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The Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty: Prelude to a nuclear free world?

Lecture by Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC to the Fourth Annual Waiheke Global Affairs Lecture, Waiheke, New Zealand, 4 November 2017

While getting Australians or New Zealanders to say anything generous about their cousins across the Tasman is, as we all know, like extracting teeth without anaesthetic, let me say at the outset, with genuine conviction, that if New Zealand ruled the world we would not have the nuclear weapons problem that we do today. Almost from the outset, you have been a voice of sanity on the total insanity of thinking that anyone’s security is enhanced by relying on these particular weapons of catastrophic mass destruction. You led the way on the development and implementation of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, and you further put your money where your mouth was with the 1987 national nuclear-free act. And your total opposition to nuclear weapons has been for decades now a matter of complete bipartisan agreement, something we in in Australia have never managed.

You felt so passionately about maintaining the integrity of that totally nuclear-free policy that you walked away from whatever security protection you were afforded by the ANZUS alliance (in the process making Bob Hawke so contemptuously enraged with David Lange that Geoffrey Palmer and I, as their Foreign Ministers, had to draw on every last ounce of our old friendship to stop the biggest breakdown in bilateral relations since Greg Chappell bowled his underarm grubber!). You maintained the rage against French nuclear tests in the Pacific with such intensity you made me look like a total wimp by comparison.

On top of all that in recent years you have been among those handful of countries leading the global charge, with Ambassador Del Higgie in the front row of that charge, first of all in initiating the humanitarian consequences movement: building a major international coalition of countries opposed on humanitarian grounds to any reliance on these most indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented. And then over the last year negotiating to conclusion the UN the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (NWPT), aimed at banning them outright, for which effort I was delighted to see the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons ( ICAN) – of which I was a foundation supporter when it was established in Melbourne – awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike Australia, which has waxed and waned in its enthusiasm for the cause depending on which party is in government, and the personal predilections of its leaders, New Zealand has been for decades now on the right side of history. And that is something for which I warmly congratulate all the parliamentarians, government officials and civil society leaders whose combined efforts have made that possible.

For all that effort, and all the progress that has been made, we have to acknowledge that the current nuclear weapons environment is as desolate as it has been for a long time, and that we who want to achieve a safer and saner nuclear-free world still have a massive task in front of us. That task has two major elements, which will be the core themes of my presentation today. The first is to get it into the heads of relevant policy-makers right around the world that, in today’s world, the risks associated with anyone’s possession of nuclear weapons outweigh any possible rewards. The second is to identify a political strategy for achieving a nuclear weapon free world that will be genuinely productive – in which context I will address the question of just how effective the new NWPT really will be.

The Reality of Risk

The risks associated with nuclear weapons ought to be self-evident. Not only are they the most comprehensively and indiscriminately destructive weapons ever invented, but any kind of significant nuclear exchange would have a horrific impact not just on the immediate antagonists, but worldwide— through the nuclear winter effect on global agriculture. A war between India and Pakistan, unhappily not unthinkable, would have that result if they employed just a quarter of their present combined nuclear arsenals. There are only two threats to life on this planet as we know it which international policy failure can make real. One is global warming, and the other is nuclear annihilation – and nuclear weapons can kill us a lot faster than CO2.

My own starting point is that the world is closer now to a catastrophic nuclear weapons exchange – and not just because of developments in North Korea – than it has been at any time since the height of the Cold War. That is an alarming view, but almost now a mainstream one. It is the position taken by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, when this year it moved the hands of its Doomsday clock to 2 ½ minutes to midnight, the closest they have been since the mid-1950s. And it is also the view of the so-called ‘four horsemen’ – George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and Bill Perry – those hard-headed Cold War realists, and previous staunch defenders of nuclear weapons, in their seminal series of Wall Street Journal articles of recent years. There are three main reasons for this heightened concern, and why policymakers should be much less willing to rely on nuclear weapons than most of them still are.

First, so long as there are very large numbers of nuclear weapons in existence (presently some 15,400 worldwide), and particularly so long as large numbers of these are actively operationally deployed (presently some 4,000) with a very large number of these in turn on high-alert launch status (presently some 2,000), then – even if no nuclear-armed state ever takes a deliberate decision to initiate a first-strike nuclear attack, and I am an optimist in this respect, in that I am inclined to believe that no such state ever will – there is a huge risk of a nuclear exchange being initiated by human or system error, accident or miscalculation.

