nuclear weapons.
Building the Environment for a Nuclear Weapon Free World
A world ready to eliminate nuclear weapons would be very different from
today's world. The absence of nuclear weapons and related activity would
become an internationally accepted norm, obviously including in all five
declared nuclear weapon states. National arguments that nuclear weapons
are needed because others have them would not apply. States' commitment
to a nuclear weapon free future would be codified in international legal
documents. Nuclear weapons would by then have to be seen as having no part
to play in assuring any state's national sovereignty and independence. The
world would have to live in the knowledge that cheating could spark the
return of a nuclear armed world and the threat of a nuclear war, but the
basic changes which would have occurred would buttress, substantially, the
technical barriers against breakout and collective interest in maintaining
Concurrent with the central disarmament process, there will be a need for
activity supported by all states, but particularly the nuclear weapon states,
to build an environment conducive to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Progress in each track will influence the other. It is essential that the
international nuclear and security agenda should move forward on a broad
front in ways supportive of nuclear disarmament so that the process does
not lose momentum.
Aside from warheads, missile delivery systems are of the greatest concern
in seeking to ensure that a meaningful nuclear force cannot be reconstituted
quickly. Reductions in strategic nuclear missile numbers should therefore
track reductions in warhead numbers closely. The START agreement provisions
for verified destruction of launchers and platforms are a possible model
for strategic nuclear ballistic missile reductions involving the nuclear
weapon states. Missile capabilities in the Middle East, South Asia and on
the Korean peninsula also need to be addressed.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty concluded in 1972 by the United States
and the Soviet Union recognised the potential for strategic missile defence
systems to fuel the offensive arms race as both sides sought to counter
the other's defensive systems. By limiting strategic missile defence sites
to one per side the ABM Treaty removed a strong incentive to increase offensive
forces and paved the way for the START I and II reductions.
Proliferation of missiles and their use in conflicts such as the Gulf War
have intensified interest, particularly in the United States, in missile
defence systems. While Cold War missile defence proposals centred on strategic
ballistic missiles, the present focus is on defences against shorter range
theatre missiles. In practice it is likely to become increasingly difficult
to draw a clear line between systems to defend against strategic ballistic
missiles and those which defend against sub-strategic and particularly theatre
ballistic missiles. The deployment of some ballistic missile defence systems
during the transition to a nuclear weapon free world could threaten seriously
the continuation of the process, particularly as technology capabilities
in this field vary significantly.
It will be extremely important for the pursuit of the elimination of nuclear
weapons to protect fully the integrity of the ABM Treaty. A global treaty
controlling longer range ballistic missiles would provide a universal means
of addressing the dangers to international security posed by ballistic missiles;
it would also avoid the potential destabilising effect of ballistic missile
defence systems. It would increase the confidence of nuclear weapon states
that nuclear disarmament will not damage their security, and it would improve
the security environment in a number of regions by eliminating destabilising
missile arms races. Pending development of such a regime, confidence building
measures such as a multilateral ballistic missile launch notification agreement
and a ballistic missile flight test ban could be explored.
Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
Nuclear weapon free zones are part of the architecture that can usefully
encourage and support a nuclear weapon free world. The spread of such zones
around the globe, with specific mechanisms to answer the security concerns
of each region, can progressively codify the transition to a world free
of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapon free zones are an effective means of addressing regional
nuclear tensions in a cooperative way and provide ongoing assurance that
nuclear activity in a region is confined to peaceful purposes. Their potential
contribution to global and regional peace and security was reaffirmed at
NPTREC which encouraged development of nuclear weapon free zones, especially
in regions of tension such as the Middle East, as a matter of priority.
There are also proposals for the establishment of such zones in South Asia,
in Central Europe and from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea.
The cooperation of the nuclear weapon states is necessary for the maximum
effectiveness of nuclear weapon free zones. To increase the likelihood that
nuclear weapon states will become party to nuclear weapon free zones they
should be consulted early in the negotiation process. Equally, because of
the contribution nuclear weapon free zones can make to disarmament and non-proliferation,
the nuclear weapon states should support them including through signing
nuclear weapon state protocols.
