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PIR Center Special Advisor Vladimir Orlov participated in sessions of The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters


NEW YORK. OCTOBER 20, 2016. PIR PRESS – “In order to come up with possible solutions and avoid further dragging of the Treaty, our Board at its summer session gave high priority to the NPT review process and its prospects for 2016-2020. We agreed that both failure to adopt a final document in 2015, and the absence of substantive discussions on many of the key nonproliferation issues at the conference are causes for concern.  The states made their official statements, presented their positions, and then the frenetic backstage work started: some tried to collect the puzzle named Final Document, some pushed their own egoistic interests.  But there were few attempts to build a dialogue on the most complicated questions, mend the differences, come up with a diagnose and start the treatment”, – Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov, Head, Center for Global Trends and International Organizations, Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry; Founder & Special Advisor, PIR Center.

The UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters held its sixty-fifth session in Geneva from January 27 to 29, 2016 and its sixty-sixth session in New York from June 29 to July 1, 2016. Founder & Special Advisor to PIR Center and Head of the Center for Global Trends and International Organizations, Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry Vladimir Orlov participated in the work of the sessions. As a result of the Board's work the Report of the Secretary General was released summarizing the recommendations on disarmament issues.   

Among the key issues of the report were:

  • The challenges facing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its review process, with a particular focus on the Middle East;
  • The relationship between sustainable development, security and arms control;
  • The emerging nexus between chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, cybersecurity and terrorism.

Vladimir Orlov drew attention to interrelation of the three main pillars of the NPT – nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy. The expert noted that “a number of participants of the review process is not ready to see more: the interconnectedness of these pillars”. According to Orlov, “there are some questions that lie in between the nuclear and other strategic spheres: long-range conventional weapons, including those using hypersonic technologies, in particular. Or take the interconnection between long-range conventional weapons and ABM system. Everyone recognizes this interconnection but when it comes to practical discussions –nobody wants to discuss the ABM, saying it has no direct connection with the NPT. There are other examples as well”. 

“A holistic approach to the international nonproliferation regime is necessary. That is why we believe that the Board’s statement that NPT is not simply another nonproliferation and disarmament treaty but a cornerstone of the international security is fundamentally important. We recommend to pay attention to the widening gap between the NPT analysis and analysis of the international security situation in general”, – stated Special Advisor to PIR Center Vladimir Orlov.

In Vladimir Orlov’s opinion, absence of a NPT secretariat or some other administrative mechanism, like the ones present in the case of Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or CTBT, is not the reason why the implementation of the Treaty hit the bump. “Personally, I do not see here a problem or a necessity to create a secretariat for the NPT review process. It is not simply about increasing bureaucracy, – noted PIR Center Special Advisor. – Maybe we should even think in the opposite direction: in 1995, it was decided to extend the duration of sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the NPT Review Conferences. The motivation was correct: apart from the organizational matters, the Preparatory Committees are supposed to substantially discuss the key issues to prepare the participants of the Review Conference for a constructive debate. However, this did not materialize. We should either improve the quality and effectiveness of such discussions on substantive issues at the Preparatory Committees, or return to a more compact format, without detracting large delegations for half of the month.”

The members of the Board noted that one of the possible solutions to improve the work of the NPT Review Conference can be “appointment of the chairman of the Review Conferences at a far earlier stage so the chairman could have enough time to prepare himself and the member states for a quality and constructive debates at the Review Conference which would lead to a more productive review of the implementation of the Treaty”.

The Board recommended to provide all possible support with a view to accelerate the entry into force of the CTBT and provide all necessary support to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission “to extend the organization’s monitoring network”, and also to urge all countries that possess nuclear weapons, to display transparency and, unilaterally release reports on their nuclear arsenals at the Conference on Disarmament.  

The Advisory Board also noted the necessity of the further elaboration on a number of issues and recommended to order a study on the development of long-range conventional weapons, including those using hypersonic technologies, and a United Nations-initiated study on a multilateral intermediate-range missile regime. The ABDM recommended at the next sessions of the Advisory Board conduct a review on the implementation of the recommendations made in the United Nations study on disarmament and non-proliferation education (A/57/124).

In the context of establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East the Advisory Board recommended the Secretary General to call on the three depository States of the NPT to discuss specific proposals for reinvigorating the process of creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and then to convey an invitation, on his behalf and that of the three depository States as co-conveners, to all the States of the Middle East to resume consultations to prepare for the conference on the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. In the Board opinion, the role of facilitator could be assigned to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and UNIDIR could assist the process as a secretariat.

