States call for concrete steps to no nukes

·2-min read

The sixteen countries that make up the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament have called on the world's nuclear powers to take concrete steps towards eliminating the most dangerous weapons on earth.

At the initiative's fourth ministerial meeting since being formed in 2019, representatives welcomed the recent announcement of new arms control talks between Russia and the United States.

But in a statement, they also urged all nine nuclear-armed states to "to promote disarmament by adopting significant measures" to meet their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"A path back on track to nuclear disarmament is possible. But above all, it is also urgently needed," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at the meeting in Madrid.

In the wake of the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin just under three weeks ago, Maas said now was "the right moment to propose very concrete measures".

Yet at the same time Maas defended Germany's participation in NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence, which sees non-nuclear countries like Germany host US weapons.

"This is not just about our own protection, but we also take on security guarantees, especially for Eastern European states," he said.

"And I don't think you can put those up for discussion."

Germany is estimated to be hosting 20 US nuclear weapons.

The 16 countries in the Stockholm Initiative do not possess nuclear weapons themselves.

In addition to Germany, the group also includes Argentina, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Stockholm-based peace institute SIPRI released a report in mid-June with findings that there was an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2020, but more were deployed with operational forces.

The nine nuclear-armed states had an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons between them at the start of 2021 - down from 13,400.

But an estimated 3825 were deployed with operational forces - up from 3720 the previous year.

Nearly all of the 2000 kept in a state of high operational alert belonged to Russia or the US.

Earlier this year Russia and the United States agreed to extend the New START nuclear disarmament treaty by five years.

It limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 delivery systems and 1550 operational nuclear warheads each. The deal had been set to expire this year.

Biden and Putin said the extension of New START could provide a basis for further disarmament talks. Russia has said those discussions could begin this month.

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