U.S. nuclear weapon test Ivy Mike, 31 Oct 1952, on Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific, the first test of a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb). Source: Wikipedia. - Photo: 2024

Is There a Way Out of Nuclear Stalemate?

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | 16 March 2024 (IDN) — Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has entered its third year. President Vladimir Putin has been threatening the use of nuclear weapons. Republican Presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, doubled down his threat and appeared to invite Putin to invade any NATO member failing to meet the 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending.

The real possibility of a nuclear war has crushed the decades-long nuclear taboo and greatly increased the risk of atomic conflict, leading to a global catastrophe. At present, nine countries in the world possess nuclear weapons. They are Russia, United States, China, France, United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea.

Together, they possess an estimated total of roughly 13,000 nuclear weapons, 9,400 of which are in active military stockpiles. While this is a significant decline from the approximately 70,000 warheads owned by the nuclear-armed states during the Cold War, nuclear arsenals are expected to grow over the coming decade, and today’s forces are vastly more capable. Most are many times more powerful than the nuclear weapon dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.

Thirty-two other states are also part of the problem, with five nations hosting nuclear weapons and a further 27 endorsing their use. A single nuclear warhead could kill hundreds of thousands of people, with lasting and devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences. Detonating just one nuclear weapon alone over New York would cause an estimated 583,160 fatalities.

Yet, the nuclear blackmail continues. What if “if President Trump reiterates his doubts about NATO and the American nuclear umbrella or, for example, seeks an understanding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over our heads, to the detriment of Ukraine and European security,” asks security expert and former German ambassador to Washington, Wolfgang Ischinger. “Despite many warnings, we Europeans still have no plan B,” he adds.


“NATO’s nuclear deterrence must … remain credible,” the German Foreign Office maintains. “A world where the states challenging the international rules-based order are in possession of nuclear weapons, but NATO is not, is not a safe world. That is why the German Government decided to procure F-35s. These replacements for our current planes will be deployed within the context of NATO’s nuclear sharing.”

Unlike France and Britain—which possess 290 and 225 nuclear weapons, respectively—Germany does not own an atomic arsenal. But along with Turkey, Italy, Belgium and Netherlands—Germany hosts US nuclear weapons. The German Air Force is assigned approximately 15 B61 nuclear bombs, which are deployed at the Büchel air base in the German state of Rhineland-Westphalia.

“As long as the nuclear-armed states hang on to their arsenals and cling to the misguided doctrine of deterrence, we face the likelihood these weapons will be used sooner or later. Nuclear weapons should be abolished before it is too late,” argues Melissa Parke, Executive Director of the 2017 Nobel Peace laureate ICAN.

She recalls that the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), on 27 November to 1 December 2023, at the UN Headquarters in New York agreed alongside scientists, the ICRC and ICAN on a declaration: “To challenge the security paradigm based on nuclear deterrence by highlighting and promoting new scientific evidence about the humanitarian consequences and risks of nuclear weapons and juxtaposing this with the risks and assumptions that are inherent in nuclear deterrence”.

The TPNW prohibits, among other things, the deployment, possession and transit, storage and stationing of nuclear weapons. “These extensive prohibitions create a conflict of interests between the TPNW and the obligations that the NATO allies have assumed, for instance, as part of nuclear sharing. For this reason, neither Germany nor other NATO members have joined the TPNW,” said the German Foreign Office.

ICAN pleads for all nuclear-armed states to take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions and to break free from the dangerous doctrine of nuclear deterrence. “Nuclear disarmament must be an essential element of a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine. Multilateral nuclear disarmament is the only guarantee to prevent other nuclear-armed countries from following Russia’s lead and using their nuclear weapons as a shield to commit war crimes and terrorize civilian populations. Joining the TPNW is a crucial step to delegitimize nuclear deterrence and eliminate nuclear weapons.”

TPNW growing in strength

The meeting further demonstrated that the TPNW is growing in strength. Several observing states announced their intention to join the treaty soon, bringing the number of states that have either signed, ratified or acceded to the treaty to more than half of all 193 UN members.

Germany shares the concern of the States Parties to the TPNW about the stalemate in nuclear disarmament. Like Australia, Belgium, and Norway, Germany, therefore, participated in the Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW.

“The German Government intends to continue the dialogue with the States Parties to the TPNW on the question of how further progress on nuclear disarmament can be made in the current security environment,” ensures the German Foreign Office.

Over the past two years, the States parties of the TPNW have been central in pushing back against any and all nuclear threats and challenging the false narrative of nuclear deterrence, Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) said in an IDN interview.

At the First Meeting of States Parties in 2021, they condemned unequivocally “any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances”. At the second meeting in New York, they agreed “to challenge the security paradigm based on nuclear deterrence by highlighting and promoting new scientific evidence about the humanitarian consequences and risks of nuclear weapons and juxtaposing this with the risks and assumptions that are inherent in nuclear deterrence”.

Mr Terasaki added: “Faith-based organizations certainly can work together and play many roles at the UN, in the international community, and grassroots awareness-raising in civil society: to find a way to put an end to the loss of civilian lives as soon as possible, to prevent catastrophic inhumane consequences in the name of humanity, to bring people together, understand each other, be there for those who are suffering, and leave no one behind, and to create a world where everyone can shine as they are and all can enjoy diverse lives.”

A new study by ICAN in partnership with PAX, the largest peace organisation in the Netherlands, underscores that it is important to disinvest in companies producing nuclear weapons. The conflict has accelerated the global nuclear arms race, with the nine nuclear-armed states increasing spending to $82.9 billion in 2022. As a result, the nuclear weapons industry has profited shamelessly off the world’s concerns over nuclear war.

Since the conflict in Ukraine and the increased nuclear tensions that followed, profits for the companies that produce nuclear weapons have driven up, with a $15.7 billion increase in share and bond holdings and a $57.1 billion increase in loans and underwriting.

The report’s authors identified 287 financial institutions with substantial financing or investment relationships with 24 companies involved in nuclear weapon production.

Of the 287 listed investors, only three are from countries whose governments have joined the TPNW. In at least one case, these investments, while attributed to the parent company in the report, were made from subsidiaries in jurisdictions outside the area currently covered by the nuclear ban treaty. $477 billion was held in bonds and shares, and $343 billion was provided in loans and underwriting. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image: U.S. nuclear weapon test Ivy Mike, 31 Oct 1952, on Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific, the first test of a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb). Source: Wikipedia.

This article was produced on 16 March 2024 as part of a joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate

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