We now know more than we ever used to about how many times the supposedly very sophisticated command and control systems of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War years were strained by mistakes and false alarms, human error and human idiocy. One of the most chilling of all the near-misses occurred during the Cuban missile crisis when, losing communications with Moscow after coming too close to a depth charge from a US ship blockading Cuban waters, and not knowing whether war had broken out or not, the commander of a Soviet submarine had to decide whether or not to launch his nuclear torpedo. Overwhelmed by the responsibility, he put it to a vote of the three senior officers aboard – and it was by a two-to-one majority of those officers, on that boat, that we escaped World War III.

Given what we now know about the Cold War US-Soviet cases; given what we know about the rather more uncertain command and control, and mutual reassurance systems, of the more recently nuclear-armed states; and given also what we now know, and can guess, about how much more sophisticated and capable cyber offence will be of overcoming cyber defence in the years ahead, the fact that we have survived for over seven decades without a nuclear weapons catastrophe is not a matter of inherent system stability or great statesmanship – just sheer dumb luck. And there is no reason why that luck should continue indefinitely. Particularly when we now have in the White House with his hands on the nuclear ‘biscuit’ – that little plastic card with the codes needed to trigger a nuclear war – not only the most ignorant and ethically challenged, but the most undisciplined, impetuous, reckless and generally psychologically-ill equipped, president in American history.

Second, having more nuclear armed states dramatically compounds the danger. As bad as the risks were during most of the Cold War years, when there were just two opposing major nuclear powers, they have become much worse since the proliferation developments that produced India, Pakistan and Israel as new nuclear armed states, and more recently North Korea – all in areas of great regional volatility, a history of violent conflict, and less sophisticated command and control systems. And of course these risks would be compounded even more dramatically were there to be further breakouts, particularly by others in the Middle East should Iran be perceived to be not fully back in its box, or in North East Asia in response either to North Korea, or to a dramatic increase in Chinese overall military capability (even though Beijing is continuing to show comparative moderation in the development of its nuclear weapons arsenal).

Holding the line on the Iran deal is by no means a certainty, given the continuing desire of President Trump and others around him to tear it up – so far curbed only by such adults as remain in the room – on grounds that have nothing to do with whether Tehran is in fact observing, as it has been, its side of the bargain. But holding the line should be a no-brainer: what is there not to like about a deal which completely ended any plutonium path to a bomb; set very significant limitations, and inbuilt delays, into any enriched-uranium path to a bomb; extended any possible breakout timeline from the previously assessed two-three months to at least a year; and applied highly intrusive international monitoring and verification measures to ensure that these strictures are observed? Particularly when the only alternatives the critics have ever offered are continuing sanctions, with no likely result other than Iran’s nuclear program, such as it might be (and I’ve actually always been sceptical that actual weaponisation was ever part of Iran’s game plan) proceeding completely unhindered; or military action, which would not delay any nuclear program by more than three years or so, and would be certain to unleash a storm of retaliatory action by Iran in the region and beyond. The only thing to lament about the agreement is that it was not signed and sealed a decade earlier, as I know well – from being closely engaged with the issue and all the key players when I was President of the International Crisis Group – that it could and should have been.

North Korea remains a much tougher case, and gets ever more so as its weapon and delivery system capability develops ever more rapidly. We all know the policy options are extremely limited: sanctions seem likely to continue to be unproductive; China is not willing to push the regime to its breaking point, even if it could, and threatening it with a trade war if it doesn’t, is as ignorant as it is reckless about the likely consequences; and pre-emptive military action is attractive only to the certifiably deluded.

I have long believed that the only viable approach to North Korea is one that combines containment, deterrence and keeping the door wide open for negotiations, without preconditions and through any mechanism, bilateral or multilateral, which seems likely to be productive. I have not abandoned hope that at least a freeze cold be negotiated, if the North Korean regime can be given sufficient confidence that its survival is not at risk: that is what Pyongyang wants, not a war which can only be suicidal.

