On January 3, the leaders of the five nuclear-armed nations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons issued a rare joint statement on preventing nuclear war in which, for the first time, they affirmed Reagan-Gorbachev’s 1985 dictum that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.” Start “.
US, Chinese, French, Russian and UK efforts are designed in part to create a positive atmosphere for the 10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which has again been delayed by the pandemic. It also clearly aims to address global concerns about the growing threat of nuclear conflict between states and points to the potential for further cooperation to confront this existential threat.
The question now is, do they have the will and skill to translate their benign intentions into action before it is too late?
US State Department spokesman Ned Price praised the statement as “exceptional.” A more sober reading shows that it falls woefully short of the five’s commitment to the policies and measures needed to prevent nuclear war.
Indeed, the statement shows how their blind belief in theories of deterrence, which are based on a real threat of the use of nuclear weapons, perpetuates conditions that could lead to nuclear disaster.
The statement affirms that “nuclear weapons – as long as they continue to exist – must serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war.” However, such broad language suggests that they may use nuclear weapons to “defend” themselves against a wide range of threats, including non-nuclear threats.
Given the indiscriminate and horrific effects of the use of nuclear weapons, these policies are dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustified.
At the very least, if the leaders of these countries are serious about avoiding nuclear war, they should formally adopt no-first-use policies or, as US President Joe Biden promised in 2020, declare that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter or perhaps respond to a nuclear attack .
Even this approach perpetuates conditions that could lead to nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. The only way to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used is to “get rid of them completely,” as President Ronald Reagan argued in 1984, and sooner rather than later.
But regarding disarmament, the statement only expressed “the desire to work with all nations to create a security environment more conducive to advancing disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.” This vague promise and caveat seem hollow after years of stalled disarmament and an accelerating global nuclear arms race.
A year ago, Russia and the United States extended the new 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but they did not begin negotiations on a follow-up agreement. Meanwhile, both spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and modernize their nuclear forces, far beyond any reasonable concept of what it would take to deter a nuclear attack.
China is on the way to double or double the size of its ground-based strategic missile force in the coming years. Worse, despite earlier promises to “participate in the process leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons,” Chinese leaders are rejecting invitations to participate in arms control talks with the United States and others. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom announced last year that it would increase the ceiling of its deployed strategic warheads.
New statements by the five nuclear-armed NPT states that reaffirmed their “intent” to fulfill their disarmament obligations under the NPT are almost credible in the absence of time-bound commitments to specific disarmament actions.
At the same time, the five, led by France, criticized the efforts made in good faith by the majority of non-nuclear-weapon Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states to move forward with the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Contrary to the claims of nuclear-armed states, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons strengthens The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Standard against the Acquisition, Testing and Use of Nuclear Weapons.
Instead of engaging TPNW leaders on their core concerns, US officials are pressing influential countries, including Sweden, Germany and Japan, not to attend the TPNW’s first meeting of states parties as observers. Such bullying will bolster enthusiasm for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and undermine US credibility on nuclear matters.
The leaders of the five nuclear nations, and particularly Biden, could and should do better. Ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference later this year, Russia and the United States should commit to concluding negotiations by 2025 on further verifiable reductions in strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces and limitations on long-range missile defenses.
China, France and the United Kingdom must agree to join nuclear arms control talks no later than 2025 and freeze their stockpiles while Washington and Moscow negotiate deeper reductions in their stockpiles.
Instead of underestimating TPNW, the five countries need to put their homes in order. Concrete action on disarmament is overdue. It will help create a more stable and peaceful international security environment, facilitating a transformative transition from unsustainable and dangerous doctrines of deterrence toward a world free from the fear of nuclear Armageddon.
source: Organization for Arms Control today
Daryl J Kimble He is the executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, DC.
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