“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” On 16 June, President Biden and President Putin re-affirmed this fundamental truth, famously coined by their predecessors, Reagan and Gorbachev, at the last peak of the cold war. Back then, this sentence marked the beginning of a US-Soviet arms-control engagement beneficial to all humankind. Today, it instils new hope that the world can get back on the path of nuclear disarmament.
We need progress more than ever. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agreements have crumbled in recent years. Renewed tensions and mistrust between global powers have undercut further reduction of nuclear arsenals in the past years. The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, one of the basic instruments for arms control, was terminated in 2019. Technological advance increases complexity, creates new risks and may even fuel a new arms race. And regional proliferation challenges, such as Iran and North Korea, continue to demand our full engagement.
Against this background, the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament, composed of 16 states from all continents, aims to revitalize diplomacy, strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty and make progress on the path of disarmament. In the interest of humanity, we must ensure that nuclear weapons will never be used again.
In a series of Ministerial meetings in Stockholm, Berlin, Amman, and now Madrid, we have developed more than 20 actionable proposals to reinforce the NPT and the implementation of its disarmament goals ahead of its upcoming Review Conference. The extension of the New START earlier this year, the prospect of new talks between Russia and the US on the future of arms control and risk reduction measures, and a new commitment to restraint at the highest political level, as expressed last month in Geneva by the US and Russian presidents, are good news. These ideas figured among the “stepping stones” that our initiative had proposed.
As much as we welcome these positive developments, we encourage nuclear-weapon States to take further decisive steps towards disarmament. These may include reducing the role of nuclear weapons in policies and doctrines, minimising the risk of conflict and of accidental nuclear weapon use, further reducing stockpiles, and contributing to next-generation arms control arrangements. We must, once and for all, put an end to nuclear testing by bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, unblock negotiations on a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for military purposes, and develop robust and credible nuclear disarmament verification capacities. In other words: we should learn from history and thereby build for the future. As part of this, we will strengthen our interaction with affected communities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and our engagement with the younger generation. We will also strive for the full and equal participation of women in decision-making processes in the field of nuclear disarmament, as well as for the full integration of gender perspectives.
That is why we, the countries of the Stockholm Initiative, will meet today in Madrid to reaffirm our resolute commitment to advancing nuclear disarmament and take next steps to that effect.
At our last meeting in Amman, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, told us: “Individually, you represent different regions. Together, you represent a collective commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons”. We call on other States to join us in this endeavour.
Signed by: Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, and Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden