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About the P5 Process prospects, non-nuclear weapon states position, the future of U.S. chair from the U.S. side with Jamie Kwong

Jamie Kwong

In the interview with Jamie Kwong, the Stanton Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, we talked about the P5 Process prospects, non-nuclear-weapon states position, the future of U.S. chair from the U.S. side.


What problems do you think the nuclear five process is facing?

Increased tension and competition between the P5 puts serious pressure on the P5 Process forum. Geopolitical developments outside of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—and even the broader nuclear realm—threaten to derail important progress in the P5 Process. Simultaneously, some non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) criticize the P5 for not making enough disarmament progress. There are very real concerns about P5 efforts to modernize and expand their nuclear arsenals.

The P5 must grapple with these challenges. Serious efforts should be made to insulate the P5 Process from issues outside of the NPT remit, as the P5 has done relatively successfully thus far. Additionally, the P5 should do better to effectively communicate their progress on all three pillars of the NPT and clearly demonstrate that they will undertake additional efforts to make more progress in the 2025 review cycle.

What do you think about the role, place and prospects of the P5 process nowadays?

More than a decade on, the P5 Process remains a unique and critical forum. Not only does it provide a space for the P5 to address their special responsibilities as nuclear-weapon states (NWS) and promote mutual confidence-building, but the P5’s continued participation in the process also signals their serious commitment to the NPT.

Efforts should be made to safeguard the P5 Process—by the P5 states themselves, NNWS, and civil society alike. Central to this endeavor is striking the right balance between striving for more ambitious outcomes from the process and ensuring the process is not overburdened with an impractical amount or depth of issues to address. The latter can be alleviated through greater collaboration with NPT-adjacent initiatives, such as the Stockholm Initiative or the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative, as well as through the continued integration of civil society engagement in the P5 Process.  

What are the prospects for the activities of the P5 on the issues of reducing nuclear risks and strategic security in general?

The P5 joint communique from the most recent meeting of principals in Paris indicates two important developments related to strategic risk reduction. First, the P5 states that they view their work on nuclear doctrines and policy as a “tangible risk reduction measure.” Second, they intend to build on their risk reduction work in the next review cycle. These are very welcome developments.

However, some NNWS will still likely express concern at the upcoming NPT Review Conference (RevCon) that the P5’s increased focus on strategic risk reduction is merely a diversion from real disarmament progress. If left unaddressed, this concern could undermine the P5’s risk reduction efforts. The P5 should thus state clearly that their work on risk reduction is not a replacement for their disarmament obligations. Additionally, they can alleviate some concern by providing greater specificity around their strategic risk reduction efforts, including, for example, identifying the risk reduction mechanisms they will pursue in the next review cycle in addition to the doctrines' work. The P5 can also work more collaboratively with NNWS and civil society on risk reduction. The Stockholm Initiative is a particularly well-suited partner given its own risk reduction efforts.

How does the U.S. see the future of the P5 process? What are the main issues of the P5 process for the U.S.? 

The United States will take over as chair of the P5 Process after RevCon. Independent of the joint communique, the Biden administration has released few details about what this might look like or what issue(s) the U.S. will prioritize (the two previous chairs—the United Kingdom and France—largely prioritized transparency and strategic risk reduction, respectively). We can anticipate, however, that its approach will at least partially be shaped by the outcomes at RevCon, which many expect to be a challenging event. Issues such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, Iran Nuclear Deal, and discontent with the P5’s disarmament progress will likely make a consensus final document difficult to achieve. Perhaps most importantly in its chairmanship, then, the United States will have to build up momentum for the P5 Process to set it on a productive course for the 2025 review cycle.

What are the main outcomes of the last P5 process conference led by France? 

In addition to the developments related to strategic risk reduction, the P5 reaffirmed their commitment to the NPT and its three pillars as well as to continue work on the traditional P5 workstreams. These are important, although not entirely unexpected, substantive developments.

The more process-related developments provide important insight into the way ahead for the P5 Process. The P5 expressed clearly in the joint communique that they recognize the value and importance of the forum. They noted its continued utility moving forward, indicating a shared commitment to its preservation. Additionally, France followed efforts by previous chairs to incorporate a civil society event as part of the meeting of principals. In addition to contributing outside perspectives and ideas to the forum, civil society engagement provides important transparency into the P5 Process, allowing for a greater understanding of the sincerity of the P5’s efforts to advance their workstreams as well as the legitimate challenges to doing so. While the P5 did not explicitly pledge to continue this engagement, they did pledge to launch a pilot project to develop a Young Professionals Network of P5 academics. This indicates not only an interest in continuing to foster civil society engagement moving forward but also to help facilitate young professionals to develop the expertise needed to contribute to this important work in the 2025 review cycle and beyond.


Imprint:

The interview was conducted on December, 27 by Sofya Shestakova, an Intern, PIR Center

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