Containment, deterrence and a serious willingness to negotiate are not likely to lead any time soon to the ultimate solution for which we all hope – the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But with so many opportunities having been wasted in the past, not just by Pyongyang but by the Western allies (as I well know, having been involved as Australian foreign minister in the mid-1990s negotiations, and having closely followed developments through the ‘noughties as head of the International Crisis Group) I think it is the best that any of us can do, that it has reasonable prospects of stabilizing the situation, and should be the posture adopted by all the governments involved.

This is obviously the approach preferred by all the key negotiating players, albeit with a question mark still over the United States. Secretary of State Tillerson obviously wants to go down that path, but whether he is capable of persuading the man whom he has denied calling (in the decade’s most implausible denial) a ‘f… moron’, remains to be seen. Of course what is abundantly clear to everyone else is that if the US scraps the Iran nuclear deal, its capacity to persuade North Koreans or anyone else that its word as a negotiating partner can be trusted will be non-existent.

The third reason for heightened concern about the present global nuclear weapons environment is that, at the very time that the world should be redoubling its efforts to move towards complete nuclear disarmament, and much stronger non-proliferation regimes, we are in fact moving in the opposite direction. As to disarmament, the US and Russia are each dramatically modernizing their arsenals, and under current leaders showing no inclination whatever to engage in any serious new arms control. Inevitably destabilizing new ballistic missile defence systems are being developed. Everywhere in Asia nuclear weapons numbers are increasing, not diminishing.

We are seeing many more references in the literature and commentary to the use of nuclear weapons being perfectly thinkable in various situations, and to the need for various countries without them to start thinking seriously of the possibility of acquiring them (including even Australia, in a recent article by strategic doyen Paul Dibb). And despite all the recent efforts of global civil society and the humanitarian impact movement, with two thirds of UN members supporting the newly negotiated nuclear weapons ban treaty, all the present nuclear armed states – and nearly all their partners and allies including, shamefully, Australia – are vigorously opposing event tentative first steps toward disarmament.

As to non-proliferation, the whole world would manifestly benefit from a strengthening of the current legal regime, including through tougher safeguards (in particular universal embrace of the Additional Protocol), meaningful penalties for Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) non-compliance, a ban on fissile material production for weapons purposes, securing nuclear weapon-free zone protocol ratifications, bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) finally into force, and strengthening non-treaty mechanisms like the Proliferation Security Initiative. But we all know how remarkably difficult it has been, not least through the NPT Review process, to get delivery on any of these measures. Although the nuclear-weapon states continue to be in denial about this, the basic problem, experienced by anyone who has spent any time at all in the NPT implementation and review process, is that the perceived lack of serious commitment by these states to their Article VI disarmament commitments generates endless bloody-mindedness among non-nuclear weapon states.

It might not be very rational for a legion of such states to resist, at successive review conferences, doing anything to make non-proliferation compliance and enforcement provisions tougher: most of them are passionate about nuclear disarmament, and ought logically to be in favour of anything that makes a nuclear weapons free world even harder to achieve. But resist they do, because of the perception that they are the ones having to accept all the intrusive restrictions, while the weapons states accept none. The truth of the matter is that all the world hates a hypocrite. And so long as the nuclear weapon states – and those which, like Australia, shelter under their umbrella – continue to insist that their security concerns justify retaining a nuclear option but other countries’ concerns do not, that is exactly how the weapons states will continue to be regarded.

The Illusion of Reward

The standard answer to these concerns is that while nuclear weapons possession does have its risks, they are outweighed by the rewards: that possession of nuclear weapons has deterred, and continues to deter, war between the major powers; that they will deter large-scale conventional attacks; that killing off the extended nuclear deterrence on which as many as forty US allies and partners rely is not a good idea in the present geopolitical environment; and that while any actual use of nuclear weapons may well be an indefensible assault on our common humanity, the sheer awfulness of nuclear weapons is what makes them so effective as a deterrent.

Part of the problem with such arguments, of course is that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If nuclear weapons are such a great stabilizer, why shouldn’t more countries have them? How do those who beat the nuclear deterrence drum with such passion and conviction counter, without transparent double standards, those smaller and more vulnerable countries who believe that they need nuclear weapons to deter potential predators?

