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Germany's Baerbock pushes for nuclear disarmament

December 14, 2021

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for a "new momentum" to nuclear disarmament as she met with her Swedish counterpart with an eye toward a review of a non-proliferation treaty.

Annalena Baerbock
Baerbock is participating in a flurry of summits and high-level meetings since being appointed last weekImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Germany and Sweden have paired up to find ways to get the world's nuclear powers to move toward committing to disarmament. The foreign ministers met in Stockholm to plot the way forward ahead of next month's review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Baerbock has been in talks with her Swedish counterpart Ann Linde and met with the Stockholm Initiative, a group of 16 countries seeking to get rid of nuclear weapons. 

"Our joint goal is clear: a world free of atomic weapons," Baerbock said during a press conference with Linde.

"Our message to the review conference will be clear: Nuclear weapons countries have to push ahead with nuclear disarmament," read a statement from the initiative, calling for an irreversible, transparent end to nuclear weapons subject to oversight.

Baerbock reaffirms Germany's commitment 

Germany's top diplomat said that the anti-armament movement "urgently needs new momentum" and vowed that Europe would play a key role in building a "safe world."

Baerbock confirmed that the new governing coalition of her Green Party, the Social Democrats (SPD), and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP), would seek to join the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (AVV) as an observer state. 

She said that it was important to use these summits not just to talk, but to produce concrete change.

"We cannot afford another review conference without tangible results," the foreign minister said.

To that end, she praised leaders and activists for creating a plan "to make the world safer from nuclear weapons step by step. Now, she said, the purpose of the summit was to" ensure that this path is taken."

Baerbock's comments came in light of the US having withdrawn from several major disarmament treaties in recent years, including letting the landmark INF accord lapse in 2019. At the time, former President Donald Trump accused Moscow of not abiding by the treaty's rules.

There is now a single US-Russia non-proliferation treaty remaining. The New Start Strategic Disarmament Treaty still allows the nuclear arsenals of both countries to contain 800 delivery systems and 1,550 deployable nuclear warheads each. 

A new break for nuclear power?

Germany slams Russia over climate veto

On the sidelines of the conference in Sweden, Baerbock criticized Russia on Tuesday for blocking UN efforts to tackle climate change.

Russia, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and thus has veto power, hindered the passage of a key resolution to tackle climate change. Moscow has justified the move by arguing that the proposal was the product of countries that have done the most to damage the climate and are now seeking sanctions on those who have done much less harm.

Baerbock called the move "regrettable," saying that it was absolutely the purview of the UN security council because "we can see worldwide as we see in Europe, how strongly the climate crisis is exacerbating conflict."

The Green Party politician called climate change "a driver" of violence in "areas that are already fragile."

India, which does not have veto power, also voted down the resolution while China abstained.

kb, es/fb (AFP, dpa)