The official record will show that Russia tanked the long-delayed and much-anticipated 10th Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), that it was the sole NPT state party to block consensus on the outcome document, and that the disagreement was ultimately over references in the text relevant to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This is all accurate—but only part of the story.
The profound rifts that divided NPT states parties from the beginning and prevented even modest progress ran much deeper than the predictably contentious Ukrainian conflict. Well before the Russian delegation took the floor during the last session to indicate that it would not endorse the text of the final document, it was abundantly clear that the conference would not meet even modest expectations. Its main accomplishment: the further weakening of the NPT’s credibility as a framework for nuclear abolition.
Imagine that the international community has just eliminated nuclear weapons. That an auspicious combination of genuine political will, good-faith diplomatic engagement, and effective leadership has resulted in comprehensive and credible multilateral disarmament negotiations that made irreversible nuclear abolition a reality.
On the second day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin warned the West of “consequences greater than you have faced in history” for any interference. Many observers saw a troubling, if veiled, reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. By day four, any lingering ambiguity about Putin’s willingness to invoke nuclear weapons dissipated: he ordered Russian nuclear forces to be placed on high alert and broadcast the decision for the world to see.
During the Trump administration, relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated significantly, leading to the death of major arms control treaties, escalating cyberattacks, and retaliatory measures. On June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of his first foreign trip as U.S. President, Joe Biden met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin to revive strategic stability talks. The meeting, which concluded with a joint presidential statement that calls for “ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war,” could mark the beginning of a new era of arms control diplomacy.
“You can ignore reality,” said Russian-American author Ayn Rand. “But you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Canada needs to heed this warning. While it continues to support the policies of nuclear-weapon states, the multilateral policy landscape on which nuclear disarmament negotiations occur is being reshaped. And all parties that continue to shelter under a nuclear umbrella will be increasingly isolated.
Donald Trump opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal) even before he became President of the United States. Despite his hostility, the deal survived his term in office, although not unscathed. Now new President Joe Biden is cautiously optimistic that it can be salvaged. But steps to preserve the deal must be taken immediately, before the already narrow window of opportunity fully closes.
January 22nd marked a historic milestone for nuclear disarmament as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force, officially becoming part of international law. Adopted by …
Formally known as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the nuclear ban treaty is a legally binding multilateral instrument that establishes an explicit prohibition of nuclear weapons, as a step to achieving their complete elimination. It was adopted by 122 states on July 7, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York.
On October 24, Honduras became the 50th state party to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), triggering the 90-day process that will culminate in the Treaty’s entry into force. On January 22, 2021, the TPNW will officially become international law.