Nuclear war is an existential threat that is completely under our control to prevent. Its prevention would not result in any burden for society, on the contrary, it would make resources available that could be put to far better use.
Nuclear weapons have also attained a remarkably strange and special status since they have long been the only weapons of mass destruction that are not specifically forbidden by international conventions.
The historical background to this sharp asymmetry is well known and has its roots in the weak balance of power between the world’s leading powers during the cold war.
During that period, the risks associated with nuclear weapons were reduced through bilateral agreements between the USA and the former Soviet Union. The proliferation of nuclear weapons was counteracted through the adoption of the non-proliferation treaty (Treaty on the non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT) that aimed at preventing more countries from developing nuclear weapons while requiring the USA, Russia, China, Great Britain and France to disarm. An asymmetric situation has subsequently developed in that a majority of non-nuclear states have honored their promise to not develop nuclear weapons, while the nuclear weapon states in the NPT have not disarmed.
The NPT as well as bilateral agreements on armament control and disarmament were important elements for the significant reductions in nuclear weapon arsenals that followed the end of the cold war during the 90’s. After this initial period, however, the geopolitical situation has deteriorated again, disarmament has stagnated, and we now observe a rearmament among all nuclear weapon states – even among those who stand outside the NPT (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea).
We believe that it is a very dangerous attitude to be complaisant about this threat.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has called upon all the nations of the world to forbid all nuclear weapons by signing and thereafter ratifying the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which was adopted in the general assembly on July the 7th 2017. ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work that same year.
Sweden participated in the negotiations and voted for the adoption of the TPNW in the UN, but has still not signed the treaty. It is now time for Sweden to show its dedication to peace and its complete rejection of weapons of mass destruction by joining the 81 states that, to date, have signed, and the 35 states that now have ratified. (The figures are from Feb. 28th 2020 and are on the increase.)
Only after 50 states have ratified the treaty will the TPNW come into effect. This will allow the international community to put pressure on nuclear weapon states to initiate negotiations on disarmament and increase the pressure on financial actors and industries to terminate operations that contribute to building nuclear weapon arsenals.
All nuclear weapon states have made it clear that they do not intend to sign the treaty, but this is not crucial. The treaty would still give non-nuclear states more negotiating power and moral power. The ultimate goal is to push the international community in a direction leading to a complete abolishment, as has already been achieved with anti-personnel mines, chemical weapons and cluster weapons.
Using the argument that large and powerful countries are against the treaty as a reason not to sign is completely illogical. Think of how the same argument would sound if one replaced “abolishing nuclear weapons” with e.g. “regulating CO2 emissions”.
In October 2017, Sweden commissioned a report from a former state diplomat, Lars-Erik Lundin. The report, released in January 2019, advised that Sweden should not sign the treaty in its present form. The report has met with strong criticism from, among others, the Red Cross, ICAN, Amnesty, Physicians against Nuclear Weapons (Läkare mot Kärnvapen), all associated organizations affiliated with the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Within the academic sector, the report has been criticized by the Harvard Law School, Peter Wallensten, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Thomas Jonter, Professor of International Relations, researchers at the Department of Meteorology at Stockholm’s University and Max Tegmark at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A number of Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry have given their support to the TPNW.
Without delving into the full extent of the report, we would like to alleviate concerns over the negative effects this treaty might have on earlier agreements.
In Article 18, it is specifically stated that the implementation of this Treaty shall not prejudice obligations undertaken by State Parties with regard to existing international agreements.
In addition, Article 10 states that at any time after the entry into force of this Treaty, any State Party may propose amendments to the Treaty.
Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist stated in Dagens Nyheter in the spring of 2019 that Sweden’s security collaborations do not involve nuclear weapons. This implies that Sweden can pursue security collaborations with other Nato states, and at the same time renounce nuclear weapons.
We must have the courage to place ourselves on the side of the struggle that is vital in order for humanity to survive the coming centuries.
Sign the UN nuclear weapon treaty!
ICAN – International campaign to abolish nuclear weapons:
Even more information, in Swedish:
Lars-Erik Lundins utredning:
Remissinstansernas svar på Lars-Erik Lundins utredning:
Artikel av försvarsminister Peter Hultqvist: https://www.dn.se/debatt/repliker/sverige-agerar-for-nedrustning-och-icke-spridning-av-karnvapen/
Artikel av nobelpristagare och Max Tegmark: https://www.dn.se/debatt/darfor-bor-sverige-saga-nej-till-karnvapen/