The Financial Times reports that the US-India nuclear deal has encountered problems being approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The NSG was largely a creation of the US to enforce non-proliferation export controls by developed countries. We have over the years been the main country pressing for stricter controls. Now we want looser controls, and the rest of the developed world says, “Hey, wait a minute.”

US policy on non-proliferation has turned 180 degrees. But the US is likely to get what it wants eventually, because most other countries have been more interested in selling than in controlling nuclear equipment and technology. For them the NSG was sort of a fig leaf that let them say, “We looked at the proliferation impact of this sale, and it’s okay; so, the sale is going forward.” For the US, the NSG was a way to keep potentially dangerous sales to a minimum, by actually blocking some sales. Now the US is leading the pack, saying, “Let’s sell.” The others, particularly nuclear vendors like the French and the Germans, for example, will probably quickly join us. Some smaller countries that truly worry about proliferation, perhaps Sweden and Switzerland, may drag their feet. It will probably mean the end of the NSG as an effective deterrent to proliferation. Every time another country wants to make a sale that we don’t like, they’ll say, “What about your deal with India?” And the sale will go forward.

One of the first tests may well be Russian sales of nuclear equipment to Iran.

When I was Science Counselor at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, I worked with Polish Ambassador Strulak, who was Poland’s main NSG expert, on NSG issues.

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