The softening of rhetoric by Nato allies on the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons,

Tom Sauer, associate professor in international politics at the Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium)

Probably the most iconic moment during the negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or “nuclear ban treaty”) was the gathering of a dozen allied ambassadors standing around U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the corridors of the U.N. building in New York, protesting against the ongoing negotiations. While nuclear-armed states and NATO allies remain opposed to the treaty, the tone is softening, and at least two NATO allies are breaking the consensus. […]

Behind the scenes though, nuclear-armed states actually seem to care about the treaty. In an unclassified letter of the United States to its NATO allies on Oct. 17, 2016, the United States warned that “the effects of a nuclear weapons ban treaty could be wide ranging.” The United States also called on all allies and partners “to vote against negotiations on a nuclear weapons treaty ban, not to merely abstain. In addition, if negotiations do commence, we ask allies and partners to refrain from joining them.” Once the United States started to witness a growing number of ratifications of the treaty, it sent a letter to all state parties in October this year, urging them to withdraw their ratification. This clearly indicates that the United States (and the other nuclear-armed states hiding behind the United States) are uncomfortable with the idea of the treaty entering into force. […]

The first real crack in the wall with respect to the treaty was the presence of the Netherlands at the 2017 treaty negotiations in New York, after having abstained on the October 2016 U.N. General Assembly resolution. Why did the Netherlands abstain and attend the negotiations, in both cases as the only NATO member state, despite the explicit demand by the United States not to do so? The Dutch government acted on the instructions of its parliament. […]

The Belgian government agreement of Sept. 30, 2020, which was a compromise among four political families (split up into seven political parties due to the state structure), contains the following sentence: Belgium will play a proactive role in the 2021 NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] Review Conference and, together with its European NATO allies, it will examine how to strengthen the multilateral non-proliferation framework and how the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can give new impetus to multilateral nuclear disarmament [emphasis added]. Läs artikel