What use is disarmament of the disarmed?

28/10/20 | 0 | 0 | 148 εμφανίσεις

Pantelis Ikonomou, retired IAEA nuclear inspector, writes:

For decades, international civil society has advocated for a treaty that specifically commits to comprehensive nuclear disarmament and the total abolition of nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapon states, based on non-binding provisions of the  international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and shortcomings  in the global disarmament regime, have kept dissociating themselves from this global aspiration for nuclear disarmament. Even worse, all of them keep developing new and more effective nuclear weapons through expensive projects of “nuclear modernization.”

In this gloomy global climate,  a new international treaty – the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – is soon entering into force. After its endorsement by a special UN conference in July 2017, the Treaty reached last Friday the required minimum of 50  ratifications triggering entry into force in 90 days thereafter, about the time of the presidential inauguration in the US. TPNW bans the development, production, testing, stockpiling, stationing, transferring, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

TPNW would be a catalytic nuclear disarmament advancement if it did not have a critical shortcoming. It is binding only on those states that are party to it. Notably, all nuclear weapon states and NATO allies did not participate at the TPNW conference, saying they remain committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Of 193 UN member states, only 124 participated, of which 122 voted “in favor,” one “against” and one “abstention”.

Ultimately, the realization of nuclear disarmament will still rest on the goodwill of the nuclear weapon holders. If nuclear weapon holders decide to join the TPNW, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of their nuclear weapons programs. If not, Article VI of the NPT will continue demarcating their responsibility: “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….”

The questions that arise from the current development include:

a) Is the TPNW practically another manifestation of the “disarmament of the disarmed”?

b) What is the practical value of this Treaty?

To which I respond:

  • It is undoubtedly a strong political statement, both a protest and an invitation by the international community to the nuclear weapon holders.
  • It carries moral weight and opens the way to eliminating double standards linked to geopolitics or moral relativism of the nuclear powers.
  • It stigmatizes development and use of nuclear weapons, with potential to influence international public opinion and countries that have not yet signed up to change their stance.

As long as the five nuclear superpowers keep ignoring their nuclear disarmament responsibility under the NPT and evade the TPNW invitation, their behavior will provoke frustration, awkwardness, and anger in the rest of the international community. But that may not continue forever, because use of nuclear weapons can occur at any moment–by accident, mistake, or intentionally.


Category: International

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