Eyes on Europe as Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Enters Into Force

Geneva – Europe stands out as the region with the most states that act in conflict with the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW),…

Geneva – Europe stands out as the region with the most states that act in conflict with the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which enters into force as international law on 22 January 2021.

While most of the world’s states can become party to and comply with the TPNW without making any changes to their existing policies and practices, a report published 12 January by the watchdog Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor found that a global total of 42 states currently engage in conduct that is not compatible with the new ban on nuclear weapons.
“Every state may sign the TPNW, but these 42 states would have to make varying degrees of changes to their policies and practices if they are to meet the demands of the TPNW”, says the editor of Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor 2020, Grethe Lauglo Østern of the organization Norwegian People’s Aid.

In addition to the nine nuclear-armed states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), which obviously contradict the TPNW in several ways, 33 states that themselves do not have nuclear weapons were found by the legal experts of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor to act in conflict with the Treaty. As many as 27 of them are European states.

Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Turkey were all found to engage in assistance and encouragement of the continued possession of nuclear weapons, which is prohibited under Article 1(1)(e) of the TPNW. They aid and abet the nuclear-armed states retention of nuclear weapons in different ways, ranging from the hosting of nuclear weapons on their territories, to participation in nuclear-strike exercises, logistical and technical support, allowing the testing of nuclear-capable missiles, development, production, and maintenance of key components for nuclear weapons, and endorsement of nuclear-weapons doctrines, policies and statements.
“Clearly, Europe must take a good look in the mirror when the TPNW now enters into force and nuclear weapons become illegal, even if the nuclear-armed states will not join it in the short term. The role of non-nuclear-armed states in enabling nuclear armament and preventing progress towards nuclear disarmament received little attention before the negotiation of the TPNW. This will now change”, says Norwegian People’s Aid’s secretary general Henriette Westhrin.
She adds that states parties to the TPNW can remain in alliances and military cooperation arrangements with nuclear-armed states, and can continue to execute all operations, exercises, and other military activities together with them in so far as they do not involve nuclear weapons. While politically difficult, combining alliance membership and adherence to the TPNW is entirely feasible.

Outside of Europe, the only non-nuclear-armed states that currently assist and encourage the possession of nuclear weapons in different ways are Armenia, Japan, and South Korea in Asia; Canada in the Americas; and Australia and the Marshall Islands in Oceania.

The TPNW codifies the norms and actions that are needed to create and maintain a world without nuclear weapons. The impact of the Treaty will be built gradually and will depend on how it is welcomed and used by each and every state.
According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, support for the TPNW is high in all regions apart from Europe, where 31 of 47 states currently are opposed to joining the Treaty. Two weeks before the Treaty will enter into force, exactly 70% – or 138 of of the world’s states – are supportive of the TPNW.

“51 states are already parties to the Treaty and 37 have signed but not yet ratified it. So we are fast approaching a situation where half of all states will have accepted binding obligations in international law under the TPNW”, says Østern.

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor has recorded a further 50 states as ‘other supporters’. Many of this group have already started the process to join the Treaty, including Andorra, Eritrea, Mongolia, New Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
17 states spread out across all regions are undecided on the TPNW, including the two states that have arrangements of extended nuclear deterrence with Russia – Armenia and Belarus. A total of 42 states are opposed to the Treaty. Some of the opposed states are more conflicted on the TPNW than others, however. Discussion on the merits of the new Treaty is ongoing in several of them.

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