Here’s some good news to start the year!
The P5 – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, all of which have nuclear weapons – have released a statement against nuclear war.
France, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America consider the avoidance of war between Nuclear-Weapon States and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.
We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.
We reaffirm the importance of addressing nuclear threats and emphasize the importance of preserving and complying with our bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments. We remain committed to our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, including our Article VI obligation “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorized or unintended use of nuclear weapons. We reiterate the validity of our previous statements on de-targeting, reaffirming that none of our nuclear weapons are targeted at each other or at any other State.
We underline our desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all. We intend to continue seeking bilateral and multilateral diplomatic approaches to avoid military confrontations, strengthen stability and predictability, increase mutual understanding and confidence, and prevent an arms race that would benefit none and endanger all. We are resolved to pursue constructive dialogue with mutual respect and acknowledgment of each other’s security interests and concerns.
The statement has been expected. It would likely have been presented at the delayed review conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which was scheduled for summer 2020. It was rescheduled for later this month and now will be moved to this summer, pandemic allowing.
It’s good that the statement was released now, rather than waiting for whenever the review conference may be able to be held. Russia’s current sword-rattling no doubt is part of the reason.
It’s a strong statement, particularly considering that Russia is included. And, Vladimir Putin would say, particularly considering that the United States is included.
You can find holes in it, and ultimately it’s all words. But it’s a place to start.