The Foreign Service Journal, December 2009

36 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9 tional stakeholders since then. The expectation is that this work, once completed, will enable the adminis- tration to return to the Senate to seek its advice and consent to CTBT ratification. Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty is the third of the Obama adminis- tration’s proposed arms control steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. Its goal is quite simple — cut off the ability of states to produce the nuclear building block for new nu- clear weapons — namely, the fissile material used in nu- clear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. FMCT negotiations have been “on again, off again” in the Conference on Disarmament since 1995. While the CD agreed on a mandate in 1995 for an ad hoc committee to negotiate a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, dif- ferences among conference members, including over whether and how to handle other proposed agenda top- ics, delayed agreement on establishing a committee to ne- gotiate such a treaty until August 1998. FMCT negoti- ations were, however, short-lived, as some CD members reverted to the “negotiate everything or negotiate noth- ing” stance when the organization reconvened in January 1999. Continued disagreements among Conference on Dis- armament member-states over the subject matter for ne- gotiation, as well as over the details (scope, content and verification) of a mandate for FMCT negotiations, dead- locked the CD for more than a decade. It was not until May of this year that CDmember-states were able to agree on a compromise that called for substantive FMCT nego- tiations and “substantive discussion” of other topics. These include outer space arms control, nuclear disarmament and “negative security assurances.” NSAs are individual political commitments by the five NPT nuclear weapons states relating to the conditions under which they would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states who have joined the NPT. Even then, procedural maneuvering by Pakistan pre- vented the start of substantive negotiations earlier this year. When the next CD session begins in January, the U.S. pri- ority will be to secure a consensus to begin substantive FMCT negotiations. The intrinsic challenges of ne- gotiating and achieving a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty relate to which types of nuclear materials should be considered fissile for purposes of the treaty; what activi- ties should be considered to be “production;” and what the scope of the proposed cutoff should be (only newmaterial, which the U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and India support; or also existing stocks, which is the position taken by some other states). Then there are numerous verification issues: how to detect covert production facilities or the diversion of fis- sile materials from permitted uses on the one hand and, on the other, how to protect proliferation-sensitive informa- tion from exposure as a consequence of either exchanges of information or inspections. Geopolitical and geostrategic challenges will continue to complicate substantive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. Some nations have expressed concern that a ban on production of fissile material for use in nu- clear weapons could tip regional military balances disad- vantageously. Some, notwithstanding their agreement to the 2009 compromise, would prefer to see negotiations de- ferred for some time, but have been reluctant to be ex- plicit in their opposition. They could seek to block the start of substantive FMCT negotiations by insisting that the ne- gotiation of an agreement can proceed only if there are parallel negotiations on other topics. The operating rules of the 65-member-state CDwill be a factor in this instance, since they require annual consensus by all members to ini- tiate or continue negotiations on any topic. Notwithstanding these numerous obstacles, the Obama administration believes that a verifiable FMCT is not only achievable but an essential building block toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The United States now is focused on identifying solutions to the technical is- sues, including those related to scope and verification, to bring forward in Geneva in January 2010. Furthermore, the administration is encouraging other states to keep the CD focused on the goal of achieving a universal, nondis- criminatory and verifiable treaty. Such an agreement represents the next logical multilateral step toward nu- clear disarmament. ■ F O C U S The goal of the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty is to cut off the ability of states to produce the nuclear building block for new nuclear weapons.