This week’s featured graphic maps Europe’s nuclear landscape. To find out more on Europe and the nuclear ban treaty, read Névine Schepers’ CSS Analyses in Security Policy here.
Image courtesy of the White House/Flickr.
This blog belongs to the CSS’ coronavirus blog series, which forms a part of the center’s analysis of the security policy implications of the coronavirus crisis. See the CSS special theme page on the coronavirus for more.
US-China relations are at a new low-point following the global spread of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The pandemic has exacerbated tensions in what was already a fragile relationship, plagued by disputes on issues related to the South China Sea, Taiwan, trade, and 5G technology. Nuclear weapons, however, were not featured as a central element of the US-China confrontation, at least not at same level as other issues of contention, but this is likely to change. A recent call for China to drastically increase its nuclear arsenal published in the nationalistic Chinese newspaper the Global Times has revived a domestic debate on Chinese nuclear deterrence, highlighting concerns over perceived US hostile behavior.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The treaty has three separate but inter-related objectives: preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapon technologies to more countries; promoting cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and pressing the existing nuclear-weapon states to disarm.
On 7 July, 122 states voted to adopt a new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It articulates the world’s collective revulsion at the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, under any circumstances. The foreseeable effects of use in the indeterminate future make the possession of bombs today morally unacceptable to the international community. The treaty’s primary intent is to stigmatise nuclear weapons through a legally binding prohibition instrument in order to induce movement towards nuclear disarmament by the bomb-possessing countries.
In late 2016, the United Nations decided to launch discussions on the establishment of a treaty banning all nuclear weapons, and on May 22, 2017 the Chair of the conference dealing with this issue presented a first draft of the proposed treaty. The proposed draft is of a treaty negotiated among states, not taking into account the existence of non-state entities that could be holding a trump card in the case of universal nuclear disarmament. Moreover, in many respects, the draft falls into the same troubling trap of previous treaties. It is a detailed treaty but with a number of loopholes that come to placate the diverse opinions and approaches of the states to the issue. Thus while striving toward nuclear disarmament is a noble goal, one must be realistic and not really expect the proposed treaty to achieve it.
A short time after nuclear weapons were used in World War II, a movement to eliminate these weapons, the most horrific weapons of mass destruction (WMD), began with what is known as the Baruch Plan. Although many governments and hundreds of non-governmental organizations supported and still support nuclear disarmament, their achievements(including the disarmament of South Africa, reductions of stocks, and a moratorium on testing that was not universally upheld) have been partial.