NATO Secretary General: we stand at a crossroads for international arms control

  • 18 Apr. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 18 Apr. 2023 20:19

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg virtually addressed the 18th Annual NATO Conference on Arms Control, Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation on Tuesday (18 April 2023), underscoring the continued importance of arms control for Allied security.

The Secretary General warned that “this is a deeply challenging period for arms control and for our security in general”, noting Russia’s pattern of “ignoring, violating or abandoning much of the network of international arms control agreements that have kept the world safe”. He also warned that "China is rapidly growing its nuclear arsenal without any transparency about its capabilities", and that further challenges come from Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes and delivery systems, as well as new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and autonomous systems.

In the short term, Mr Stoltenberg said, Allies need to bolster the existing global arms control regimes, principally the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions. He also underscored the importance of engaging with countries in the global south. Looking to the future, the Secretary General called for a new approach to deal with the rapid spread of new, disruptive technologies. "We are determined to develop a shared, universal gold standard for the responsible use of new technologies in defence," he said. "At NATO, we have started this process with our Artificial Intelligence Strategy and its principles of responsible use." He further underlined the importance of engaging with Beijing, saying: "NATO is a unique platform where we engage with China and the wider international community for our mutual benefit; and for Allies to consult on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation."

Hosted by a different country each year, NATO’s 2023 Weapons of Mass Destruction conference is taking place for the first time this year in the United States, in Washington D.C., and brings together more than 150 attendees from around 50 countries. Mr Stoltenberg spoke in an opening session alongside Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.