The beginning of the end of nuclear weapons?

Future historians may record summer 2017 as the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.

So begins a masterful article by Paul Meyer and Tom Sauer on how the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, aka the Ban Treaty, came about and its implications for bringing humanity closer to a world without nuclear weapons.

Scope and drivers of the treaty

The ban treaty will forbid the development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, possession and stationing — as well as the use and threat of use — of nuclear weapons.  As Meyer and Sauer point out, this renders the decades-old doctrine of nuclear deterrence illegal for the signatory states, and in the eyes of the hundreds of millions of citizens around the world who support the treaty.

The ban treaty was negotiated without the participation of any of the nuclear-armed states. They are therefore left with two options under its terms: they can either destroy their nuclear weapons and then join the treaty, or join the treaty and at the same time make specific, time-limited plans to eliminate their nuclear weapons.  Say the authors:

The underlying driver of the ban treaty has been the frustration among the non-nuclear states with the unfulfilled promise of the nuclear-weapons states to pursue total nuclear disarmament…. For anyone who is not absolutely sure that nuclear deterrence will always work, the risks associated with these weapons are unacceptably high.

Future of the treaty

Although the treaty’s adoption at the close of negotiations by 122 states certainly represents a major diplomatic achievement, the authors acknowledge that it is fair to ask what its impact on global nuclear affairs ultimately will be.

Advocates see a two-fold effect, with the first of these being the impact on the private sector in an age of ethical investing:

…the treaty may encourage enhanced restraint by private sector firms (especially banks and investment funds) with respect to their exposure to the nuclear weapons industry.

Secondly, and more fundamentally in the view of the authors, the treaty will demonstrably strengthen the global norm against nuclear weapons, thereby increasing the stigma for states that continue to possess them. This taint in turn will increase pressure on many non-nuclear NATO member states — like Canada — to sign the treaty or align their security policies with its goals.

And then there is the UK.

In the UK, the costly renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent has already triggered social debate…. If Labour wins the next election, a variety of factors (not least cost) may result in Trident renewal being dropped, opening the way for the UK to become a state without nuclear weapons and thus the first NPT nuclear-weapon-state to fully realise its Article VI [nuclear disarmament] commitment.

For the full article, click: The Nuclear Ban Treaty: A sign of Global Impatience – by Paul Meyer and Tom Sauer (IISS journal Survival, Vol.60, 2018 – Issue 2, pp. 61-72).

Call to Action:  contact your local Member of Parliament and let him or her know how important it is that Canada works constructively to bring about the Ban Treaty goal of nuclear disarmament.


Front page photo credit:

Graphic credit: Sarah Davies

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “The beginning of the end of nuclear weapons?”

  1. EfficienzaApril 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

    Interesting that so much doubt was cast upon the Russians hacking us, but this is accepted at face value w/o question. That aside, not really sure why this means that Iran won”t abide by the nuclear treaty. Russia abided by its treaty even when it was the USSR and was actively financing wars against us. Next, the idea that anyone was pushing that Iran would be our friend is such a straw man that it ought to win the internet today. No one was pushing that idea, just like no one claimed that China or the USSR would be our friend by having a nuclear treaty. You don”t really need a nuclear treaty with the most invasive inspection plan in history if that country is your friend. You need it because that country is hostile. Once we get past the stupid, Rosenstein said that the hackers hit universities in many other countries (20?). I think this mostly shows that people don”t take security all that seriously and prioritize convenience. People who actually have jobs working with IT and are honest about it, not just coming to the internet to score points, know that the tradeoffs between these two are difficult. Throw in a workforce with disparate ages and computer skills and it gets worse. Steve

  2. Muhiddin MascatMarch 24, 2018 at 11:01 am #

    Today NO-Nuclear Weapon should be kept on/in the Ground(No-Nuclear Weapon in the World should be exist) to destroy All, NO-Killing, enough mistakes were done by the Human Being.
    Stop Extremism, using the Brain properly & trying to understand what was/is till now wrong, it’s wrong to produce these Weapons (Today is to show your capacity on Electronic)

  3. Ann CoffeyMarch 24, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    Prohibiting nuclear weapons is one thing but persuading every country in the world to agree to doing so, and then trusting signatories to keep their word is quite another.

    Take the Biological Weapons Convention as an example:

    “The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms. After being discussed and negotiated in the United Nations’ disarmament forum starting in 1969, the BWC opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. It currently has 180 states-parties, including Palestine, and six signatories (Central African Republic, Egypt, Haiti, Somalia, Syria, and Tanzania). Eleven states have neither signed nor ratifed the BWC (Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Israel, Kiribati, Micronesia, Namibia, Niue, South Sudan and Tuvalu).”

    The BWC entered into force in 1975, so over 40 years later there are still 11 states that have neither signed nor ratified it.

    Not only that, but one of the first signatories, the United States of America, is currently building several biological weapons laboratories in eastern European countries. The USA signed the BWC on April 10, 1972 and ratified it on Mar 26, 1975 – and now they are ignoring it. Sadly, the other 179 signatory states (Canada included) raise not a squeak in protest.

    Of course nuclear disarmament (and the decommissioning of the world’s nuclear reactors) is the only rational thing to do, but what country can trust Canada’s duplicitous neighbour to the south? Given its extremely spotty record in following international law, until the USA “goes first” and rids itself of nuclear weapons, other countries with nuclear capabilities are going to remain very reluctant to do so. For the USA to go first, we’ll have to wait for a rational electorate to elect a rational president, but don’t hold your breath because over the past several decades the rationality gene hasn’t been much in evidence.

  4. JanetMarch 23, 2018 at 7:50 pm #

    The current political climate reveals a deeply embedded mental illness in our institutions. The very top echelon cannot afford to think or care for anything other than winning. Preservation of justice or life is too soft and the only sure thing is hardware that explodes. Too bad we got sucked into that. Everything that represents civilization needs to be interrogated.

  5. Dionicio BarralesMarch 23, 2018 at 7:14 pm #

    End with the nuclear arsenal at one!

  6. EricMarch 23, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

    I can’t WAIT until this tiny planet is free of nuclear weapons. And why stop there, I ask myself. But this is a good first step and one hopes that eventually enough world leaders (I use the term loosely) will be imbued with the wisdom and vision necessary to steer their governments toward peace!

  7. JocelynMarch 23, 2018 at 5:27 pm #

    We have only one viable choice, which is to demand all nuclear disarmament!! The other choice is “we and the entire planet all die!!!!” This should be a complete no brainer!!!