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Friday, 19. July 2024

Speech, May 8th, 2023, German Bundestag

The future of global disarmament and arms control architecture

You have scheduled this hearing on 8 May, the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. With this commemoration, you have set an example for the future and for disarmament, for building a peace order. I thank you for this.

The world is in profound, multiple crises. The climate crisis and the increasing danger of nuclear war are the two greatest threats in the 21st century.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the symbolic hand of the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, because they estimate the danger of the destruction of all life on our planet to be greater than at any time since the Second World War.  At the same time, the climate crisis is advancing. The reason for this is the massive over-exploitation of the ecological limits of our planet (planetary boundaries) due to fossil-fuel-based ways of life and production, including the military.

IPPNW Germany also sees the world in the greatest danger since World War II: the danger of nuclear war had already grown considerably before Russia's aggression on Ukraine, because all nuclear-weapon states are rearming their nuclear arsenals. All nuclear-weapon states dress up this armament with the term "modernisation". But the Russian threat to use nuclear weapons in the Ukrainian war has put the real danger of nuclear war here in Europe back on the agenda. The fact is that every nuclear deterrence policy contains the option of wanting to wage a nuclear war—and that means the destruction of life on our planet, with unacceptable humanitarian consequences.

New climate models describe the catastrophic consequences of even regionally limited nuclear conflicts. A nuclear winter would destroy global food chains and lead to the starvation of two billion people. However, these facts are hardly included in the discourse on nuclear weapons and the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. On the contrary, the risks of nuclear deterrence remain hidden.

A possible use of Russian nuclear weapons could not be limited. Anyone who believes this is naïve. Military scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons assume a high risk of escalation. Nuclear deterrence presupposes the will to use them. Otherwise it is not credible.

Even if security experts and the military classify a nuclear war as "limited", it would first destroy the harvests in the northern hemisphere—and subsequently in the southern hemisphere­—due to the sudden drop in the average global temperature of 1.25 degrees Celsius. This would lead to two billion deaths from starvation.

But even without nuclear war, the scenario of starvation and crop failure is real. The ongoing climate crisis is rapidly worsening living conditions on the planet. In many regions of the world, hunger and poverty and death are growing as a result of droughts and heavy rains. The Ukraine war has put the urgency to solve these problems on the agenda.

IPPNW‘s proposed solution: Compliance with planetary impact limits, in all policy fields, i.e. also in security and defence policy, must be initiated now. In concrete terms, this means giving priority to ecology.

IPPNW therefore proposes a paradigm shift in security policy for the future.  The overriding guiding principles must be: cooperation, common security instead of competition and confrontation, for disarmament, for the climate.

What viable concrete steps can the German government take?

1. The G7 summit must send a strong signal for nuclear arms control and disarmament. The G7 states should declare the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons inadmissible. In addition, the terrible humanitarian consequences for people and the environment caused by the testing and use of nuclear weapons must be recognised.

2. The G7 representatives must take the voices of the survivors of the 2,000 nuclear tests seriously and agree on concrete programmes to help these people. Germany should hold out the prospect of financial aid. In August last year, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced that the German government would help to deal with the humanitarian consequences, protect victims and clean up contaminated land. Now this announcement must be followed by action.

3. At the upcoming preparatory conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty from 31 July to 11 August 2023, the German delegation should call on the five nuclear powers in the Security Council to jointly adopt a declaration in which all five nuclear powers commit to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons.

4. The nuclear powers and all NPT parties should decide to establish a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. The danger of a nuclear catastrophe that would reach far beyond Ukraine (depending on the direction of the wind and the extent of the ongoing military bombardment) must be averted.

5 The German government should also accompany the second Conference of States on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons this year in observer status and take further steps towards German accession.