Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Opinion

Nuclear weapons: old dilemmas, new dangers

  • Preparations already afoot for 2020 NPT Review Conference at UN in New York (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Nuclear weapons have posed a challenge to international security since 1945. Today that challenge looms as large as ever.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has been under severe threat for many years and even more so today.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Czaputowicz (c) and Blok (right of centre) with fellow EU ministers at UN assembly in September (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

North Korea's nuclear weapons threaten the global security order and our multilateral system, and Iran's nuclear activities could form a potential threat. Implementation of arms control treaties is being challenged as well.

The way these problems are resolved will have an impact that is felt far into the future.

Moreover, tensions between major powers, pockets of instability on almost every continent, and revisionists challenging the rules-based international order are making the world less stable and predictable.

The emergence of military technologies such as autonomous weapons systems based on artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and weaponised cyber and information technologies can severely disrupt communication lines, limit political discretion and shorten reaction times.

In a nuclear crisis this is a potentially fatal combination.

These developments call for an immediate return to effective nuclear arms control.

Luckily, a solid basis for that already exists. That basis is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has kept the number of countries with nuclear weapons below the level envisaged in the apocalyptic predictions of the 1960s.

The Treaty also binds us to a clear goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, and it has already helped achieve tangible nuclear disarmament.

No less important, it has fostered international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy for economic development and prosperity, helping to widen the availability of effective medical treatments worldwide.

The NPT regime is an example of a true and highly successful form of multilateralism that benefits everyone, rather than a zero-sum approach.

But now that the NPT is facing multiple challenges, we must all show a sense of ownership and responsibility if we want to hold on to the possibility of further nuclear arms control.

We need ambitious and sensible new agreements on how to curb the nuclear threat.

Opportunity

The 2020 NPT Review Conference, marking the 50th anniversary of the NPT's entry into force, is our chance.

With this anniversary nearing, the Netherlands and Poland are pledging to work together to strengthen and develop the nuclear arms control regime so that it is equal to current and future challenges.

Having chaired consecutive meetings of the NPT, we have been exploring new forms of cooperation, with an emphasis on responsibility and inclusiveness based on consultations in all parts of the world.

We will continue this effort together with this year's NPT chair, Malaysia, and the future president of the Review Conference. The 2020 Review Conference must be a shared success.

For this to happen, we must build bridges where differences persist and take bold steps where we see opportunities for deeper and wider cooperation. Only this way we can live up to our common obligations.

There is cause for encouragement in the recent initiatives for the development of technologies, mechanisms and procedures for the verification of nuclear disarmament agreements.

Following the Russian proverb "trust but verify", which former US president Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting, the hard work of diplomats and technicians alike will help lay the foundations for the further reductions of nuclear arsenals.

We see a need to improve transparency, dialogue and communication between nuclear states and their allies. This will foster strategic stability and minimise nuclear risks.

All of us have a stake in preventing the use of nuclear weapons.

This has always been acknowledged by those possessing these weapons, and this recognition has led to ground-breaking Cold War agreements and practices aimed at reducing tensions and preventing misunderstandings in times of crisis.

Stability

We should learn from our predecessors and adapt these ideas to the world of today. Greater stability may in turn contribute to creating circumstances conducive to further progress on disarmament.

We call on all parties to join us in working towards a positive outcome in 2020. Former US president John F Kennedy once expressed his fear that 20 or 25 countries might one day develop nuclear weapons.

The NPT has prevented that. But this nightmare can still become a reality if we do not remain vigilant. Nuclear weapons are an unfinished story, and it is incumbent on us to compose a positive outcome for it.

Jacek Czaputowicz and Stef Blok are the foreign ministers of Poland and the Netherlands

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us