A few weeks after the NATO Summit in Chicago, NATO member states meet again in Budapest at a Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-proliferation on Thursday and Friday of this week. NATO leaders in Chicago focused on Afghanistan, Smart Defence, and partnership and have since voiced their satisfaction with the summit’s outcome. However, their attempts to update NATO’s nuclear policies were disappointing, apparently unable to find the consensus necessary to remove Cold War legacies, with worrying implications for member states’ authority in leading non-proliferation efforts elsewhere.
The previous NATO WMD conference, held in Bergen in 2011, involved 100 senior officials from NATO and partner countries, international organizations and academic institutions. It provides a unique opportunity for non-member states and civil society to participate in an informal discussion on WMD threats, non-proliferation, and disarmament efforts with NATO officials. This is also a good opportunity for NATO to consider strategies left up in the air by the Chicago summit, notably how NATO will effectively engage with non-proliferation, the next round of arms control with the Russians, and what to do with the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. NATO faces a complex emerging proliferation landscape that includes threats of nuclear and other WMD terrorism. It is important that the Alliance engages with the wider international community on its multilateral disarmament strategies alongside its non-proliferation initiatives.
Also this week, the E3+3 (P5+1) continues preparation for another round of talks with Iran due to take place on the 18th and 19th in Moscow. The six nations meet in France today and tomorrow to discuss recent events and a negotiation package that will push this process forward with Iran. The US Department of State stated in a release this morning that “the United States remains united with other P5+1 partners in our commitment to serious preparations for the Moscow round of talks, and to enabling the diplomatic track to succeed. Iran has the opportunity to begin addressing international concerns over its nuclear program by coming to Moscow prepared to take concrete steps in response to the proposals presented in Baghdad.” But with the bold public statements from Russia in support of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program—as long as it stays peaceful—and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit last week in explicit opposition to military intervention or expanded sanctions against Iran, the differences within the E3+3 over tactics remain large. There are technical options for limited agreement in Moscow, but the political landscape in advance of the U.S. Presidential elections in November is not conducive to agreement, and mean that expectations for any substantial breakthroughs are low.
Last Friday Iranian negotiators and IAEA officials met in Vienna to discuss the IAEA work program and access to restricted sites, but as was to be expected, this meeting ended without agreement.
These are the personal views of the author.