 “We all agreed that the issue of the WMD-free zone in the Middle East played the central role at the 2015 NPT Review Conference and became the main catalyst of its failure. Thereby we decided to address the issue immediately, – Vladimir Orlov said. – In addition, the UN Secretary General encouraged us to work in this direction. At our meetings, he called our attention to the urgency of the issue, stressing that the establishment of such a zone would “carry clear benefits for security in the region and around the world”.

The Board considered the issue of creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East within the context of the NPT and separately, discussed the positions of the key players, as well as the efforts that could be made for the revitalization of the process. “We acknowledged that the failure of the 2015 Review Conference to adopt a final document had created a vacuum in the review process as well as in the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. That vacuum also extended to the mechanism for holding a conference for all States in the region to begin the process for the creation of the zone, as endorsed by the 2010 NPT Review Conference”, – stated Vladimir Orlov.

The Board suggested that the Secretary General was best placed to take the lead to encourage initiatives and ideas to bring all relevant parties back to the table.  The experts underlined that decision on a real timetable and the venue of the Conference should be taken not later than the first session of the Preparatory Committee – by April 2017. “But it is also true that today the realization of these ideas is facing difficulties, –PIR Center Special Advisor affirms. – In the conversation with the members of the Board Ban Ki-moon admitted that he is disappointed by the absence of any progress and inflexibility of one of the parties. Those are the realities of today. Therefore, there are few reasons for optimism or expectations of a substantial progress. Perhaps, the Arab League could do the regional part of the homework?”

The Board identified a number of serious threats and suggested to focus its further work on two specific issues:

  • The threat of terrorist cyberattacks against nuclear facilities;
  • The potential role of cyber technologies in threatening the biosecurity.

“Members of the Board noted that there is a number of mechanisms to reduce chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, including treaties and politically binding agreements. Those include the UN Security Council resolution 1540 and IAEA activity in the nuclear security field. It was also noted that relations between terrorism and cybersecurity and its different aspects, such as prevention of use of the Internet to organize terrorist acts, are also discussed in other formats and do not require the attention of the Board”, – Vladimir Orlov said.

However, according to PIR Center Special Advisor, “the nexus of the three elements – terrorism, cyberattacks and WMD threats, – is a new challenge that falls within the Board’s mandate”. Thereby, the Board members decided to focus on the “possible terrorist use of WMD combined with cyberattacks which poses a threat to the international peace and security. Such a combination, depending on the specific situation, can lead to significant loss of life (or a heavy social and economic consequences) with the effect equal or superior to the effect of the use of WMD.

During the session, the Board identified priority challenges in the field of cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. “The biggest risk is a threat to the infrastructure, which uses or stores a large amount of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials, – said PIR Center Special Advisor. – Such infrastructure could be both civilian and military, and is often dual use. Examples include chemical plants, nuclear reactors, facilities for uranium enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel, research bio laboratories and medical facilities”.

The Board members also identified a low level of risk of terrorist cyberattacks against weapons systems, means of delivery and supporting infrastructure, especially infrastructure, responsible for the delivery of weapons. Experts based their evaluation on “supposedly better protection of military infrastructure. However, the risk is still not zero, and this in itself is disturbing”.   

“According to preliminary estimates, the risk of cyber impact on chemical, biological and radiological weapons was lower than the risk connected with nuclear weapons, as chemical, biological and radioactive materials are not deployed for rapid application – Vladimir Orlov said. – The Board noted that this issue deserves further investigation.”

At the session, members of the Board proceeded to a detail review of the issue on strengthening nuclear security to counter cyber terrorism.

Earlier in 2016, the PIR Center, presented the report “Strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the 2016 – 2020”. The report focused on the key challenges facing the nuclear regime, in particular, difficulties with the implementation and universalization of the NPT, disturbance of strategic stability, decreasing of effectiveness of the mechanisms of multilateral diplomacy and lack of progress towards establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

Among the Report recommendations were: involving India in the activities of CTBTO Preparatory Commission, holding an international conference on prevention of hypersonic arms race, resumption of the work of the Conference on Disarmament by focusing parties on a uniting agenda, transferring the process of holding Conference on the establishment of WMD-free zone in the Middle East under the auspices of the UN Secretary General secretariat.

For questions on the “Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation” Program of PIR Center please contact Program Director Andrey Baklitskiy
by telephone +7 (495) 987 19 15 or via email
[email protected].