Action needed to address nuclear threats

Action needed to address nuclear threats

Fifty years ago – on 1 July 1968 – the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was opened for signature, following years of complex but ultimately successful negotiations. On the very same day, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway signed the treaty. Sweden followed suit on 19 August the same year. Our countries have been steadfast supporters of the NPT ever since.

Today a total of 191 states have joined the treaty and it must be considered a multilateral success story. For us, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is an obvious priority – a policy choice underpinned by both humanitarian and security concerns, as well as by global and regional considerations. 

Over the years, the treaty has proven its resilience. The global stockpile of nuclear weapons has been reduced from its Cold War peak of 70 000 warheads to some 14 500 today. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has been curtailed, and the benefits of civilian nuclear energy and technology have been shared on a global scale.

However, the current global security environment is impeding efforts to pursue the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and to close remaining nuclear proliferation loopholes. The North Korean nuclear and missiles programmes are flagrant violations of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a serious challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The outcome of the recent summit in Singapore was a step in right direction, but the real test lies in its implementation. Nuclear disarmament by the DPRK is the key factor.

The Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and is crucial for the security of the region. But it has now been brought into jeopardy. Moreover, the recent recurrent use of chemical weapons in Syria is challenging the international norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction. Failure to address the complex situation we are facing could seriously undermine the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime that the NPT embodies.

We all have a responsibility to work hard to find common ground. We must focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. The Nordic countries cooperate closely on disarmament and non-proliferation, despite our different forms of association with the EU and NATO. History has taught us that sustainable security can only be attained through cooperation. In our efforts to uphold and strengthen the NPT, this is a lesson well worth remembering.

On the 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, our message is clear: We call for continued global commitment to the treaty and to international rules-based cooperation, and a willingness to rebuild mutual trust after years of polarisation. This requires a concerted effort and clear political engagement on the part of both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states.

The two largest nuclear weapons states have a special responsibility. We strongly encourage the US and Russia to extend the New START treaty and to seek further reciprocal reductions in strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed warheads. We also call on the US and Russia to resolve the serious concerns about Russia’s compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty through diplomatic measures. This treaty is of crucial importance for European security.

Looking towards the review of the NPT in 2020, we need to reaffirm, and make progress on, outstanding commitments made within the treaty’s framework. A forward-looking agenda covering all three pillars of the treaty – disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy – is also needed.


Specific items on this agenda could include:

  • Risk reduction: Measures to reduce the risk of accidental use of nuclear weapons, such as prior notification and reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons.
  • Confidence-building measures: Enhanced transparency by the nuclear weapons states and strengthened negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapons states, ideally in a legally binding form.
  • Practical steps: Developing credible multilateral solutions to verify future nuclear disarmament.
  • Arms control: Addressing the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons, a category of weapons currently not covered by any arms control treaty.
  • Strengthening non-proliferation: Working towards universal acceptance of the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and its Additional Protocol as the global safeguards standard.
  • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): Strengthening the global norm against nuclear testing by ensuring the entry into force of the CTBT.
  • Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty: Negotiating and concluding an effectively verifiable treaty that bans the production of fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons, and that also includes practical measures for scaling down existing stocks.
  • Peaceful uses: Making the most of peaceful applications of nuclear technologies in efforts to achieve the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as health, food and water security, and environment surveillance.

For the past 50 years, the NPT has served the international community well. Yet for all its success, its future cannot be taken for granted. Above all, NPT members must uphold the common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Everything possible must be done to avert the risk of nuclear war and, in the words of the treaty itself, ’the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind’. We, the Nordic countries, are certainly willing to do our share.


Anders Samuelsen

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Timo Soini

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland

Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway

Margot Wallström

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden