Nobel Peace Prize 2017: Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons? Part II

By | October 20, 2021

Secondly, the rationale for the weapons rests on some form of nuclear deterrence. Seventy years have passed since World War II without it becoming a third. An obvious explanation gives the new element in the equation – nuclear deterrence – the credit for it. It has urged leaders to exercise caution. But the correlation between the presence of nuclear weapons and the absence of war between the great powers can be spurious , and there are many indications that it is.

Studies of critical phases in international politics, made possible as the archives have opened, have found significant elements of luck in several of the happy outcomes. Proponents of a nuclear-weapon-free world argue that the likelihood of nuclear war is unacceptably high and perhaps increasing, and that it is therefore imperative to get rid of the weapons.

The ingrained belief in nuclear deterrence is perhaps the biggest obstacle on the road to a nuclear-weapon-free world, greater than the elimination of weapons and the infrastructure that supports them. By banning any use, this mental barrier is challenged, not on its own terms, referring to the danger of technical errors, misunderstandings or irrational leaders, but on a general humanitarian basis that enables both civil society and governments to get involved.

4: State security and people security

In the 1990s, the International Commission on Global Governance introduced a distinction between state security and people security . State security is taken care of by governments and security bureaucrats, much of the time without public participation. This applies in particular to nuclear weapons issues, which are often dealt with behind closed doors. NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group is a good example.

The humanitarian approach advocates for the security of the people. The human and environmental effects of nuclear weapons use are of such a nature that everyone, across the globe, has a natural right to co-determination.

According to ehangzhou, the first sentence of the UN Charter reads “We the peoples of the world”. Nevertheless, the UN has essentially been an organization of governments. However, the Treaty of Prohibition, which was negotiated in the General Assembly, was created in collaboration between peoples and governments. This is new, and the future may see more processes in this format.

5: The global strategic context

The five established nuclear powers, the same as the veto powers in the UN Security Council (P-5), say they are deeply concerned about disarmament efforts that do not take the global strategic context into account. Neither the humanitarian approach in general nor the Treaty of Prohibition in particular does so. In a joint statement, the P-5 emphasizes that such advances threaten the consensus-based approach that has strengthened the non-proliferation regime, and calls on all states to engage in a constructive dialogue that includes all states. But the more time passes without them themselves living up to their disarmament obligations, the more meaningless the call for consensus solutions becomes.

There is no doubt that the global strategic context has become more complex. Thirty years ago, when they met in Reykjavik , leaders Reagan (USA) and Gorbachev (Soviet Union) did not realize that others could stand in the way and hinder them in their disarmament ambitions. Together they were dominant enough to decide this, at least in their own eyes. Today, the world has many centers of power, and the relationship between them is more marked by rivalry than cooperation.

In the future, supporters of the ban must also address the security policy debate between the great powers. If not, the initiative may stagnate. Admittedly, it is important that new generations learn more about the effects of nuclear weapons, but there is little new here. The learning curve was much steeper 50-60 years ago when people gathered in protest against atmospheric samples.

6: The relationship to the alliance obligations

The nuclear powers believe that the work for a world free of nuclear weapons must go step by step, step by step. They believe the ban supporters put the cart in front of the horse.

An unconditional ban on use is not compatible with NATO’s obligations, because NATO is a nuclear alliance based on deterrence. To top it off, keep the door ajar for first use. This puts Norway and other allied countries in a serious dilemma. Opposition to nuclear weapons is strong in the Norwegian people, but so is support for NATO.

Nobel Peace Prize 2017 1