NATO: The ultimate goal may remain a nuclear free world, but deterrence needs to be preserved…

“Our ultimate goal is a world free of nuclear weapons”, Mr Stoltenberg told NATO’s annual Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) conference. “Together, we have reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by more than 90 percent over the past 30 years. But in an uncertain world, these weapons continue to play a vital role in preserving peace.”

Setting out steps towards nuclear disarmament, the Secretary General said that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) offers the best chance to curb atomic arsenals, pointing to the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons already eliminated. He called on the international community to further strengthen the treaty and to join forces to ensure the success of the NPT Review Conference next year.

At the same time, Mr Stoltenberg rejected a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons as it would undermine the NPT and disregard current-day security realities. “Giving up our deterrent without any guarantees that others will do the same is a dangerous option”, he said. “A world where Russia, China, North Korea and others have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is not a safer world.”

The Secretary General called on the United States and Russia to continue to lead on arms control, welcoming the dialogue between the worlds’ two largest nuclear weapons states on extending New START. As a global power, Mr Stoltenberg made clear that China now also has the responsibility to engage in arms control negotiations.

Organised by Romania this year, NATO’s WMD conference brings together more than 200 participants from over 50 countries. Because of the COVID pandemic, the event is held online for the first time.