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NATO dismisses new anti-nuclear UN treaty as risky

December 15, 2020

NATO has again panned the UN's 2017 treaty to ban nuclear weapons, saying the new pact lacks "rigorous" verification tools and will prove risky.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned the deal could undermine global disarmament effortsImage: Getty Images/AFP/K. Tribouillard

NATO on Tuesday again slammed the new UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons, ratified by a 50th nation in October and applicable from January 22, asserting it "will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon."

In its statement, Tuesday, NATO's North Atlantic Council said the "only credible path to nuclear disarmament" was the existing 1970 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). 

The UN's latest Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), ratified in October as Honduras signed up, lacked "any rigorous or clear mechanisms for verification," NATO insisted Tuesday.

And, it had not been signed by a single nuclear-weapons possessing state, said NATO, asserting that TPNW risked undermining global disarmament "architecture" which had had the NPT "at its heart" since 1970.

An upcoming NPT review conference would present, said NATO, a "major opportunity for the international community" to work toward disarmament. 

But a future world, where some nuclear-armed states challenged rule-based order — defying treaties — would not be safer, said NATO, whose principle nuclear powers include the USA, Britain and France.

The fear of nuclear weapons

'Dangerous option,' claims Stoltenberg

Last month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg similarly warned that "giving up our deterrent without any guarantees that others will do the same is a dangerous option."

The TPNW, set to apply from January 22 and spearheaded by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), was approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly in July 2017 by a majority vote of 122.

Boycotting negotiations leading up to that vote had been five nuclear powers — the USA, Russia, China, Britain and France — and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.

In October, as Honduras became the 50th nation to ratify the TPNW, triggering its entry into force 90 days later, UN chief Antonio Guterres said any use of nuclear weapons would have "catastrophic humanitarian consequences."

International Campaign director Beatrice Fihn welcomed ratification, saying "this moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki" and the UN's 1948 founding with nuclear disbarment as its cornerstone.

The TPNW requires that all ratifying countries "never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

The new treaty also bans any transfer, use of, or threat to use nuclear weapons, and requires parties to promote the treaty among other countries.

ipj/xx (AP, dpa)