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HomeLanguageEnglishWatchdog Indicates Barriers to UN Ban on Nuclear Weapons

Watchdog Indicates Barriers to UN Ban on Nuclear Weapons


By Jamshed Baruah

GENEVA (IDN) – Most of the world’s states can become a party to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and comply with the Treaty without making any changes to their existing policies and practices, says Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor (NWBM). But 42 states around the world currently engage in conduct that is not compatible with the new ban on nuclear weapons. In fact, Europe stands out as the region with the most states that act in conflict with the UN Treaty. [2021-01-13]  CHINESE | JAPANESE | NORWEGIAN

Established in 2018, the NWBM is produced and published by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), a partner organisation of the 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The Monitor evaluates the nuclear-weapons-related policies and practices of each of the 197 states that can become a party to global treaties for which the Secretary-General of the United Nations is the depositary. The 197 states include all 193 UN member states, the two UN observer states (the Holy See and the State of Palestine), and two other states, Cook Islands and Niue.

The Monitor aims to be an accessible and trusted long-term source of accurate information on progress in nuclear disarmament and analysis of the key challenges. Its central purpose is to highlight activities that stand between the international community and the fulfilment of one of its most urgent and universally accepted goals: the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Using the TPNW as a yardstick against which the progress towards a world without nuclear weapons can be measured, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor records developments related to the universalisation of the Treaty.

It also tracks the status of all states in relation to other relevant treaties and regimes dealing with weapons of mass destruction, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) treaties, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Partial Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (PTBT), Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The Monitor sets out clear interpretations of each of the prohibitions and positive obligations of the TPNW and assesses the extent to which the world’s states – whether they have consented to be bound by the Treaty or not – act in accordance with them or not. This is done with a view to providing guidance to states that have already ratified or acceded to the Treaty, those that are currently considering whether to do so and those that could do so in the future.

The Monitor’s 2020 edition – ahead of the TPNW coming into force as international law on January 22, 2021 – notes that “only the United States is known to station nuclear weapons in other countries today (in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey respectively), but Russia and the United Kingdom have also done so in the past”.

A total of 19 states are believed to have previously hosted such deployments, in some cases without their knowledge: Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark (Greenland), France, East Germany and West Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Mongolia, Turkey, United Kingdom.

The figure does not include territories that during the relevant period were under the direct jurisdiction or administration of a nuclear-armed state (Guam, Okinawa, and the Marshall Islands).

Most nuclear-hosting arrangements were put in place in the 1950s and 1960s, and all but the above-mentioned five cases in Europe are believed to have since been discontinued.

The 2020 Monitor points out that there have been several attempts by European policymakers to have the remaining weapons removed from European soil. For example, in 2005, the Belgian Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the removal of nuclear weapons from Belgian territory.

In 2009, the German coalition government committed through its governing platform to have the remaining nuclear weapons in Germany withdrawn. The then Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, promoted the initiative enthusiastically for some time, but the United States responded negatively, and the initiative was quietly shelved the next year.

At the NATO summit in 2018, the allies collectively declared that NATO’s deterrence posture “relies on the United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and the capabilities and infrastructure provided by Allies concerned”.

The renewed debate about Germany’s role in NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements erupted in 2020, when Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the Social Democratic Party’s parliamentary group, called for US nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from the country. The NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, quickly responded that Germany’s support for nuclear sharing was “vital to protect peace and freedom”.

Forty-two states around the world who currently engage in conduct that is not compatible with the new ban on nuclear weapons include nine nuclear-armed states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Britain, and the United States). They possess an estimated total of nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons, most of which are many times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

In addition, there are 33 states that do not have nuclear weapons. Twenty-seven 27 of them are European states. Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Turkey were all found to engage in assistance and encouragement of the continued possession of nuclear weapons, which is prohibited under Article 1(1)(e) of the TPNW.

They aid and abet the nuclear-armed states’ retention of nuclear weapons in different ways, ranging from the hosting of nuclear weapons on their territories to participation in nuclear-strike exercises, logistical and technical support, allowing the testing of nuclear-capable missiles, development, production, and maintenance of key components for nuclear weapons, and endorsement of nuclear-weapons doctrines, policies and statements.

Outside of Europe, the only non-nuclear-armed states that currently assist and encourage the possession of nuclear weapons in different ways are Armenia, Japan, and South Korea in Asia; Canada in the Americas; and Australia and the Marshall Islands in Oceania.

The 42 states are by no means barred from joining the Treaty. But they would have to make varying degrees of changes to their policies and practices if they are to meet the demands of the TPNW,” says the 2020 Monitor editor, NPA senior advisor Grethe Lauglo Østern.

According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, support for the TPNW is high in all regions apart from Europe, where 31 of 47 states currently are opposed to joining the Treaty. Two weeks before the Treaty was to enter into force, exactly 70 per cent – or 138 of the world’s states – were supportive of the TPNW.

51 states are already parties to the Treaty and 37 have signed but not yet ratified it. “So we are fast approaching a situation where half of all states will have accepted binding obligations in international law under the TPNW,” says Østern.

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor has recorded a further 50 states as “other supporters”. Many of this group have already started the process to join the Treaty, including Andorra, Eritrea, Mongolia, New Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

17 states spreading out across all regions are undecided on the Treaty, including the two states that have arrangements of extended nuclear deterrence with Russia – Armenia and Belarus. A total of 42 states are opposed to the Treaty. Some of the opposed states are more conflicted on the TPNW than others, however. Discussion on the merits of the new Treaty is ongoing in several of them. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 January 2021]

Image credit: Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor

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