2022 Annual Disarmament Report

The European Space Agency’s earth observation satellite Sentinel‑1B in space

The European Space Agency’s earth observation satellite Sentinel‑1B in space, © ESA/ATG medialab

26.04.2023 - Article

Despite extremely challenging circumstances internationally, the German Government continued to work towards strengthening the international arms control and disarmament architecture in 2022. An overview of initiatives, setbacks and reflection.

The German Government approved the 2022 Annual Disarmament Report in the Federal Cabinet on 26 April 2023. The report highlights the most important agreements and provisions, key developments and the priorities of German arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation policy in 2022.

2022: A year of ongoing efforts

In 2022, despite unfavourable circumstances, the German Government took on responsibility for arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation at international level. One important milestone was the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons held in New York in August 2022, where the German Government was represented by Foreign Minister Baerbock. The German Government submitted proposals for risk mitigation and disarmament verification together with its partners in the Stockholm Initiative and the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI). However, all international efforts to achieve a joint outcome document ultimately failed due to Russia’s blockade, against the wishes of all other participating states.

In June, the German Government attended the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in Vienna as an observer. This reflected the concern that it shares with other states regarding the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament.

Foreign Minister Baerbock utilised Germany’s G7 Presidency to join the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, in advocating for the securing and security of Ukrainian nuclear power plants. This helped to stabilise the situation around the power plant in Zaporizhzhia in particular. As part of its G7 Presidency, Germany also headed the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (GP) during 2022. At the GP’s autumn conference at the Federal Foreign Office, the Berlin lines of action on biosecurity were approved, among other outcomes.

At the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in December 2022, a working group was successfully established, in the face of Russian disinformation, to provide urgently needed support for the Convention.

In the field of security in outer space, progress was made on the path to an international ban on destructive ground-based anti-satellite tests. In 2022, Germany joined Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom in pledging not to carry out such tests in future. Germany had not previously carried out any such tests.

One priority of the German Government was cybertechnology. Another was promoting controls on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). At Germany’s initiative, the United Nations (UN) reached an agreement in July 2022 to create a worldwide network of contacts for discussing cyber policy issues. Significant momentum was generated at an international cyber conference hosted by Foreign Minister Baerbock in September 2022.

In November 2022, Germany assumed the Presidency of the international Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Convention). During its Presidency it was able to make progress with an initiative which it launched at the United Nations to curb the illegal proliferation of munitions.

A year of setbacks

Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine severely damaged Europe’s decades-old system of conventional and nuclear arms control. After 24 February 2022, Moscow repeatedly issued irresponsible nuclear threats. Alongside conventional attacks, there were cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns on an unprecedented scale.

The unresolved proliferation crises resulting from the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes were also a cause for great concern in 2022. Iran expanded its nuclear programme and significantly advanced its enrichment and development activities. North Korea continued developing its delivery systems, tightened its nuclear doctrine and announced plans to considerably expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons. It carried out an unprecedented 35 test series of various ballistic rocket types in 2022 and is a threat to stability and peace in the region.

A year of reflection

Spurred by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and Russia’s previous breaches of international arms control treaties, the German Government began to reassess its efforts at arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in dialogue with its partners. Foreign Minister Baerbock touched on two aspects during her speech at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament in March 2023.

  • In these changed circumstances, the German Government sees arms control as an even more integral element of security policy. Expanding NATO’s capacities and bolstering Ukraine’s resilience does not contradict efforts to promote arms control in Europe and beyond. The two are interdependent and also complementary, serving the same goal of increasing security.
  • Secondly, all efforts at arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation must take account of the fact that there has been a massive loss of trust with regard to Russia. This makes it all the more urgent to mitigate risks and avoid unintended escalation, in order to create a minimum level of security.


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