Experts of OdCNP at Vienna Seminar

November 23-24, 2015 Polina Sinovets and Oleksandr Cheban took part at Seminar "Latest trends in nuclear nonproliferation: where are we and where are we heading?" jointly organized by Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (Austria) and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

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Special attention at the seminar was paid to the following issues: the results of the Review Conference on the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT Rev. Con.), held in New York on April 27 - May 22, 2015; prospects for further reconciliation of Iranian nuclear issue following the agreement with Iran of July 14, 2015; state of Humanitarian Initiative realization and its impact on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime; further development of educational activities in the field of nuclear nonproliferation.

The event was attended by researchers from the US, Sweden, Austria, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Russia. In particular, during the seminar the speeches were given by such well-known experts on nuclear nonproliferation as Tariq Rauf from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Lars van Dassin from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, Thomas Jonter from Stockholm University, Laura Rockwood (the head of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation), Polina Sinovets (the head of Odessa Center for Nonproliferation), Gaukhar Muhatzhanova (a research fellow of James Martin Center for Nonproliferation in Monterey (USA)) and others.

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Especially lively discussion at the seminar unfolded around the recent NPT Rev. Con. results, as the states-parties to the NPT failed to adopt a final document, which contained a plan of action in strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime for the next five years. The head of Odessa Center for Nonproliferation Polina Sinovets commented the main reason for the failure of the conference: lack of consensus on the convening of the Conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (NWFZ) in the Middle East. As Polina Sinovets stated, the efforts towards the establishment of such a zone will not succeed in the near future because there is no progress in the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, without which the NWFZ cannot exist in the Middle East region. The SIPRI expert Tariq Rauf agreed with this assumption and noted that the NPT Rev. Con. cannot and does not aim to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict or any other problematic issues of international relations (such as Ukrainian crisis). The NPT Rev. Con. aims only to overview current trends in the field of nuclear nonproliferation.

The research fellow of Odessa Center for Nonproliferation Alexander Cheban that was present at the NPT Rev. Con. in New York at the end of April 2015 noted that even if the final document was adopted by this Review Conference, it still would also lead to the weakening of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. According to Alexander Cheban, the inacceptable version of the final document had a huge flaw: it didn’t contain any mention of the Ukrainian crisis and the violation of assurances provided to Ukraine by the Budapest Memorandum. For that reason, if this imperfect document was adopted, it would mean that the largest international forum on nonproliferation have ignored one of the greatest current challenges to the whole regime, which appeared as a result of the so-called Ukrainian crisis. Concealing of the problem of Budapest Memorandum violation in the Rev. Con. final document could have created the impression that the international community is unable not only to protect nuclear-free countries (especially those who have some hesitation as to further refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons) from aggression coming from nuclear states, it may not even condemn this aggression. Being given this, Alexander Cheban suggested that for global security in general and Ukraine in particular it may be even better that the NPT Rev. Con. has not adopted the document containing no mention of the violation of the Budapest Memorandum.

Tariq Rauf, commenting on the Alexander Cheban’s statement, mentioned that to reach a consensus on the NPT Rev. Con. the US had to make an arrangement with Russia that the Ukrainian issue would not be mentioned in the draft final document, although delegations of some countries, including Canada, have insisted on it (unfortunately without any success). Tariq Rauf also reminded that Ukrainian crisis was often mentioned in official speeches of many delegates of the Rev. Con., but the Budapest Memorandum violation still didn’t become the subject of negotiations.

Participants also exchanged views on the future of Iran's nuclear program. In particular, the representative of the State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS) and the research consultant of Odessa Center for Nonproliferation Dmytro Chumak expressed his fears that the timing of the nuclear deal with Iran is limited to relatively short terms of 10-15 years. Alexander Cheban mentioned the problem of Iran's unwillingness to provide the IAEA with information about some military aspects of its nuclear program that took place in the past. Commenting on these and other statements of those present at the seminar the head of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Nuclear Nonproliferation, expert Laura Rockwood suggested that despite some problematic issues of the nuclear deal with Iran (which is officially called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPA) it will not be disrupted in the near future. Also, according to Laura Rockwood, it would have been better for international security if JCPA contained the requirements for Iran to make its past nuclear activities more transparent. However, she also stated that she still supports further implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran and considers that this agreement is able to have a positive impact on global security.

The head of the Odessa Center for Nonproliferation Polina Sinovets participated in the discussion on other items put on the agenda of the seminar in Vienna actively. In particular, she noted the need to consider mental features and cultural differences of the states in studying the issue of Humanitarian Initiative and its influence on the NPT regime. In addition, Polina Sinovets shared her experience in educational activities in the field of nuclear nonproliferation with professors and experts present at the seminar.

Summing up the seminar outcomes, Professor Thomas Jonter of Stockholm University commented that this event has conclusively shown that the level of experts on nuclear nonproliferation in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Russia has risen significantly during the last decade. According to Professor Jonter, while previously arranged similar scientific events for researchers from these countries showed the lack of experts on this extremely important subject in their territory, the extremely positive results of productive and meaningful work of current Seminar in Vienna demonstrated that a new generation of prominent experts in the field of nuclear nonproliferation has already formed in post-Soviet countries.