North Atlantic Council Statement on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  • 20 Sep. 2017 -
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  • Press Release (2017) 135
  • Issued on 20 Sep. 2017
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  • Last updated: 20 Sep. 2017 11:58

At Warsaw in July 2016, the Alliance set out clear positions on the issues of nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament:

Allies emphasise their strong commitment to full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Alliance reaffirms its resolve to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in full accordance with all provisions of the NPT, including Article VI, in a step-by-step and verifiable way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all. Allies reiterate their commitment to progress towards the goals and objectives of the NPT in its mutually reinforcing three pillars: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

Regarding the prevailing international security environment, they further noted that:

After the end of the Cold War, NATO dramatically reduced the number of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and its reliance on nuclear weapons in NATO strategy. We remain committed to contribute to creating the conditions for further reductions in the future on the basis of reciprocity, recognising that progress on arms control and disarmament must take into account the prevailing international security environment. We regret that the conditions for achieving disarmament are not favourable today.”

Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and stability. Indeed it risks doing the opposite by creating divisions and divergences at a time when a unified approach to proliferation and security threats is required more than ever.

The ban treaty is at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. This risks undermining the NPT, which has been at the heart of global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts for almost 50 years, and the IAEA Safeguards regime which supports it. The crisis caused by North Korea underlines the importance of preserving and enhancing the existing framework of the NPT.

The ban treaty, in our view, disregards the realities of the increasingly challenging international security environment. At a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, in particular the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme, the treaty fails to take into account these urgent security challenges.

The fundamental purpose of NATO's nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression. Allies’ goal is to bolster deterrence as a core element of our collective defence and to contribute to the indivisible security of the Alliance. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.

We call on our partners and all countries who are considering supporting this treaty to seriously reflect on its implications for international peace and security, including on the NPT.

As Allies committed to advancing security through deterrence, defence, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, we, the Allied nations, cannot support this treaty. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons. Thus we would not accept any argument that this treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary international law.