Russia blocked an agreement The United Nations which aimed to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because Moscow opposed a clause on control of the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine.
The failure to agree on a joint declaration after four weeks of debate and negotiations between 151 countries at the UN in New York is the latest blow to hopes of maintaining an arms control regime and containing a race for revived armaments.
The closing session was postponed for more than four hours due to Russia’s refusal to accept a long statement of support for the NPT which included a reference to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian forces near the frontline in southeastern Ukraine.
The alarm was raised on Thursday when the plant was temporarily cut off from the Ukrainian power grid, but the connection was restored. Russian forces reportedly intend to cut off the plant more permanently from the networkraising fears of a possible catastrophe.
A paragraph in Friday’s final draft text underlined “the paramount importance of ensuring control by the competent Ukrainian authorities of nuclear facilities…such as the Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant”.
The Russian delegation was the only one to speak out against the agreed text, but blamed the failure of the conference on Ukraine and its “protectors”, calling the negotiations a “one-way game”. After delivering its statement, the Russian delegation left the United Nations hall.
The NPT was an agreement reached in 1968 in which states with nuclear weapons pledged to disarm while states without nuclear weapons pledged not to acquire them. At the time, there were five recognized nuclear powers, although Israel was secretly developing its own weapon at that time. There are now nine states that possess nuclear warheads. Before the entry into force of the NPT, some had predicted that there would be dozens of countries with their own arsenals.
This is the second Five-Year Review Conference that has failed to issue a joint statement reaffirming its commitment to the treaty’s objectives. It has been 12 years since there was even a partial agreement.
But Sarah Bidgood, director of the Eurasian nonproliferation program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the NPT was not irretrievably broken and all other countries would have accepted the text.
“The biggest lesson for me is how big the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine has become,” she said. “Even in some of the darkest moments of the Cold War, cooperation in support of the NPT was often possible. But what we saw in today’s final plenary does not bode well for the future of nuclear diplomacy, including on issues like arms control.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the disarmament elements in the proposed text had already been watered down by the five official nuclear powers recognized by the treaty – Russia, the United States , France, the United Kingdom and China.
“So in all honesty, I don’t think it makes much of a difference,” she said. “This is the very dangerous game that the nuclear weapon states are playing by consistently failing to get anything in this treaty. At some point, the non-nuclear weapon states are really going to start wondering if this treaty is worth it and if it is relevant.
Fihn argued that the continued failure of the NPT review conferences to find common ground meant that it was all the more important for countries to join the treaty to ban nuclear weapons (TPNW). , which aims to ban them altogether. It entered into force in January 2021 and, to date, 66 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty.
“It will be really relevant that we move quickly with the TPNW and get more states,” Fihn said. “It’s really an assurance that if [the NPT] continues to fail, that we are not left with nothing.