Nuclear Weapons Have Been Finally Outlawed: What Now?

A weapon never used or seen before gave birth to a new generation of international warfare and changed the way humans perceive war in the modern era over 7 decades ago. With a surface temperature of 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit (6,000 Celsius), the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima over 75 years ago, it wiped out and over 22,000 men, women, and children within the span of thirty seconds and now, they have finally been banned, so what is next ?.


What is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?

Signed on January 22, 2021, the TPNW prohibits the use, threat of use, development, production, testing, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, formalising into law a strongly held taboo against the use of nuclear weapons and providing a further disincentive for their proliferation.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) outlaws the creation, ownership, and deployment of nuclear weapons by signatory states and places obligations on them to assist other victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

Countries that have ratified the agreement include Nigeria, Malaysia, Ireland, Malta, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Vietnam and Vatican City. Although last autumn, the U.S. made a last-ditch lobbying attempt to try to convince countries to rescind their signatures.

It is believed that the TPNW’s entry into force will trigger the implementation of the treaty’s obligations and prohibitions and can shape the behavior of states and advance the norm against nuclear weapons. Some of these changes will happen immediately, but others may take years or decades; no one is under the impression that worldwide nuclear disarmament will happen overnight.

Yet, as the TPNW continues to take shape, starting with its entry into force and continuing as states-parties meet biennially and once every six years for review conferences, 

The treaty aims to establish the infrastructure to implement treaty obligations; the treaty will continue to chip away at the legitimacy of nuclear weapons in the minority of the world’s countries that continue to support them.



What is next for Nuclear Disarmament 

While the treaty might seem well-aimed, it is realistic to assume that it is ambitious in its approach. As of now, the treaty signatories include Africa’s most populous country and Europe’s least populated, but Russia and The North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationNATO on the sidelines.

With major nuclear players steering clear and in some instances outright opposing the treaty, there is no prospect of the world’s leading nuclear powers giving way, as the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France have not signed the accord.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, stated in November the treaty disregarded the realities of global security. “Giving up our deterrent without any guarantees that others will do the same is a dangerous option,” he said. “A world where Russia, China, North Korea and others have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is not a safer world.”

The new strategic arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia, which limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, is due to expire on 5 February – although NATO is calling on both sides to extend it following Joe Biden’s recent inauguration as the American president.


TPNW and the future of Nuclear Disarmament 

Despite controversy over the nuclear disarmament efforts made by the U.S. and Russia, the pair have previously signed on to and joined many treaties, including the NPT and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). In a phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the two countries agreed to discuss extending New START – which is due to expire next month for five years.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator and former military instructor, said none of the five UNSC permanent members possessing nuclear arms would allow the non-nuclear weapon states to decide their “rules of the game”.

“The game rules in the international community are decided by great powers. If the five nuclear powers still fail to reach a consensus on the nuclear disarmament, they would not let those developing countries decide their fates,” he said.

“The goal of building a nuclear-weapon-free world is a joke and unrealistic. History has shown that the procession of nuclear weapons is the way to maintain global peace.”

The UN’s latest Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), lacks “any rigorous or clear mechanisms for verification,” NATO insisted Tuesday. And, it had not been signed by a single nuclear-weapons possessing state, said NATO, asserting that TPNW risked undermining global disarmament “architecture” which had had the NPT “at its heart” since 1970.

NATO on Tuesday again slammed the new UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons, ratified by a 50th nation in October and applicable from January 22, asserting it “will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon.”



Even if it worked, would it make the world safer?

The key premise behind the thinking about the nuclear weapons ban (whether a ban treaty or a convention) is that such an instrument would make a safer place. The current draft of the treaty, with its explicit demand for the lowest existing standard of inspections, provides a worrying look into the future. 

Complete nuclear disarmament would be highly unlikely to make the world more stable, as the proponents suggest. On the opposite, it would give premium to states cheating on their commitments.

The account above overlooks the possibility that the demise of nuclear weapons could bring about increase in conventional armaments, with a possibility to make international security even more unstable

As the then-Vice President of the United States (2017) Joseph Biden said in one of his last public appearances, “conventional superiority might make nuclear weapons less relevant for the U.S. national security. It may, therefore, mean that nuclear disarmament, if divorced from addressing the underlying security dilemma, may actually increase instability, contrary to the predictions by the proponents”.

In conclusion, while the Emerald Isle has signed the treaty, it is yet to be seen if the treaty has any realistic outcomes or will it remain a symbolic gesture towards a future that is impossible to conceive.



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