I don’t think anyone would try to claim that NPT Review Conference earlier this year was not a disappointment, even in the light of the very modest expectations that could be entertained before its start. Already earlier in January the Doomsday Clock of The Bulletin of Atomic scientist had been moved to two minutes closer to midnight, at 23.57 – the last time it was this close was back in 1987.
For Finland it was particularly disappointing that the work done on behalf of the three NPT conveners by Under-secretary Jaakko Laajava as the facilitator for the Conference to create a Middle East free of Weapons of Mass Destruction did not lead to a result.
But this will not dissuade Finland from standing ready to do our part whenever we are asked to do so in the service of arms control and disarmament. Finland remains a strong supporter of arms control measures and their modernisation as we believe that arms control increases stability, transparency and confidence. We have also worked hard on other issues and can take justified pride in being able to contribute to the process leading to the Arms Trade Treaty.
But notwithstanding the failure of the NPT Review Conference some important progress has been made even in the nuclear field. I am, of course, referring to the P5 + 1 agreement with Iran, even if it still unfinished business.
Thus on proliferation we can refer to some progress, but any advances on this front can be jeopardized by the lack of progress on the other pillar of the NPT regime, the promise to move forward on Nuclear Disarmament.
While total nuclear arsenals have diminished since the end of the cold war the pace has now stalled. Five years have passed since the last agreement on limiting nuclear weapons between the US and Russia and the deterioration in superpower relations has put any further efforts on ice and led to accusations and threats of further retreat from existing agreements. Nevertheless we must continue to call on Russia and the US to seek further reductions in all categories of nuclear weapons, including in non-strategic nuclear arsenals. Addressing the tactical nuclear weapons would be a way to increase stability, transparency and confidence and could be the next step.
We must also continue to focus on implementing existing treaties and commitments which there are many that are not yet in force of implemented i.e. CTBT, FMCT, CPNNM and of course the NPT. More importantly we should aim at restoring confidence and building trust for further action.
Unfortunately, in the current security context quick progress in nuclear disarmament seems at the moment unlikely. Against this backdrop it is important to explore ways to increase security by other means, such as reducing the probability of accidental explosions or of unintentional launch of nuclear missiles.
70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear weapons have also re-entered into great power rhetoric. Of particular concern are some Russian statements that can be interpreted as threats to use nuclear weapons. Official documents indicate little or no change in nuclear doctrines, but we have not failed to note how populist-nationalist rhetoric in Russia refers to nuclear arms, as expressed in the T-shirts sold on the streets of Moscow bearing the legend “To hell with sanctions, we have nukes!” Such posturing would have been unacceptable in Soviet times.
Frustration with the lack of progress on Nuclear disarmament has given renewed impetus to the civil society movements demanding the illegalization of nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law. Over 150 states including Finland have given their support to this initiative in order to put pressure on the nuclear weapons states, whose agreement is obviously needed for the initiative to make real progress.
Security cannot be based on weapons of mass destruction. Working towards a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is a responsibility of all nations.
The humanitarian initiative the three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons are in my opinion to be welcomed even if they do upset the monopoly of the P 5 states to set the Nuclear disarmament agenda, and some of them have recognized and accepted the need to engage on the issue with the growing global movement.
All disarmament measures will continue to be based on treaties negotiated by governments and ratified by states. But governments do not conduct these negotiations in a vacuum, and it increasingly evident that every recent disarmament measure has called for the strong and active participation of civil society and organized pressure on governments to deliver. This is evidenced by the history of how the Ottawa treaty banning land mines, the Oslo treaty on cluster weapons and the ATT were achieved.
For disarment, conventional or nuclear, to make progress it it thus important to have strong civil society input and pressure. Political parties should be ready to engage with the manyfold organisations and movements on an expert as well as grass-roots level in creating the pressures and setting the disamement agenda and creating the pressure needed for governments to seriously engage in this.