NATO Declassified: Documents related to the Non-Proliferation Treaty are publicly disclosed

  • 05 Mar. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 05 Mar. 2020 09:50

March 5, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

A cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, the NPT is the sole binding commitment via a multilateral treaty to global disarmament by nuclear weapon States. It is founded on the idea that there should be burdens and benefits on all parties, with shared obligations on non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. NATO, as an organization, is not a formal party to this landmark treaty, but all NATO member countries are parties.

To commemorate this anniversary, the three NPT depository governments (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation) are participating in a coordinated declassification project to publicly disclose significant national documents related to the negotiation of the Treaty. The United States Mission to NATO reached out to the NATO Archives in December 2019 to assist with this project by identifying NPT-related documents preserved in the vaults of the Alliance. The NATO Archives then coordinated the bilateral declassification review process with the responsible Allies and NATO International Staff Divisions that would result in the public disclosure of over 2000 pages that highlight NATO’s role and involvement in the drafting, negotiating and eventual signature of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. These documents complement a collection of publicly disclosed NATO documents about the negotiations of Article I and II of the NPT that were previously declassified in 2018.

The newly-identified declassified documents have been scanned and digitally processed by the NATO Archives, who then integrated them with the previously disclosed documents into three separate volumes for ease of reference:

  • The first volume, which collects the earlier declassified NATO documents , details the high level views of NATO Allies on the topic of disarmament through records which reveal NATO Heads of State and Government, ambassadors and working level officers informally discussing and reviewing key components of the NPT and how its articles could impact NATO.
  • The second volume includes drafts of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, letters from Allied delegations, briefing notes and internal opinions on the Treaty process collected by the Political Affairs Division,
  • The third volume presents the meeting minutes of the Political Committee and the North Atlantic Council, along with additional International Staff and national documents that report on the discussions about the progress and process of the Treaty negotiations.

Collectively, these three volumes show NATO’s deep involvement in the NPT, and their commitment at all levels to full implementation of its articles. The three volumes are now available for consultation onsite at NATO HQ in the NATO Archives Reading Room, or on the web via NATO Archives Online.

The NATO Archives will continue to survey its collection for additional documents related to the NPT negotiations for future declassification and public disclosure review. In the meantime, this 50th anniversary provides an opportune moment to re-issue collections of previously declassified and publicly disclosed NATO documents to complement this new collection. A commemorative publication that marked the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, and the two volumes related to the negotiations of Articles I and II of the NPT are now available for download in the PDF Library section of this webpage.

Today’s release of these three volumes offers researchers access to deeper and wider contexts to the newly declassified information from the three NPT depository governments, while also illuminating the role that NATO played in ensuring that existing nuclear sharing arrangements were taken into consideration during the drafting and signing of the Treaty. It also, for the first time, provides a detailed account of how Article III of the Treaty, on safeguards, was negotiated at NATO Headquarters.

The public availability of NATO’s NPT-related historical documents against the backdrop of the 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force provides a unique opportunity for reflection. The moment for this reflection is opportune, just prior to the gathering of 191 signatory countries at the United Nations in New York for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that will take place from 27 April to 22 May 2020. As the international community looks ahead to further implementation of the NPT, it is now possible to gain insight on the concerted efforts that were documented 50 years ago that helped bring it into force.