The Russian Duma on March 14 approved a protocol that commits Russia not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons anywhere in Africa.
The protocol is part of the Treaty of Pelindaba, which establishes a zone free of nuclear weapons in Africa, prohibiting countries in the region from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Although Russia is not party to the treaty, the five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—were requested to ratify protocols prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in the zone as further incentive for states in the region to join the pact. Such protocols also are included in four other existing zones, located in South America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.
In remarks to Russian lawmakers March 11, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov noted that Russia’s signature included a reservation that Moscow does not believe the treaty applies to the island of Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island that houses a U.S. military base. Mauritius, a state-party to the treaty, claims the archipelago to which the island belongs.
The Russian ratification leaves the United States as the only nuclear-weapon state not to endorse the pact. Last year, the Obama administration reversed long-standing U.S. reluctance to ratify the zone’s protocol and pledged to seek Senate advice and consent for ratification.
The Pelindaba treaty was opened for signature in 1996 and obtained enough ratifications from countries in the region to enter into force in July 2009. (See ACT, September 2009.)