Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Concrete Steps to Improve the Nonproliferation Regime

Pierre Goldschmidt

April 2009

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Today’s nuclear nonproliferation regime is increasingly challenged by states that exploit ambiguity in rules and rifts in the international community to pursue nuclear weapon capabilities without fear of reprisal. At present, lax and inconsistent compliance practices threaten nonproliferation efforts by giving some states more leeway for evading rules than should be tolerable in an effective nonproliferation regime. Observers differ on the political feasibility of persuading the world to adopt the necessary nonproliferation measures and comply with them. Pessimists believe that the necessary consensus will not be created—in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors, in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, among parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Optimists refuse to give up trying. Yet all who think the nonproliferation regime is failing, or who agree that it is too valuable to let fail, would generally agree on steps that could be taken to strengthen it.