December 21, 2020 – NATO’s 15 December statement on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as it enters into force reiterates misconceptions about the treaty and is tone-deaf to the global support for this landmark instrument, including popular support within several NATO countries.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in 2017 by 122 countries and will take full legal effect on 22 January 2021. It is the first international treaty to ban nuclear weapons and require victim assistance and environmental remediation for people and places harmed by nuclear weapons use and testing.
NATO Headquarters’ analysis of the treaty has been riddled with mistakes and deliberate misrepresentations that diplomats and civil society experts who worked directly on negotiating the treaty have helped to correct.
False claim: The TPNW risks to undermine the “IAEA safeguards regime.”
Fact: In reality, Article 3 of the TPNW requires that all states parties have a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and those that have already adopted more stringent requirements for the first time under this treaty have a legal obligation to maintain them.
False claim: The statement attempts to contrast the TPNW with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by claiming that it lacks “rigorous or clear mechanisms for verification.”
Fact: The NPT also does not include technical provisions for nuclear disarmament verification.
False claim: The statement claims that the TPNW undermines the NPT.
Fact: There are repeated explanations by treaty drafters and other signatories and states parties and experts that it is fully complementary.
The statement also tries to redefine NATO states’ own obligations to pursue disarmament, as states parties to the NPT, which requires all states parties to do so under Article IV. Furthermore, states agreed in a 2010 consensus action plan to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons in their security policies.
The statement is a slap in the face to the majority of the world’s countries who see the treaty as a positive contribution to peace and security. Even within NATO countries, public opinion stands with the ban. A recent poll in Belgium showed 77% of the public support joining the TPNW. Elected representatives have rejected NATO stance: the Belgian coalition government also recently agreed to consider the positive implications of the treaty. In Germany, where public support for the treaty is also high, parliamentary leaders called for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. In September, fifty-six former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states issued an open letter calling on current leaders to join the treaty. The former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and two former NATO secretaries-general, Javier Solana and Willy Claes, are among the co-signers.
Nuclear-armed states cannot always bully other nations into getting their way. The U.S. letter urging states to withdraw from the TPNW failed to stop it from achieving the necessary threshold for entry into force. NATO HQ might want to try to gloss over the impact that the TPNW is having even among its own member states, but the facts will prevail eventually. Rather than resist, it must adapt to the changing security environment. The TPNW is not going anywhere.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN is comprised of more than 570 partner organisations in over 100 countries and was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. More information about ICAN can be found at www.icanw.org