The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Blair FitzGibbon,

NPT Conference Must Condemn Illegal Threats to Use Nuclear Weapons and Confront Growing Risks


The 191 member states of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) meet at the United Nations in New York today to begin their first review of the treaty since nuclear weapons became prohibited under international law in 2021. The NPT review conference takes place amid a rapidly deteriorating international security environment where all five nuclear-armed states in the treaty are violating their disarmament obligations and increasing risks of use and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine under cover of the threat to use nuclear weapons has fractured the NPT community, heightened the risks of nuclear weapons being used, and increased the likelihood of nuclear proliferation," said ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn. "At the same time, all five nuclear-armed states are violating their disarmament obligations under the treaty and increasing the risk of catastrophic nuclear war."

Of the five nuclear-armed states in the NPT, China and Russia are increasing their arsenals, and the United Kingdom has raised the cap on the maximum number of warheads by 40%. All nuclear-armed countries are fueling a new nuclear arms race by spending $82 billion on nuclear weapons in 2021 alone, including building new and more dangerous weapons systems.

"Russia's nuclear threats have shown us the true nature of nuclear 'deterrence': intimidation, coercion, and facilitating illegal aggression," said Fihn. "This could drive other countries to consider nuclear weapons to defend themselves against nuclear-armed aggressors." Three NPT non-nuclear-weapon states have recently moved in this direction: Belarus has offered to host Russian nuclear weapons, and Sweden and Finland have stated publicly that they now support these weapons of mass destruction as a crucial part of their security policy and would be willing to participate in using them as part of their NATO membership application.

"These developments are extremely dangerous and undermine confidence in the NPT as a tool for enhancing global security" Fihn said. "If Russia or any other nuclear-armed state were to use nuclear weapons, it would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would harm people all over the world." Given the size of today's nuclear arsenals, any use of nuclear weapons would inflict immense and unprecedented destruction, death and displacement, as well as profound long-term damage to the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and the health of current and future generations.

Fortunately, the majority of states in the world have fought back against these dangerous developments by negotiating, adopting and bringing into force the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). "Since the last NPT review conference, nuclear weapons, like chemical and biological weapons, are now comprehensively prohibited by international law," Fihn said. In June 2022, parties to the TPNW issued the strongest multilateral statement ever against nuclear threats, and adopted and began to implement a 50-point action plan to take forward the objectives of the TPNW, thereby taking the lead on the implementation of the NPT.

Fihn said that if the NPT was to remain a credible instrument for disarmament and non-proliferation, the NPT review conference needed to condemn the recent threats to use nuclear weapons, the increase and modernisation of nuclear arsenals, and the increased role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. "The NPT review conference must harness the energy and build on the achievements of the TPNW," Fihn said. "At a time where tensions between nuclear-armed states are increasing, hiding behind vague affirmations and empty promises is not enough. It's time for all states to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the pathway to save the NPT."

The review conference concludes on August 26.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of more than 400 non-governmental organisations in 95 countries. We are calling on governments to launch negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which would place them on the same legal footing as chemical and biological weapons and help pave the way to their complete elimination.