Preventing Nuclear Proliferation

7 May 2013

Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain

“The continuing existence of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable and disproportionate threat to every living thing on the planet. The only enduring solution to this threat lies in the verifiable and irreversible elimination of these weapons.”

- InterAction Council, Final Communiqué, May 2011

The InterAction Council’s mandate is to foster international cooperation and action in three priority areas, one of which is peace and security. Over the course of its 30-year history, the Council’s work in this area has focused largely on nuclear non-proliferation. In its 2010 Hiroshima Declaration, the Council not only made a powerful plea for a nuclear-free world but also warned of emerging new dangers: “As long as anyone has nuclear weapons, others will seek them.”

Since the end of the Cold War, active nuclear weapons have been reduced from over 50,000 to a little over 10,000 today.* Although this may be an impressive reduction, the nuclear states have meanwhile increased from the previous exclusive P5 (U.S.A., Russia, U.K., France and China) to nine (additionally, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) and others are either confirmed or suspected to be developing nuclear weapons.

Further progress has been seen in the two nuclear superpowers. The U.S.-Russia New START (strategic arms reduction treaty) in 2010 limited the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads on each side to 1550 by 2018. And the quadrennial “Nuclear Posture Review” in 2010 did narrow the declared role of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, not much has happened since. 

It is, however, the group of new nuclear states that gravely concerns the international community the most. 

In early February, North Korea resorted to its third underground nuclear weapon test, following the successful launch of a satellite into orbit. This nuclear test came on the heels of the U.N. Security Council’s vote in favor of broadening sanctions against the regime. Immediately following the test, North Korea threatened of unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity.” Now convinced that nuclear status is the only way to gain “influence,” it is suspected that the world’s most oppressive regime will sell enriched uranium to other states and non-state actors conspiring to go nuclear.

Iran also continues to defy the United Nations demand to stop its program of uranium enrichment, by continuing to expand it. As Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium nears Israel’s “red line,” the question of how to deal with a state in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) becomes a fundamental concern, especially when sanctions are proving ineffective.

Lastly, serious concerns are arising that non-nuclear NPT states that are in the vicinity of these new nuclear states might be tempted to go nuclear, thereby making the problem of non-proliferation far worse.  

The experts will be asked to deliberate:

  • Can the “offers” from the international community to Iran and North Korea to forego nuclear weapons be improved enough to have a chance of success? i.e. What is required for a diplomatic solution?
  • Do sanctions play a useful role in influencing the calculations of decision makers on nuclear proliferation? How can they be strengthened?
  • If U.N. sponsored sanctions and international pressure fail in preventing nuclear proliferation what are the options for the international community? For regional actors?
  • If the short-term priority of encouraging states not to acquire nuclear weapons can be achieved, what further steps should the U.S., Russia and the other nuclear powers take to improve the non-proliferation regime?
  • Is a Middle East nuclear-free weapon zone feasible?
  • Is the long-term goal of a zero-nuclear world attainable?
  • RECOMMENDATIONS: Policy recommendations for the plenary

* Because of the secretive nature with which most governments treat information about their nuclear arsenals, most of the figures below are best estimates of each nuclear-weapon state’s nuclear holdings, including both strategic warheads and lower-yield devices referred to as tactical weapons. Russia and the United States also retain thousands of retired warheads planned for dismantlement, not included here. China: about 240; France: fewer than 300; Russia: over 4500; United Kingdom: fewer than 160; United States: approximately 5,113; India: up to 100 nuclear warheads; Israel: between 75 and 200; Pakistan: between 90 and 110; North Korea: 10.



1.     The Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, Co-Chairman (former Prime Minister), Canada


2.     Dr. Thomas Axworthy, President and CEO, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation (Canada)

Special Guests

3.     Prof. Nobuyasu Abe, Director, Centre for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-proliferation, Japan Institute of International Affairs (Japan)

4.     H. E. Mr. Abdulla Abdullatif Abdulla, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Bahrain)

5.     Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (U.K.)

6.     Mr. Gholamali Khoshroo, Special Advisor to H.E. Mr. Seyyed Mohammad Khātamī (Iran)

7.     The Most Hon. Lord Michael Lothian, Member, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Strategy Forum (U.K.)

8.     Dr. Ahmad Moussalli, Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, American University of Beirut (Lebanon)

9.     Dr. Alexander Zhebin, Director, Center for Korean Studies, Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) (Russia)