CIAO DATE: 01/06

The International Spectator

Volume XL, No. 3 (July - September 2005)

Editorial Note

he core of this edition of The International Spectator focuses on the topical issue of non-proliferation, with four articles by prominent experts in the field: Serge Sur, William Potter, Harald Mčller and Bruno Tertrais. All articles begin with a first, incontrovertible observation: the failure of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which was held in New York in May of this year.

According to Serge Sur, the failure of the conference reflects a general trend of mounting differences between state actors, which is a manifestation of their growing unwillingness to be legally bound by international agreements. The erosion of the non-proliferation regime is but one (prominent) example of this, together with the controversies over the Kyoto Protocol, the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the rejection of the EU's Constitutional Treaty. Sur identifies four key factors that have weakened the NPT, namely, its inability to block proliferation and to prevent states from preparing for proliferation, the lack of effective coercive mechanisms against violators of its rules and the structural imbalance between the obligations to which NWS, on the one hand, and NNWS, on the other, are subjected under the treaty. Sur also raises a more general question, namely whether the international system as a whole remains sufficiently committed to the non-proliferation goal. The lack of confidence between states is prompting some of them to put this commitment increasingly into doubt. Sur argues therefore that the cure that could ultimately save the NPT regime must be found in confidence-building measures tailored to the new international context, rather than in unilateral coercive measures.

In the words of William Potter, the conference amounted to "an ill-conceived amalgam of farce and tragedy" (p. 19). Like Sur, Potter underlines that this is the result of the climate of distrust that has taken root between Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS), as well as of the growing divisions within the non-aligned movement and between the five NWS themselves. The meeting was also negatively affected by the differences between the US and the EU. Both agree that countering proliferation represents a security policy priority, but they differ on how to achieve this. While Europe advocates a multilateral and law-bound approach, the US is much more inclined to take coercive measures even unilaterally. According to Potter, the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference marks the relative victory of the latter approach, since it has exposed more clearly than ever the formidable political obstacles to the enhancement of the system of nuclear legal safeguards.

Potter's argument regarding the divided community of states is echoed by Harald Mčller who, while discussing the objective and normative reasons to uphold and develop the NPT, focuses on the failures of the Treaty to prevent proliferation in practice. Israel's unofficial development of nuclear weapons, international double standards in the treatment of Iran, French and American efforts to construct new test facilities, China's growing arsenal and the Bush administration's approach to the ABM Treaty are but a few examples of the NPT's failure. In other words, while the NPT's normative potential remains powerful, it has been increasingly frustrated in practice. To reassert the Treaty's primacy, Mčller unambiguously calls for European leadership. Europe should undertake, he argues, such initiatives as devising a strategy to engage India and Pakistan in the NPT, elaborating a verification concept for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, funding track-two meetings on a nuclear-free Middle East and establishing an assistance programme for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540, aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Europe's role in non-proliferation is further examined in Bruno Tertrais' article. Tertrais argues that Europe's interest in non-proliferation and its potential capacity to play a leadership role as advocated by Mčller, derive principally from its nurtured image as a normative power in the field of foreign policy. Particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and following the elaboration by the EU of the notion of "effective multi-lateralism", the Union's interest in the NPT as a multilateral instrument to advance the goal of non-proliferation has increased. To re-enfranchise the Treaty, the EU could further develop its policies of conditionality, ensuring that access to its markets and investments is granted conditionally upon compliance with the "non-proliferation clause". The Union could also develop additional and more specific clauses concerning ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the IAEA's Additional Protocol. Complementing the debate on non-proliferation is Marcin Zaborowski's review of the Carnegie Endowment's proposal for a strategy for nuclear security.

One of the leitmotivs running across the core articles on non-proliferation is the current state of the transatlantic relationship. This theme is developed in two additional articles, which explore the differences and similarities characterising EU and US approaches in other key areas of foreign and security policy.

Ian Lesser draws a comparison between EU and US relations with their respective southern neighbours, their objectives, priorities and strategies. In both cases, the pattern of relations is structurally asymmetrical. Yet there are pronounced differences, both in institutional and in substantive policy terms. The Union has favoured a far more structured form of engagement, by developing an accession process - in the case of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey - and by undertaking comprehensive cooperation initiatives such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (and the recently established European Neighbourhood Policy) - in the case of the Mediterranean Arab countries and Israel. The US has preferred looser institutional ties with LatinAmerica, focussing primarily on trade links and foreign direct investment. Moreover, while US-Latin American ties have been scaled down the list of American foreign policy priorities (not least because of the rising US interest in Europe's southern neighbours), the EU has stepped up its involvement in its southern "near abroad". Greater similarities are present in fields such as migration. Indeed, both Europe and the US are confronting similar migratory pressures. Differences nonetheless exist also in this field since the integration of migrant communities present different challenges. According to Lesser, while the "cultural" question posed by the integration of Hispanic communities in the US is marginal, in the post-9/11 context, the integration of the growing Muslim communities is widely viewed in Europe as crucial for the future of the continent.

In the article that follows, Jean-Pierre Darnis and Michele Nones analyse comparatively US and European approaches to the defence and aerospace industry. It emerges from their analysis that when debate shifts from high politics to the problems of a particular policy sphere, transatlantic dif-ferences can be an opportunity for learning and improvement rather than a source of division and acrimony. The US has adopted strict controls on FDI in the defence and aerospace industries in order to monitor and, if necessary, prevent the transfer of sensitive technologies abroad. Europe has instead witnessed an increasing trans-nationalism of defence companies that has raised key questions concerning control, ownership and security of supplies. Darnis and Nones thus call upon European actors to learn from the US experience and establish adequate EU-wide protection mechanisms that could also serve to enhance the process of European integration.

The transatlantic dimension is finally discussed conceptually in Christopher Bickerton's review of three recently published milestone texts on the subject. The key questions raised in the review relate to whether the transatlantic rift indeed exists or whether it is overshadowed by equally important divisions on either side of the Atlantic and, if a rift indeed exists, whether it relates to end goals or only to the best means to pursue them. The rift may well relate principally to means rather than ends. But Bickerton argues that means and thus policy strategies constitute the nuts and bolts of the transatlantic dialogue, not least because the general aims are normally too vague to allow for substantive disagreement. He also emphasises the importance that the formation of a European identity can have to overcome Europe's lack of cohesion and effectiveness. In order to forge such an identity, the Europeans, according to Bickerton, can draw important lessons from their failures. He notes, in particular, that the EU's constitutional crisis reflects the European public's rejection of the politics of "there is no alternative" and should therefore be taken as an opportunity to engage in the creation of a European polity.