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How NATO allies advance arms control and nonproliferation
By Dave Reynolds
April 13, 2023

How NATO allies advance arms control and nonproliferation

(State Dept./D. Thompson)

The United States and NATO are committed to keeping the world safe from weapons of mass destruction.

“There is no benefit to any of our nations, or for the world, to resist substantive engagement on arms control and nuclear non-proliferation,” President Biden said in August 2022. “The United States is determined to lead by the power of our example.”

From April 17–20, the United States will cohost the 18th annual NATO Conference on Arms Control, Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation in Washington. The meeting, held annually since 2004, convenes NATO allies, partner nations and international organizations for talks on keeping the world safe from nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons.

This year’s conference — the first hosted by the United States — will guide NATO priorities for arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation, and include talks on:

  • Strengthening implementation of existing arms control and nonproliferation regimes.
  • Challenges to global security, including from emerging and disruptive technologies.
  • The role of women in advancing peace and security.
  • Ways member countries can advance arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation.

NATO efforts to keep the world safe from weapons of mass destruction come amid challenges to long-standing arms control agreements.

In February 27 remarks to the Conference on Disarmament, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins detailed threats, including:

  • North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and nuclear testing ambitions.
  • Syria’s failure to abide by its International Atomic Energy Agency obligations.
  • Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program.
  • The People’s Republic of China’s nontransparent buildup of its nuclear arsenal.

Further, since its February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has continued to threaten civil nuclear facilities and is waging a disinformation campaign on weapons proliferation. President Vladimir Putin has engaged in nuclear saber-rattling in an attempt to intimidate countries that support Ukraine’s defense.

In August 1, 2022, remarks to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated U.S. commitments to reducing the role of nuclear weapons and leading international arms control efforts.

“We’ll continue to emphasize strategic stability, seek to avoid costly arms races [and] facilitate risk reduction and arms control agreements wherever they are possible,” Blinken said.

Since the NPT was negotiated at the height of the Cold War, the United States has reduced its nuclear weapons by 88%, according to U.S. stockpile data released in July 2022. Global stockpiles have fallen by more than 80% since their peak in 1986, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks global security issues. The NPT entered into force in 1970, and all NATO allies are parties to the treaty.

As United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said in October 2022, “Now more than ever, we need to intensify our commitment to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control as life-saving instruments for preventing conflict, protecting civilians and supporting sustainable peace and development.”