“Eyes rolling back” at statement from five big nuclear powers
A statement this month by the global nuclear powers affirming their belief that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought, while possessing thousands of nuclear weapons in their arsenals, provoked reactions from peace groups around the world.
On January 3, 2022, the White House and other capitals posted the following “Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races.”
The People’s Republic of China, the French Republic, 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.Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races, January 3, 2022
After waiting for several days, Canada’s Mission to the United Nations tweeted its support.
Peace groups responded critically to the statement from the five nuclear powers, often referred to as the “P-5” as they were the only recognized nuclear powers when the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (the NPT) came into force over 50 years ago (learn more about the NPT below).
The Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons dubbed the P-5’s statement “Nuke-Speak.” In a statement, Abolition 2000 said, “The affirmation made by the five Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in their Joint Statement of 3 January 2022, that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’ should be followed up by genuine action by them to change current nuclear-war fighting policies, end the costly and destabilizing nuclear arms race, and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
The International Peace Bureau welcomed the nuclear weapon states’ agreement that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. But added, “At the same time, we note that these same leaders are spending billions to upgrade and in some cases expand their genocidal nuclear arsenals. They are recklessly engaged in provocative military operations in which accidents or miscalculations could trigger nuclear holocausts.”
Even more, a joint statement endorsed by dozens of civil society groups worldwide was delivered to the P-5 nuclear states government on January 10.
“The 91 undersigned organisations call on NPT states parties and the international community to advance new and bolder leadership. We urge all NPT states parties to move beyond bitter politicisation and to work together to build majority support for a plan of action to advance the NPT’s Article VI goals, create much needed momentum for further progress on disarmament, and save humanity from the scourge of nuclear war.”91 Organizations
Signatories included the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Japan Congress Against A and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN), Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Pax Christi International, and many Canadian organizations including the Rideau Institute, Project Ploughshares, and Science for Peace.
What is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
Abolition 2000 provides this helpful explanation:
|In 1970, at the height of the Cold War, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force. Under the Treaty, which today includes all but five UN member states, five states acknowledged to possess nuclear weapons, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China (N5), agreed to pursue nuclear disarmament, and all other states agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons.|
52 years later, this NPT core bargain has still not been fulfilled. Four more countries outside the NPT now have nuclear weapons (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea), and there are still over 13,000 nuclear weapons distributed among the nine countries.
States parties to the NPT meet every five years to assess progress and agree further steps. The 10th NPT Review Conference was due to take place in May 2020 and, having been postponed several times, was scheduled to start on the 4th of January in New York. This latest attempt to convene the conference has sadly also been scuppered due to the omicron variant currently rampaging across the world.