Poland and Extension of the NPT

Monday was the 25th anniversary of the renewal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its indefinite extension.  One of the main characters at the NPT extension meeting was Polish Ambassador Tadeusz Strulak, who was the chairman of the associated Nuclear Suppliers Group.  He was one of my contacts at the Polish Foreign Ministry, but I can’t remember whether I was his main contact on NPT issues.  For certain, I was his main contact for the Missile Technology Control Regime, but I’m sure he also spoke the the Embassy political section about other arms control issues.

In his oral histroy interview with the Wilson Center he mentions that he was not lobbied by the Embassy on extending the NPT because the US knew the Polish position very well.  In general, the Poles wanted to be a party to every arms control agreement possible, because they had experienced wars, occupation, and threats from Russia and Germany throughout Polish history.  They wanted as big and as powerful a network of allies as they could garner.

My strangest personal dealing with him involved the MTCR.  He called me in to see him because he said that Poland was trying to join the MTCR, but the US was blocking their admission.  He said that during a visit to Washington he has tried to find out what was going on, and people told him the best person to talk to was me, because I had been one of the original creators of the MTCR, dating from President Carter.  I had heard nothing about the US blackballing Polish membership, but told him I would try to find out.

When I called back to Washington to find out what was going on, it turned out that the director of the State Department office in charge of the MTCR was someone who had been an intern in my office in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research years earlier.  He was reluctant to talk about it, but I thought I understood what was happening.  The US was blocking any new members until the organization of the MTCR could be updated.

The MTCR was originally just an agreement among the G-7 countries to coordinate on and limit the sale of missile technology and equipment to countries of poliferation concern.  The original plan under Carter had been to create an arms control regime for missiles similar to the NPT regime for nuclear weapons.  At that time, however, in the early 1980s there was strong opposition to the NPT by developing countries who thought it was unfair.  It prohibited non-nuclear countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, while it appeared not to force nuclear countries to get rid of theirs.  They felt it was an unfair double standard.

Thus, when we started talking to other G-7 members about a new missile regime, they were very reluctant to propose anything that looked like the NPT, because they thought it would alienate a number of otherwise friendly developing countries who were important trading partners and allies for other reasons.  Thus, as the negotiations to get some kind of agreement went on, the agreement came to look  more like that Nuclear Supplies Group (which Amb. Strulak chaired) than the NPT.

As talks with the allies began to move toward a suppliers group format, the main opposition came from the Pentagon, in the person of Richard Perle, who was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy.  The urban myth is that Perle persuaded President Reagan not to agree with Gorbachev to eliminate all nuclear missiles at the Reykjavik, Iceland, summit.  Perle was a force to be reconded with and probably held up the MTCR for a year or longer.  When President Bush replaced Reagan, he quickly got rid of Perle.

Because the MTCR was an agreement among likeminded G-7 countries, it had a fairly simple organization.  Decisions were made by consensus.  As more and more countries wanted to join, however, the consensus rule became unwieldy.  Thus the US decided that before more countries (like Poland) could join, a better management system had to be put in place.  Thus, it turned out the President Clinton himself had blackballed Poland’s entry by refusing to join a consensus to let them in.  The problem was not with Poland, but of course that did not make the Poles any less unhappy about being kept out of an agreement that they wanted to join.

I don’t remember, but I think the consensus principle was probably favored by Richard Perle and the Pentagon to give the US a veto over anything the MTCR wanted to do (like admit Poland).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.