If we set to one side the COVID-19 pandemic, the two most formidable existential threats are environmental degradation and the existence of nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons. Both could destroy human civilization and irreparably damage the ecosystem. Both are also the products of human decisions and actions; addressing the threat and containing the damage is now the responsibility of all humanity.
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.
If you are feeling anxious about the state of global affairs, you are not alone. At Project Ploughshares, we are keenly aware of the multiple, overlapping crises facing the world today. So are millions around the world, increasingly concerned about the complexity of the formidable challenges before us – and about our collective ability as an international community to craft credible and effective responses.
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.
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.
On September 28, Ploughshares Senior Researchers Jessica West and Branka Marijan participated in an online panel on the future of peace and conflict hosted by the Balsillie School of International …
Please join us for a virtual event on this solemn anniversary as we honour the victims and consider new ways to help rid the world of nuclear weapons.