UN Treaty Negotiations on Banning the Bomb

For immediate release May 23, 2017

Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Released

Most of World’s Countries Involved in Negotiations, to Resume June 15 – July 7

Treaty Would Ban Research, Manufacture, Possession, Use

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 (office), 505-577-8563 (cell – best today)

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Albuquerque and Santa Fe – Late yesterday in Geneva Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, President of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, released the draft text of a treaty that would do just that.

Negotiations on the treaty began in late March (“US, Allies, Stage Protest Outside UN General Assembly Hall as Nations Gather in Unprecedented Meeting to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Mar 27, 2017) pursuant to a General Assembly mandate passed last December (“In Historic Vote, UN General Assembly Mandates 2017 Negotiations to Ban Research, Development, Testing, Stockpiling, Use of Nuclear Weapons,” Dec 23, 2016).

Earlier, elements of the treaty were discussed at length by a special Open-Ended Working Group meeting in Geneva (“UN Disarmament Working Group Calls for 2017 Negotiations to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Aug 19, 2016).

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “The solid draft text released today expresses much of the general consensus that was developing in the March negotiating session. This augurs for negotiating success. We join others in congratulating Ambassador Gomez and the UN staff supporting her for this draft.

“It’s a ‘lean’ draft, as was desired by the most active states in the negotiations. Like these states we also seek a simple, clear, treaty without complications that could prove impossible to negotiate, interpret, or enforce.

“In a nutshell, the treaty (the ‘Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’) drafted so far would ban the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons; their transfer, use, testing, stationing, and deployment; or assistance and encouragement in any of these prohibited acts.

“There are however some contentious issues and issues that need clarification. We and many others believe the treaty should ban nuclear threats, which is to say nuclear deterrence and ‘extended nuclear deterrence,” i.e. ‘nuclear umbrella’ relationships.

“As drafted so far, the treaty would bar states that allow another state’s nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory from joining. There are currently five states in this category: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey.

“We believe nuclear umbrella states should be barred from joining the treaty. There are currently 28 such states – 25 in Europe, all of them members of NATO (including the 5 nuclear basing states), plus South Korea, Japan, and Australia.

“Going beyond prohibiting deterrence and extended deterrence, we believe it needs to be recognized that the nuclear planning component in military alliances such as NATO cannot be separated from conventional military planning, which uses much of the same equipment, bases, communication equipment, satellites, and personnel. In nuclear lingo, such assets are ‘dual-use.’ Across the board, each element of a military alliance depends on the others. As long as NATO is a nuclear alliance, i.e. an alliance in which some members rely on a so-called nuclear ‘deterrent,’ all NATO members are giving material ‘assistance and encouragement,’ in the words of the treaty, to preparations for nuclear war. The same is true for the nuclear-military alliances in the East Asia/Pacific region. The United States itself acknowledged these difficulties in a fearful ‘non-paper’ submitted to NATO last year.

“The purpose of the ban treaty is precisely to dismantle structures of nuclear deterrence, just as the U.S. fears. 

“Many people wonder how a ban treaty could possibly affect the nuclear weapon states, which are highly unlikely to sign it. In its warning to NATO members, the U.S. provides part of the answer.

“Diplomats from the majority of the world’s countries will be meeting in June to resolve the remaining issues. Although ours is a small voice in this context, we will shortly offer our views in a working paper, now that we have a draft treaty. 

“What unites negotiating states is more than anything that divides them. We cautiously anticipate a treaty in July.

Further background can be found at our web page devoted to this process, as well as from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and from Reaching Critical Will.