My own strong belief – and it’s a position that does not have to depend on double standards to maintain – is that while nuclear weapons on the other side have always constituted a formidable argument for caution, their deterrent utility has been hugely exaggerated: that in fact they are at best of minimal, and at worst of zero, utility in maintaining stable peace. The rewards of nuclear weapons really are illusory. Let me summarise, in bald outline, what I think are the four main responses that need to be made to the familiar arguments in support of nuclear deterrence.

First, as to deterring war between the major powers, there is simply no evidence that, at any stage during the Cold War years, either the Soviet Union or the United States ever wanted to cold-bloodedly initiate war, and were only constrained from doing so by the existence of the other’s nuclear weapons. We know, moreover, that knowledge of the existence on the other side of supremely destructive weapons (as with chemical and biological weapons before 1939) has not stopped war in the past between major powers. Nor has the experience or prospect of massive damage to cities and killing of civilians caused leaders in the past to back down. In the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the historical evidence is in fact now very strong that it was not the nuclear attacks which were the key factor in driving Japan to sue for peace, but the Soviet declaration of war later that same week. If one wants a plausible non-nuclear explanation for the ‘Long Peace’ since 1945, it is simply this. What has stopped, and will continue to stop, the major powers from deliberately starting wars against each other has been more than anything else a realisation – after the experience of World War II and in the light of all the rapid technological advances that followed it – that the damage that would be inflicted by any war would be unbelievably horrific, and far outweigh, in today’s economically interdependent world, any conceivable benefit to be derived.

Second, as to the utility of nuclear weapons in deterring large-scale conventional attacks, there is a long list of examples where non-nuclear powers have either directly attacked nuclear powers or have not been deterred by the prospect of their intervention: think of the Korea, Vietnam, Yom Kippur, Falklands, two Afghanistan and first Gulf wars. The calculation evidently made in each case was that a nuclear response from the other side would be inhibited by military commanders’ understanding of the formidable practical obstacles involved in the use of these weapons, at both the tactical and strategic level, not least the damage they can cause to one’s own side and to any territory being fought over. And also inhibited by the prevailing normative taboo on the use of such weapons, at least in circumstances where the very survival of the state was not at stake.

Third, as to the apparent belief of some smaller states, like North Korea, that a handful of nuclear weapons is their ultimate guarantor against external regime-change-motivated intervention, however much a psychological comfort blanket this may be, any such belief is simply not objectively well-founded. I have been told by some Chinese analysts in a position to know that the Pyongyang leadership does not really believe this itself, whatever show it continues to put on for both international and domestic consumption. Nuclear weapons are not of much, if any, deterrent use when, as is the case with North Korea and other non-major powers, they are not backed by the additional defence infrastructure (for example, missile submarines) that would give them a reasonable prospect of surviving to mount a retaliatory attack. And Pyongyang knows that any homicidal first use of nuclear weapons by it would be totally suicidal. The only rationale for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is such psychological comfort as it provides for the regime and the wider population. It already has a very effective military deterrent against any attack in its ‘ring of fire’ around Seoul – the cave and tunnel-embedded artillery installations just across the border which could kill scores of thousands of South Koreans in the first hour or so of any combat.

Fourth, there is the argument that America’s willingness to offer extended nuclear deterrence to its allies and partners has restrained, and will continue to restrain, proliferation. It may be true, historically, that this has been an important inhibitor in the case of Japan, Germany and others – and that this continues to be an important consideration today in keeping South Korea (where pro-nuclear weapons talk is much more common) on the straight and narrow. But I remain unpersuaded that there is any continuing compelling necessity for American protection to retain a nuclear dimension. What continues to matter for all of America’s allies is extended deterrence, not extended nuclear deterrence: a credible US conventional capability to meet any threat contingency with which we might be confronted that we cannot confidently handle by ourselves, and the objective reality is that the United States has and will retain that capability for the indefinitely foreseeable future. Whether it chooses to exercise that capability under President Trump, who is manifestly much less wedded to these alliance relationships than his predecessors, is of course another question, but I don’t believe that things are, or will become for the foreseeable future, so rocky that any of America’s present allies will be really tempted to go nuclear.

