Between Power and Justice: Current Problems and Perspectives of the NPT Regime

Dr. Harald Müller is Director of the Peace Research Institute, Frankfurt, and Professor of International Relations at Goethe University, Frankfurt. A member of the German delegation to the last three NPT Review Conferences, he served on the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters of the UN Secretary-General from 1999–2005. His two most recent books have been World Power India (2006, in German) and Building a New World Order: Sustainable Policies for the Future (2009, London, Haus Publishing).
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  • March 2010

    The nuclear non-proliferation regime, despite being frequently criticised for an alleged lack of effectiveness, is in fact an amazing success story. The number of states which had conducted nuclear weapons activities in various stages but which have terminated them at one point surpasses the number of Nuclear-Weapon States (NWSs) by far. At the apex of its success, however, the regime is threatened by erosion from three different directions. A small number of rule-breakers and outsiders undermine its central objective: to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The refusal of the official NWSs to fulfil their undertaking of nuclear disarmament violates the principle of justice enshrined in the treaty and thereby destroys its legitimacy, as does the perceived readiness by nuclear suppliers to impede the development of nuclear technology in developing countries. The Gordian Knot can presumably only be cut by a u-turn towards a world without nuclear weapons. This insight has meanwhile reached the mainstream security establishment of the United States, the president included. Whether this road will really be taken will determine the future of the regime—with far-reaching consequences for global security.