About half of the earth's surface is already covered by nuclear weapon free
zones, comprising the Latin American and the Caribbean countries (Treaty
of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), the ASEAN countries
(Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone) and African countries (the Treaty
of Pelindaba). Once the ASEAN and African agreements come into force, most
of the southern hemisphere (and some parts of the northern hemisphere) will
be covered by nuclear weapon free zones. The Canberra Commission encourages
development of linkages between all existing and prospective southern hemisphere
nuclear weapon free zones to create a southern hemisphere free of nuclear
Nuclear Trade and Export Controls
All states have an obligation to ensure that their nuclear trade does not
contribute, wittingly or unwittingly, to nuclear weapons proliferation by
either states or sub-state groups. Meeting this obligation is assisted by
a common understanding of what items are sensitive in the nuclear proliferation
process and has resulted in development of internationally agreed standards
for nuclear exports. Such standards support the non-proliferation regime
and foster legitimate trade and cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear
energy by contributing to the climate of confidence essential for international
The importance of nuclear export controls is acknowledged in the NPTREC
'Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament'.
These state that new supply arrangements should require acceptance of fullscope
safeguards 'as a necessary precondition', thereby clearly specifying the
fullscope safeguards supply standard as the accepted global norm for nuclear
States looking to develop nuclear weapons also need delivery systems, and
a close correlation exists between nuclear weapons proliferation and missile
proliferation. More broadly, states seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction
may try to develop several categories of weapons simultaneously. Effective
export controls on items that could contribute to development of non-nuclear
weapons of mass destruction are therefore important to establishing and
sustaining an international climate favourable to the elimination of nuclear
It is essential that export control regimes are transparent in their operation
and do not impede legitimate trade and technology transfer.
Eliminating Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Commission does not accept the view that nuclear weapons need to be
retained to serve as a deterrent against other types of weapons of mass
destruction, particularly chemical and biological weapons. Implementation
of effective measures to eliminate both types of weapons would significantly
enhance global security and provide more conducive circumstances for the
elimination of nuclear weapons. While there have been longstanding efforts
to prohibit both chemical and biological weapons, these efforts have not
yet reached the stage where the international community can be confident
that the menace of such weapons has been finally removed.
One hundred and sixty countries have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention
since it was opened for signature in Paris in January 1993. The CWC will
enter into force 180 days after the 65th country has ratified the convention.
The CWC promises to be an effective instrument for controlling chemical
weapons but will face a variety of challenges when it becomes operational.
A key issue will be universality, a number of important countries in the
Middle East and in other regions of tension have not yet signed the convention.
The two largest possessors of chemical weapons, the US and Russia, have
yet to ratify. It will be vital that the CWC achieve comprehensive participation
if its promise is to be realised. Signatories which have not yet ratified
the CWC should give high priority to ratification, and non-signatories,
particularly in regions of tension, should join this new regime as soon
The 1925 Geneva Protocol sought to ban use of biological weapons, but a
more comprehensive ban was established in the Biological Weapons Convention,
which came into operation in 1975. The BWC has been hampered by the lack
of formal provisions and machinery to verify compliance, a major deficiency
which has been underlined by suggestions that a number of countries have
maintained programs to develop such weapons despite the convention's provisions.
Negotiations to develop a legally binding instrument to reinforce the BWC,
which is expected to contain verification provisions, were commenced only
in 1995. These negotiations will need to come to an early conclusion to
preserve the BWC's value in maintaining a global norm against biological
weapons. Assisted by the rapid advance in biotechnology, these weapons,
more so than chemical weapons, have the potential to cause damage on a widespread,
strategic scale and could become the new scourge for the next century if
current arms control efforts are not successful.
The Commission considered carefully the merits of setting out a precise
timeframe for the elimination of nuclear weapons, but elected not to do
so. However, this does not imply that it accepts the extended timelines
imposed by such current constraints as limited warhead dismantlement facilities.
Those constraints could obviously be relieved by political decisions and
the allocation of resources required to advance dismantlement. Another limiting
factor may prove to be establishing the necessary confidence in the verification
regime which would be required to take the final step to complete elimination.
In this context the Canberra Commission remains convinced of the basic importance
of agreed targets and guidelines which would drive the process inexorably
toward the ultimate objective of final elimination, at the earliest possible