Representatives from China, France, Russia, the US and UK (the five official nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty), convened in London last week for a meeting of the so-called ‘P5 process’. The main point of the meeting, which produced a joint statement outlining proceedings, was to discuss progress on the implementation of their nuclear disarmament obligations. At the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon), the nuclear weapon states agreed to an extensive action plan on nuclear disarmament, which included a commitment to a series of ‘concrete steps for the total elimination of nuclear weapons’.
The next RevCon is in April-May this year, where non-nuclear weapon states, long frustrated by the lack of disarmament action, will be carefully scrutinizing the reports made by the nuclear powers. Despite relations between Russia and the US, which together possess 96% of the world’s nuclear weapons, being at a dangerous new low, the London meeting presented an opportunity for the nuclear weapon states to get their story straight about what they have accomplished since 2010. The P5 have taken this approach in the past so as to ‘limit the damage’ at RevCons, in the words of former US State Department advisor Robert Einhorn. Damage limitation is surely necessary now because, as Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will points out, P5 meetings hitherto have been ‘extremely underwhelming’.
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