Statement by Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN:
The German coalition’s decision represents an important step forward for the German people who have steadfastly opposed nuclear weapons for decades. Germany has now stated clearly their goal of moving towards a nuclear-free Germany and world. ICAN and our partners in Germany and across the world congratulate this government for taking a first step towards the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and respecting the will of the German people who no longer want illegal weapons stationed in their country. Along with Norway who will also participate in the first Meeting of States Parties, Germany is showing leadership in Europe, NATO and the world towards a modern security policy.
Below is a short briefing from ICAN on the impact of the new German government coalition on nuclear weapons.
Key background points
All three parties agreed on a “new push for disarmament policy (abrüstungspolitische Offensive) in the pre-negotiation paper (Sondierungspapier). Coalition negotiators from all three parties have publicly declared their support for observing the Meeting of States Parties for TPNW and should honour this commitment.
Representative polls show consistently that the vast majority of Germans wants Germany to end nuclear sharing and to join the TPNW. Most recently, polls by Kantar show that the majority of supporters of all democratic parties would oppose the government acquiring new nuclear capable aircraft.
Current weapons stationed at Büchel militarily are obsolete - aircraft can be easily detected on radar and have limited reach. The next government will have to decide if and how the Tornados will be modernised/replaced - billions would need to be spent if a decision was made to update these aircraft.
Fiction: TPNW helps adversaries like Russia and China who face no pressure from civil society to sign up
The Facts: The treaty does not call for unilateral disarmament. The elimination plan required by Article 4 can be negotiated jointly by the states concerned to ensure that verification, irreversibility, and other security assurances are guaranteed to a mutually satisfactory level. The TPNW targets all states who are complicit in nuclear weapons. No state is immune from the pressures of international legal norms. We saw this clearly with the international condemnation of Syria’s chemical weapons attacks -- nobody argued that Syria had the right to possess and use the weapons because it wasn’t party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The TPNW is beginning to change the discourse about the acceptability of possessing nuclear weapons, and no state, not even the most isolated and anti-democratic will be able to avoid that stigma. That pressure on the nuclear-armed states, which Germany can contribute greatly to, is the best chance of making progress to nuclear disarmament. Also implicit in this argument is that nuclear weapons confer some benefit -- they do not. Every state that possesses, hosts or claims reliance on nuclear weapons is putting its own citizens at risk of being targeted for a nuclear strike. “For the TPNW supporters, delegitimizing nuclear deterrence and a phasing-out of extended nuclear deterrence are necessary steps on the path to zero.”
- Fiction: If the aim is to achieve more security and peace in Europe, a one-sided decision to withdraw from a consensus is not the right path
The Facts: The treaty does not call for unilateral disarmament (as above). Implicit in this argument is that nuclear weapons confer some benefit - they do not. Every state that possesses, hosts or claims reliance on nuclear weapons is putting its own citizens at risk of being targeted for a nuclear strike. “For the TPNW supporters, delegitimizing nuclear deterrence and a phasing-out of extended nuclear deterrence are necessary steps on the path to zero” (The TPNW: Setting the record straight)
Fiction: Germany is weak or ‘soft’ if it removes involvement from NATO nuclear sharing arrangements
The Facts: This step would in fact show strength in leadership - the TPNW offers NATO members like Germany a practical means of showing leadership in reinvigorating the pursuit of NATO’s objective of reducing and eliminating the security threats posed by nuclear weapons. In choosing to follow the will of the German people - 83% of whom want nuclear weapons removed from Germany - the government would be able to assert its sovereignty and give it a more powerful role in shaping NATO’s nuclear weapons policy by working with other members who want the alliance to fulfil its stated objective of pursuing global nuclear disarmament. The notion of going ‘soft’ on nuclear deterrence reveals the deeply problematic and gendered framing of nuclear weapons. “It is a masculinity in which the capacity and willingness to use weapons, engage in combat, and kill other human beings is seen as essential to being “a real man”.’ (Feminist critique of the atomic bomb). Participating in nuclear sharing is not a condition for having a voice in NATOs Nuclear Planning Group.
Fiction: TPNW weakens the NPT
The Facts: The German Bundestag’s Research Services itself has concluded that the TPNW and the NPT are fully complementary: “The TPNW does not undermine the NPT, it is part of a common nuclear disarmament architecture.” No evidence has been put forward to the contrary, just repetition of the claim. Empirically this argument doesn't hold either. None of the state parties to the TPNW gave up or tried to undermine the NPT.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-government organisations in over one hundred countries promoting adherence to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.
Vrede vzw is member of ICAN.
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