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Germany, Spain and Sweden call for end to nuclear testing

July 5, 2021

Germany is joining 15 other countries for a nuclear disarmament conference aiming to build momentum after a US-Russia summit renewed hopes for more arms control between the two nuclear powers.

A mushroom cloud following a French nuclear test in 1995
Nine countries currently posses more than 13,000 nuclear warheadsImage: picture alliance/AP Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said ahead of a nuclear arms control conference on Monday that the threat of a nuclear arms race grows "where tension and mistrust predominate."

"More than ever, we need steps that encourage trust through verifiable agreements created between nuclear-weapons states," Maas said before departing to Madrid for a meeting of the Stockholm Initiative, which brings together 16 countries advocating global nuclear arms reduction.

The conference follows last month's summit in Geneva between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to start talks on arms control.

A statement after the summit said the US and Russia "seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures." 

"We need to build on this with clear steps by nuclear weapons states to fulfill their responsibility and obligations on disarmament," Maas said, adding that the Geneva summit shows how progress is possible.

New Iran deal soon?

Maas also said Monday he expected to save the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran "in the coming weeks".

The negotiations aim to save the deal — known to diplomats as the JCPOA — have been been taking place between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council member states plus Germany, the parties who originally brokered it.

Under the Trump presidency, the US walked away from the accords designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

An end to nuclear testing 'once and for all'

A joint guest commentary written by Maas, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya, and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde listed several steps nuclear-weapons countries could take toward disarmament.

"This could include downgrading the role of nuclear weapons in strategies and doctrines, reducing the risk of conflict and an accidental nuclear weapon deployment, further reducing nuclear stockpiles and laying the foundations for a new generation of arms control agreements," the foreign ministers said in an article published on Monday in the Rheinische Post newspaper.

"We must end nuclear weapons testing once and for all by finally bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force, restarting negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for military use, and building robust and credible capabilities to verify nuclear disarmament steps," the foreign minister's article said. 

What is the status of global nuclear arms control?

In February, the US and Russia agreed to extend the New START disarmament treaty. It limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 launchers and 1,550 ready-to-use nuclear warheads each.

The New START treaty is the only major arms control treaty in place between the US and Russia after the US withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty in May citing Russian non-compliance.

Number of nuclear weapons worldwide

At the beginning of 2021, the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possessed a total of 13,080 nuclear warheads, a decrease of 320 from the previous year, according to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute SIPRI annual report published in June.

However, SIPRI researchers say the report shows worrying trends regarding global nuclear arsenals

"The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that the declining trend that has characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War has stalled," SIPRI researcher Hans M. Kristensen said.

Biden seeks extension of START nuclear treaty: Dan Smith (SIPRI) speaks to DW

wmr/rt (dpa, Reuters)