In January 2021, a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons will come into force. Signed in 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the first legally binding multilateral agreement on nuclear disarmament in decades. For campaigners, this represents a significant milestone in their quest to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Yet, no nuclear-armed nation has signed or ratified the treaty. There are also conspicuous absences in the list of signatories, including Iran (which has been accused of pursuing a covert nuclear weapons programme). In fact, despite the progress this latest treaty represents, the direction of travel for nuclear-armed nations is arguably away from nuclear disarmament and towards greater proliferation.
In 2019, for example, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. Indeed, the “nuclear club” of nations has gained two members (Pakistan and North Korea) since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was signed (though never ratified) in 1996. Is international arms control failing – particularly when it comes to nuclear weapons?
What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Jovan, who thinks we shouldn’t even be trying: “Disarmament is impossible nor is it desirable. Had America and Russia not had nukes WW3 would have already happened several times with tens of millions of victims from conventional weapons.” Has nuclear deterrence prevented a world war with conventional weapons?
To get a response, we spoke to Rebecca Johnson, a British peace activist, expert on nuclear disarmament, and founder and Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, an organisation that provides high-quality analysis and strategies to develop and support multilateral disarmament and security agreements. How would she respond to Jovan?
For another perspective, we also put Jovan’s comment to Clara Portela, Senior Associate Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). What would she say?
Next up, we had a comment from Yannick, who writes: “Nuclear deterrence is a type of psychological warfare that only warmonging bullies can understand. Once our leaders come to terms with the simple fact that we live on the same one planet and that collaboration is going to be more fruitful than deterrence, we will be able to bury the armament once and for all.”
Is nuclear deterrence a form of ‘psychological warfare’? How would Rebecca Johnson respond?
Last but not least, what would Clara Portela say to Yannick’s comment?
Is international arms control failing? Or, on the contrary, could initiatives like the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty ultimately lead to the total elimination of all nuclear weapons? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!