Meeting in Vienna, the abolitionists of nuclear weapons will sound the alarm

For a few days, Vienna became the world capital of disarmament. The Austrian capital is hosting the first meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TIAN) from 21 to 23 June. The international context in which this summit is taking place seems to fuel the thesis of the abolitionists of the atomic weapon. With the outbreak of war in Ukraine, there has never been so much talk about the nuclear threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly brandished it, suggesting that a “limited” nuclear war is possible.

Also read: A small nuclear bomb on Kyiv: what impact?

“Dangerous” nuclear deterrent

Some will see it as a rhetorical strategy that the Kremlin master has a secret. Others, on the other hand, see it as proof that it is time to abolish an inhuman weapon. This is the case of Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, the Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, an NGO awarded in 2017 and headquartered in Geneva: “Since February 24 (date of invasion Russian Federation of Ukraine), what are we talking about? Of our survival. A man, Vladimir Putin, is threatening to use an atomic weapon while committing war crimes in Ukraine. In Vienna, the world must respond to this and create a comprehensive nuclear disarmament plan. ”

Also read: Nuclear weapons: Switzerland questions the effectiveness of the ban

Marc Finaud, a researcher at the Center for Security Policy (GCSP) in Geneva, believes that the cleavage between abolitionists and proponents of the usefulness of nuclear deterrence has worsened with the war in Ukraine. “Several states have responded in a classic way by increasing their military budgets and planning to modernize their nuclear arsenals. Others, on the other hand, believe that the Ukrainian case is the quintessential example of abolition. One country, Russia, allows itself to destroy a neighboring country without an atomic weapon knowing that the other nuclear powers will not intervene. The case illustrates the impunity of nuclear powers. It shows that nuclear deterrence is not only unnecessary, it is also dangerous. ”

Read more: The dazzling Chinese nuclear expansion

The TIAN Prohibition Treaty has been in force since January 2021. So far, only 62 states have ratified it and a few more are about to do so. It is the result of strong mobilization of civil society and a few countries that have succeeded in convincing a total of 122 UN General Assembly states to adopt the document in 2017. About a year and a half after its entry into force. force, the balance sheet is necessarily contrasted. Nuclear Powers – five formally recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5), the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and the United States France, and four unrecognized powers – Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea – have not changed their stances.

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However, Marc Finaud thinks that the advent of the TIAN has moved the cursor: “For now, it is true, the P5 has not drawn the consequences of the current danger of nuclear weapons. He merely drew up a glossary on the terminology associated with these weapons. The UK has raised its atomic weapons cap, China may be on the verge of doubling its arsenal. France is already talking about the advent of a third-generation nuclear submarine. The United States and Russia continue to modernize their atomic weapons, which together account for 90 percent of the world’s arsenals. ” But the risk of miscalculation is there. Example: Russia. Access to nuclear codes is highly decentralized. It is a legacy of the Cold War. So we are not at the mercy of an untimely initiative by individuals or even a non-state group that would take control of a command center. “If you think about it, Marc Finaud continues, it is not the naive who are proposing nuclear disarmament, but those who still believe that the current systems are all under control.” In any case, the movement around the TIAN is not about to go out.

Finally read: The United States and Russia are meeting in Geneva to reduce the serious danger of nuclear conflict

The responsibility of democracies

The GCSP researcher denounces the argument that the TIAN would undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 and was ratified by 191 states. “It simply came to our notice then. The TIAN fills a legal gap and confirms a 1996 International Court of Justice ruling that such weapons could not be used legally. No previous treaty dealt with the illicit nature of the atomic weapon. It does not weaken the NPT, it strengthens it by proposing a measure under Article 6 of the NPT that requires States parties to disarm. ” For Marc Finaud, democracies have a real responsibility in this area, with public opinion largely in favor of the abolition of such weapons.

Finally read: Hell of weapons of mass destruction

In Vienna, Beatrice Fihn hopes the meeting will lead to an action plan to make TIAN more universal. She plans to promote the movement by using artists in particular to get the message across better. ICRC President Peter Maurer will be in the Austrian capital. Helen Durham, director of the ICRC’s humanitarian law and policy department, said in a statement: “No state, no humanitarian organization is ready to meet the enormous needs of a nuclear explosion. So it is important to be aware of what we cannot prepare and what we cannot answer. ” Dr. Marcel Junod was present in Hiroshima in 1945 shortly after the cataclysm. He had seen the terrible impact of the nuclear weapon on the Geneva institution. The ICRC has been calling for the abolition of this weapon since 1945. In 2010, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger called on states to remain in the annals: “The existence of nuclear weapons raises serious questions about the timing where the rights of states must give way to the interests of humanity. “

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