Why the New Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Is So Polarizing

Andrea Berger

August 3, 2017

The following is an excerpt of the article originally published by the World Politics Review (subscription required)

Few noticed the negotiations at the United Nations for a legally binding prohibition on nuclear weapons, until they were quickly completed last month. On July 7, 122 states voted in favor of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which prohibits parties from engaging in activities related to the development, deployment or use of nuclear weapons, and lays out pathways to eventually disarm those states that possess them. The ban is likely to reinforce existing divides between countries that rely on nuclear weapons for their security, and those that don’t—an outcome for which proponents and opponents of the treaty both bear responsibility.

The way the treaty was negotiated was in many ways unusual. It did not involve any of the countries that possess nuclear weapons, nor did it involve most that rely on them within nuclear alliances. Only the Netherlands, which hosts U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory, participated in the talks, largely because of domestic political pressure. The treaty was also negotiated in “unprecedentedly limited time,” as noted by the head of Sweden’s U.N. delegation. The entire process lasted just over four months, with the majority of work completed in a mere three weeks. Some experts dubbed it a “shotgun treaty.” …

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