By Janet Chen
The global nuclear nonproliferation regime is fundamental to long-term American security. Within the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs (MNSA) leads the Department of State formulation and implementation of U.S. policy relating to global nonproliferation. This includes U.S. policy as it relates to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the NPT review process, the Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone treaties and protocols, and nuclear-related security assurances. U.S. support to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—including vital support to the IAEA’s global nonproliferation “safeguards” verification inspections—is also part of this policy formulation and implementation.
IAEA is a crucial U.S. partner in the effort to prevent global nuclear proliferation and terrorism. MNSA manages the U.S. Voluntary Contribution (USVC) to IAEA, which is an annual appropriation by Congress, averaging approximately $90 million. IAEA depends heavily on USVC to carry out its nuclear security program, which aims to keep dangerous materials out of the hands of dangerous actors. IAEA also relies on the USVC for its international safeguards program, which is responsible for monitoring countries’ nuclear activities to verify that all such activities are solely for peaceful purposes and none are diverted to clandestine operations.
MNSA also leverages USVC to support the IAEA nuclear science projects that promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies and technical cooperation to further U.S. policy and nonproliferation objectives. While one may not associate IAEA with work in the areas of human health, food and clean water security, environment and sustainable energy, IAEA plays a vital role in disseminating the benefits of these technologies. This engagement strengthens NPT by helping to make good on the treaty’s promises that entitles parties who meet their treaty nonproliferation obligations to the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy. Through IAEA and additional mechanisms, MNSA has coordinated U.S. support for nuclear science projects that, for example, enhance crop productivity, provide cancer control, and prevent the spread of diseases such as Ebola and Zika.
This year provides MNSA a unique opportunity to highlight and strengthen the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, particularly concerning NPT. This spring, the 2020 NPT Review Conference will mark the 50th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. This milestone is an opportunity for the United States and all parties to recall how NPT has made the world safer and more prosperous, to reaffirm their commitments to the treaty, and to rededicate themselves to preserve and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime for future generations. NPT’s core nonproliferation obligations enable the spread of nuclear energy and technology for the types of peaceful activities described above. Sharing the peaceful benefits of the atom would not be possible if states feared that “peaceful” technology would be applied to weapons programs. These nonproliferation obligations also help enable effective measures related to nuclear disarmament because such disarmament would be even more elusive in a world in which nuclear-armed states are multiplying.
In order to advance prospects for nuclear disarmament, MNSA leads U.S. participation in the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) dialogue. The CEND dialogue seeks to identify ways to improve the international security environment to overcome obstacles to further progress on nuclear disarmament. The CEND Working Group, which includes more than 40 participating countries, met last November after its kickoff in July 2019. Its productive early meetings demonstrated that open, constructive dialogue on creating an environment for nuclear disarmament could frame future collaborative efforts to develop practical recommendations that would enable real and sustainable progress on disarmament.
2020 is also an opportunity to advance United States interests vis-à-vis IAEA. A new director general was appointed to IAEA, Argentine Ambassador Rafael Grossi. Grossi has highlighted a commitment to the agency’s continuing high level of effectiveness while looking to “recalibrate” its approach where necessary. In support of IAEA and their new director general, the U.S., with MNSA leading the way, is helping enhance the nuclear-related nonproliferation assurances on which the U.S. and the international community rely.
Through multilateral negotiations relating to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime—including those responsible for Iran and North Korea—MNSA’s work supports the under secretary for arms control and international security, the assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, the deputy assistant secretary for nuclear nonproliferation policy and negotiations, the special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation, and other senior policymakers.
In addition to coordinating with other offices in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, MNSA coordinates closely with offices within the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and other functional and regional bureaus when appropriate. Additionally, MNSA coordinates closely with the National Security Council and various interagency partners—especially the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Departments of Defense, Commerce, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community—on issues related to nuclear nonproliferation.
Janet Chen is a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs.