Author’s Note: All views in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect her employer’s views or anyone else’s. In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for […]
With geopolitics and deterrence doctrines back in the ascendant, the prospects for multilateral nuclear disarmament look worse than for a generation; many options are on the table but whether states will engage constructively and pursue any of these proposals remains an open question.
Deep tensions and frustrations are rising to the fore as this month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York gets underway. All parties must act bravely to bridge these deep divides if they are to make progress towards a nuclear-free world.
International momentum towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons reached a milestone in the December 2014 Vienna conference. Even assuming that the UK does not initially sign up to such a treaty, it is subject to the pressures of a changing legal and political environment and could find its present position increasingly untenable – not least on the issue of Trident renewal.
Despite not yet entering into force, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has succeeded in almost eliminating nuclear weapons testing and in establishing a robust international monitoring and verification system. A breakthrough in its ratification by the few hold-out states could have important positive repercussions for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.
The ‘humanitarian dimension’ initiative highlighting the consequences of nuclear weapons has evolved and consolidated itself in the non-proliferation regime since 2010. The five nuclear weapons states (NWS or P5) under the NPT – China, France, Russia, UK and US – boycotted the first two international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. A third conference will be held in Vienna on 8-9 December 2014. This article gives five reasons why the P5 should consider participating.
The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, highlighted by a wide-ranging, cross-grouping, multi-aim initiative which continues to consolidate itself in the non-proliferation regime, has come to the fore in the 3rd Prepatory Committe for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Frustrated with the lack of progress towards NPT Article VI commitments to complete nuclear disarmament, the initiative has invigorated attention to the urgency of nuclear disarmament and a need for a change in the status quo. NPT member states and civil society continue to engage actively in publicizing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as an impetus to progress towards nuclear disarmament.
If events like those in Ukraine have taught us anything it is that, despite the predictions of many, the potential for conflict between the major powers is still one of the defining characteristics of world politics. Crisis diplomacy and inter-state rivalry is back on the global agenda. But if policymakers, analysts and civil society actors are to try and come up with ways of reversing the trend towards an increasingly competitive, militarised and crisis-driven inter-state order, then thinking carefully through the implications of a sustainable security approach to great power politics would appear to be a most useful starting point.
The Russian annexation of Crimea may be in direct contravention of international agreements but is popular in Russia and almost certain to hold. Given tensions within Ukrainian society and its weak transitional government, there remains some risk of further intervention in eastern Ukraine and possibly the Trans-Dniester break-away region of Moldova. Even if there is no further escalation in the crisis, the deterioration in EU/Russian and US/Russian relations is of great concern, not least in relation to two aspects of Middle East security – the Syrian civil war and the Iran nuclear negotiations.
The dramatic decrease in public awareness and engagement in the nuclear weapons debate since the 1980s poses a risk to our future, as younger generations and future policy shapers will be less familiar with the challenges posed by nuclear weapons when they take the helm. But nuclear weapons are too dangerous a threat for an entire generation to disconnect from. BASIC’s Rachel Staley explores the ramifications of not updating the nuclear debate.