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О перспективах, вызовах и месте процесса "ядерной пятёрки" в преддверии Обзорной конференции 2022 с Эмили Энрайт (Великобритания)

Эмили Энрайт

Interview with Emily Enright, a Policy Fellow and Emerging Voices Network Coordinator of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), about the prospects, challenges, and place of the P5 process in the run-up of the RevCon 2022 from the British side.

What problems do you think the nuclear five process is facing?

The P5 is facing a wide array of challenges, both in developing and implementing an appropriate suite of activities. One issue is that mistrust, suspicion and reticence to collaborate have and continue to characterise the international security landscape. Mistrust amongst the P5 severely limits the areas and opportunities for devising a programme of work that addresses risks and threats holistically; if the states cannot communicate effectively, and cannot rely on one another not to pursue relative gains during collaborative work, little effective policy-making on issues such as nuclear risk, strategic stability and disarmament can be done. Similarly, the common political will to pursue some difficult objectives seems to be lacking, particularly in areas where collaboration is essential - such as on a complexity-informed arms control agenda or, indeed, on tangible progress on disarmament. 

Another challenge that the P5 is negotiating is the heavyweight of expectations placed on the 'P5 process' by non-nuclear weapons states and civil society. Given that the P5 has a unique and significant responsibility to move disarmament and risk reduction work forward in the context of the NPT, other States Parties have high hopes for a programme of work that is ambitious, specific and targeted. This has been exacerbated in the wake of the Humanitarian Impacts conferences prior to the Ninth NPT Review Conference, and due to the creation and entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons. Many NPT States Parties remain deeply frustrated by the slow pace of disarmament, and feel that the P5 are (deliberately or otherwise) failing to fulfill their disarmament obligations; debate over the relevance and applicability of past commitments has added to this sense of urgency and concern.

Civil society, likewise, continues to voice expectations that the P5 process will produce tangible, significant outcomes in the form of risk reduction tools, arms control measures, confidence- and trust-building activities and progress on disarmament. However, the workload of policymakers engaged in the P5 Process is already very high, and progress is necessarily slow due both to the nature of the work, prevailing political and security conditions, and the atmosphere of mistrust. As such, prospects for radical change – particularly in time for the Tenth NPT Review Conference – are modest, and managing the community's expectations will not be an easy task for P5 leaders.

What do you think about the role, place and prospects of the P5 process nowadays?

I believe that the P5 Process does have an important role to play in global nuclear policy - particularly in managing and reducing nuclear risks, and in driving forwards an ambitious disarmament agenda. The P5 has enormous agency over the global nuclear policy landscape, particularly in creating and shaping institutions that are supportive of disarmament by improving international security conditions - the CEND initiative being one salient example. The P5 Process itself offers the P5 states a unique and powerful opportunity to communicate candidly with one another, to boost transparency on their doctrines and policies, to reduce misperception and mistrust, and to collaborate on important action items. During the 2019 London P5 conference, which was admittedly quite heated and was scheduled during a moment of significant hostility and antagonism, channels for dialogue remained open in spite of the difficulties in communicating effectively created by clashing interests and policies. 

However, the P5 should not be viewed as a panacea. Its limitations in inclusivity mean that it cannot remedy all challenges on the path to disarmament; wider agreement, political will and collaboration amongst all nuclear possessors, and indeed amongst all states, is needed to build a path to truly sustainable, verifiable arms control and eventually to disarmament.

What are the prospects for the activities of the P5 on the issues of reducing nuclear risks and strategic security in general?

The prospects for the P5 to address nuclear risk reduction, and wider strategic security more broadly, are quite good. Given the inherent subjectivity of risk perception, and hence the subjectivity of devising 'appropriate' risk reduction measures, an essential first step for the P5 is to articulate effectively what risk means to them, how much and what kind of risk is unacceptable, and what strategies they feel ought to be implemented to address them. Communicating clearly and effectively on these issues will create a common basis for progress on discrete and specific risk reduction measures, such as incidents-at-sea agreements, hotlines, military-to-military exchanges and more. Furthermore, taking stock or auditing past and existing risk reduction measures, to understand their efficacy and appropriateness and to identify opportunities to improve them, is a vital starting point for truly effective risk reduction.

In undertaking such risk reduction work, and in general, in keeping channels of communication open, committing to transparency and clear signaling, and keeping in mind the common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, the P5 Process has much to contribute to global strategic security.

How does the UK see the future of the P5 process? 

For the UK, the future of the P5 process is reasonably bright. The UK is committed to engaging with its P5 counterparts on key issues through that process, and to feeding back on work completed to the rest of the NPT community at Review Conferences. The UK has indicated that it will be submitting a significant number of pieces of work at the Tenth Review Conference, which may include a P5 reiteration of the Reagan/Gorbachev formulation in some form. However, the reinvigorated P5 Process remains a relatively recent fixture on the global nuclear policy calendar, and the UK is hesitant to 'oversell' the action items that the states are capable of producing at this point in time, with some UK officials preferring to look to a 5-10 year time horizon for achieving some of the more ambitious goals set for the P5 by its parties and other stakeholders. No doubt, the UK would prefer that the attention of NPT states parties is fixed on progress and opportunities for success within the P5 process than on concerns regarding the alterations to its warhead cap outlined in the 2021 Integrated Review, which is likely to be a highly contentious issue at the Tenth NPT Review Conference.

The UK hosted the P5 process in London in February of 2020, and at that meeting reiterated its commitment to transparency, public engagement and pushing forwards the agenda on arms control and disarmament through dialogue in bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral fora into the future. The UK has also expressed some interest in leveraging the P5 Process to make progress on issues like the impact of disruptive technologies on strategic stability, peaceable relations in novel domains such as space, and trust- and confidence-building.

What are the main outcomes of the last P5 process conference led by France? 

Outcomes at the Paris P5 conference were somewhat underwhelming for a community of non-nuclear weapons states and civil society experts hoping for significant wins or at least new joint signaling prior to the Tenth NPT Review Conference. As Angela Kane noted in a recent article with the European Leadership Network, the joint statement resultant from the Paris Conference does little besides repeat bland language affirming the importance of the NPT and non-proliferation more broadly, restate NPT Article 6 almost verbatim, note the states' responsibility to collaborate, highlight the second edition of the P5 Glossary of Key Nuclear Terms, and reaffirm their commitment to Nuclear-Weapons Free Zones, a fissile material cut-off treaty, the JCPOA and peaceful uses of nuclear technology. If this document is an accurate record of the areas of agreement and 'progress' identified during the P5 Conference, it is quite reasonable for the international community to feel somewhat deflated, even disappointed. At this stage, personally, I still hope for something a little more inspiring at the NPT Review Conference in January – but recognise that I should keep my expectations modest.


The views expressed herein are Emily Enright’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of her colleagues at BASIC or our organisation as a whole.


Выходные данные cтатьи:

The interview was conducted by Sofya Shestakova, an Intern, PIR Center on December 21, 2021

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