It all comes down to the judgment one makes in balancing the rewards of nuclear deterrence, which I would argue are largely illusory, against the reality, as I have already described it, that keeping nuclear stockpiles – even if you don’t ever intend to use them except by way of retaliation – is not remotely a risk-free enterprise. I for one wholly agree with the position that Kissinger, Shultz, Nunn and Perry have consistently taken in their seminal series of Wall Street Journal articles since 2007 – that whatever role nuclear weapons may have played in the Cold War, in the present international environment the risks of any state retaining them far outweigh any possible security reward.

Achieving Disarmament

I am absolutely persuaded, as I hope you will be, that moving seriously toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons from the face of the earth is an absolute priority on which we foot-drag at our peril. The only question for me is how to do that in a way that is most productive, and in that context the biggest issue before us is whether the recently negotiated Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty is really capable of being a game-changer.

The treaty – which will be legally binding on the parties to it, opened for signature on 20 September, and will enter into force once 50 states ratify it, an easily realisable target – is not modest in its aspirations. It seeks to ban outright the development, possession, use, threat of use, stationing or transfer of all nuclear weapons; and weapons states joining the treaty commit to their to immediate removal from operational use and time-bound destruction.

But it becomes quickly obvious on even a superficial reading that its aspirations are normative rather than immediately practical. It has more preambular paragraphs describing the principles which have energised it than there are substantive operational paragraphs. It has been designed above all else to make clear that the great majority of UN member states regard nuclear weapons as morally unconscionable and want to see them completely prohibited. It was drafted and negotiated much more speedily than has been normal for arms control treaties of any significance, without much attention to being a practically implementable blueprint for change. From that perspective – whether it can attract buy-in from the countries it needs to if it is to make any direct impact on reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles – it has a number of obvious weaknesses.

First, in its safeguards provisions: weapons states are not likely to be encouraged to relinquish their weapons when by doing so they will be held to a higher standard than non-weapons states (including potential proliferators like Egypt and Saudi Arabia who have not committed to the strongest form of safeguards, the IAEA Additional Protocol). Second, it is very light on the crucial question of verification – that’s for a competent international authority to be designated in due course by the States Parties. Third, it is silent on the even more crucial question of enforcement: understandably enough, because the issue of how to respond to a rogue state breakout in a nuclear weapons free world is one to which no-one has at the moment even a conceptually credible solution. And fourth, the provision that nuclear-armed states joining the treaty must submit to a time-bound program for the complete and irreversible elimination of their stockpiles is not likely to be very attractive to those states nervous about going to zero while others still have nuclear weapons.

The reality is none of the existing nuclear armed states, or their allies or treaty partners, have endorsed the draft treaty or will join it any time soon – or indeed for the indefinitely foreseeable future. With the sole exceptions of the Netherlands, which voted against it, and Singapore, which abstained, none even participated in the negotiations, as they should have if they wanted to get the best possible text, or even just get their concerns into the debate. I don’t think Australia or anyone else covered itself in any glory by opting out of the process in this way.

So the new NWPT, as it presently stands, is not going to directly produce any practical, operational arms control results any time soon, or maybe ever. But that is not to say, for a moment, that its negotiation has been a waste of time, or in any way counter-productive. I personally fully understand and support the rationale behind it. The idea of the ban treaty – and the humanitarian consequences movement from which it was born – has already generated real normative momentum, and will continue to do so. Global stigmatization, delegitimization and the will to prohibit nuclear weapons may not be sufficient conditions for their elimination, but they are necessary conditions. And whether the nuclear-armed states like it or not – and whether others of us like Australia who like to think we are sheltering under their nuclear umbrella, like it or not – that is the mood that is out there in the rest of the world.

That said, I think those of us passionately in favour of nuclear disarmament need to do something more than just campaign passionately to raise the profile of the NWPT and to secure the maximum number of adherents to it. That approach may be working well with the Ottawa and Oslo treaties on land mines and cluster bombs, where – despite a number of significant states holding out against their abolition – the normative consensus against them continues to consolidate and grow to the extent that it is possible to imagine achieving in the not too distant future a world in which these weapons are simply no longer used. But the stakes are much higher with nuclear weapons – given their existential destructive power, the psychological commitment to their retention by so many of the nuclear armed states, and the fear that each of them have that even if they go collectively to zero they will be vulnerable to rogue state breakout in the absence of effective verification and enforcement machinery. It just not credible to think that the present treaty, by itself, can get us to where we want to go.

