Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

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Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty


an international treaty drawn up by the UN Committee on Disarmament to limit the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and the possibility of conflict in which nuclear weapons would be used. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was approved by the UN General Assembly on June 12, 1968, and opened for signature on July 1, 1968, in Moscow, Washington, D.C., and London. It became effective on Mar. 5, 1970, after the ratified documents were submitted for safekeeping by the depository states (the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain) and 40 other countries. By late 1971, 69 states were party to the treaty, and 30 additional states had signed but not ratified it. No term for the validity of the treaty has been set. However, 25 years after it comes into force, a conference of the parties to the treaty will decide by majority vote whether it should be renewed indefinitely or for a specified period. The treaty defines a state possessing nuclear weapons as a state that produced or exploded a nuclear weapon or device before Jan. 1, 1967—that is, the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, France, and China.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has a preamble and 11 articles. Articles 1 and 2, which define the fundamental obligations of the nuclear and nonnuclear states, are the most important articles of the treaty. Under Article 1, the states possessing nuclear weapons are obligated to refuse to give nonnuclear countries nuclear weapons or control over them and to refrain from helping them to produce or acquire such weapons. Article 2 binds the nonnuclear parties to the treaty to refrain from accepting nuclear weapons from any nuclear country, from producing such weapons, and from trying to obtain another country’s help to obtain or produce nuclear weapons.

Article 3 establishes guarantees for the observance by nonnuclear states of the obligation not to produce their own nuclear weapons, and the fulfillment of this obligation is to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency. At the same time, the treaty states that the guarantees for the observance of nonnuclear states’ obligations should not create obstacles to the economic development of these states or to international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Thus, all parties to the treaty are obliged to exchange equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information and to help nonnuclear states to obtain the benefits of any peaceful application of nuclear explosions (par. 3, arts. 3, 4, and 5).

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states that one of its aims is to pave the way for other measures of disarmament (art. 6) and guarantee the right of any group of states to conclude agreements on nuclear-free zones (art. 7). The concluding articles of the treaty (arts. 8-11) define procedures to make the treaty effective, including the right of any state to renounce the treaty, on the condition that it notify all other parties to the treaty and the UN Security Council three months in advance.

A resolution passed on June 19, 1968, by the UN Security Council and identical declarations by the three nuclear powers (the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain), which pledge guarantees for the security of the nonnuclear parties to the treaty, are an important addendum to the treaty. The Security Council resolution states that in case of a nuclear attack on a nonnuclear state or the threat of such an attack, the Security Council and, above all, its permanent members who possess nuclear weapons, must take immediate steps to repel such an aggression, in accordance with the UN Charter. The resolution also reaffirms the right of every state to individual or collective self-defense, as provided for by Article 51 of the UN Charter, until the Security Council takes the appropriate measures to maintain international peace and security. The declarations, which were made by the three powers before the resolution was adopted, point out that any state that commits an aggression using nuclear weapons or that threatens such an aggression must know that its actions will be effectively curbed by measures adopted in conformity with the UN Charter. The declarations also proclaim the intentions of the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain to help any nonnuclear party to the treaty that is the victim of a nuclear attack.


Vedomosti Verkhovnovo Soveta SSSR, 1970, no. 14, p. 118.
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