My own preference would have been for a treaty, or treaty-making process, that – while being as clear as this one is about the ultimate destination – acknowledges the reality that nuclear weapons elimination is only ever going to be achievable on a step-by-step basis, and builds into its present all-or-nothing fabric a series of way-stations. The nuclear-armed states and those who travel with them are right to say that only a step-by-step approach can ever produce results. But they lose all credibility when they extol that approach, but then do absolutely nothing to indicate that they are even contemplating taking any steps at all – which is the current reality.

There is a way forward on all this, and it was mapped with some precision by the Australia-Japan initiated International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which I co-chaired eight years ago with former Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. We argued that progress could only be made by recognising two distinct stages, first ‘minimisation’ then ‘elimination’, with some inevitable discontinuity between them, because of the reality, when it comes to moving from low numbers to zero, that there are not only psychological barriers and geopolitical barriers in the world as we can envisage it for the foreseeable future, but there are serious technical barriers of verification and enforcement as well.

So we urged that initial efforts be focused not on elimination but on what we described as the ‘minimization’ agenda – reducing overall numbers to around 2,000 (compared with the 15,000+ now in existence), getting universal buy-in to ‘No First Use’, and giving that credibility by taking weapons off high-alert and drastically reducing the number of those actively deployed. All of this we, argued was achievable over a fifteen year or so time frame with the right political will. We did not resist the idea of commencing negotiation now on a comprehensive ‘Nuclear Weapons Convention’ that would provide for the outright banning of all nuclear weapons. But given the great many technical, as well as political, obstacles involved in moving from low numbers to zero, we thought that it would take many years to negotiate a disarmament regime that it would be possible for the nuclear-armed states to buy into – and that it would be more productive, accordingly, to focus efforts on achieving the minimization targets rather than producing the kind of ‘campaign’ treaty that the NWPT now represents.

While achievement of our minimization objective by around 2025 seemed possible in the international environment of 2009, it unhappily looks much more elusive now. But I still believe that going back to the hard grind of step-by-step arms control negotiations, both bilateral and multilateral, is the only path to a safer and saner nuclear world. A world with very low numbers of nuclear weapons, with very few of them physically deployed, with practically none of them on high-alert launch status, and with every nuclear armed state visibly committed to never being the first to use nuclear weapons, would still be very far from being perfect, and no-one should even think of settling for that as the end-point. But a world that achieved these objectives would be a very much safer and saner one than we live in now.

So the path ahead for those who want to rid the world of nuclear weapons has, as I see it, these elements. Campaign hard, first, to embed once in for all in the minds of policymakers the truth of the mantra first articulated by the Canberra Commission in 1996 and repeated since by every blue ribbon commission or panel which has looked at this issue:

So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them; so long as any state retains nuclear weapons they are bound one day to be used, by accident if not design; and any such use would be catastrophic for life on this planet as we know it.

Campaign hard, second, to challenge the assumption, still so comforting to so many governments, that nuclear deterrence is somehow incredibly valuable, and that its rewards outweigh all the terrible risks that might be involved in nuclear weapons possession. Do not accept as an end-point for global campaigning anything less than that for which the NWPT now provides – the banning outright of the development, possession, use, threat of use, stationing or transfer of all nuclear weapons.

But at the same time, finally, campaign hard to get governments totally serious about the minimization agenda I have described; and to participate seriously in negotiating a new treaty regime – sitting alongside and complementing the NWPT, or eventually replacing it – that would facilitate that minimization process as well as enabling the world ultimately to move from low numbers to zero. The time to initiate such a new treaty-making exercise would be the high-level UN conference to review progress on nuclear disarmament now announced for May 2018. Of course it would be optimal if the parties leading this new charge included not only those who have worked so hard to produce the NWPT, but at least some of the nuclear-armed states, and those sheltering under a nuclear umbrella, who have been missing in action so far.

A new, more complicated, and more nuanced treaty – or sequenced set of treaties – might not have the visceral, emotional appeal of the simple outright bans embodied in the NWPT. But I suspect this approach might help us get rather faster to where we all want to go.