"I greatly appreciate your very swift response, and your organization's work in general. It's a terrific source of authoritative information."

– Lisa Beyer
Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández

Finland, Sweden, Ukraine Face Hurdles Joining NATO

November 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

As Russia pressed its brutal war on Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, and Ukraine intensified their efforts to become NATO members, but all continued to face obstacles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, shown at a news conference in October, announced plans to apply for “accelerated ascension” to NATO in response to Russian aggression but alliance members have discouraged such a move.  (Photo by Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)After Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions on Sept. 30, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine had signed a fast-track application to join NATO, similar to what Finland and Sweden did in May.

“It is in Ukraine that the fate of democracy in the confrontation with tyranny is being decided,” Zelenskyy said, according to The New York Times.

Although Ukraine has long aspired to NATO membership, the idea is very controversial within the alliance. Zelenskyy’s government largely had set the goal aside as it focused on prosecuting the war against Russia with Western military and economic assistance.

NATO leaders responded enthusiastically when Finland and Sweden applied for membership last summer, but the reaction to the Ukrainian announcement has been noncommittal. “Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Sept. 30 when asked if Ukraine’s accelerated membership was possible.

Like Sullivan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that every democracy in Europe had the right to apply for NATO membership and that Ukraine’s application had to be taken up by all 30 alliance members. “Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion,” Stoltenberg said, also on Sept. 30.

NATO said at its 2008 summit that it would welcome membership bids from Ukraine and Georgia, but it has never offered them membership action plans, which assist aspiring allies in preparing for membership. The main reasons were the concerns of France, Germany, and others about the potential impact on regional stability. Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008.

On Oct. 13, Alexander Venediktov, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, said that Ukraine is well aware that its NATO accession could be a guaranteed escalation into World War III and that Russia’s position remained unchanged, according to the TASS news agency.

After getting off to a swift start, the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden also have run into trouble. They formally submitted their applications on May 18. (See ACT, June 2022.) Since then, Turkey and Hungary have resisted joining the other allies in ratifying the new NATO accessions.

On Oct. 6, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that Finland and Sweden should join the alliance separately and renewed his threat about blocking Swedish accession, The Washington Post reported. Previously, Turkey had accused Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland of aiding groups that Turkey identifies as terrorists, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey perceives as an extension of the PKK.

“As long as the terrorist organizations are demonstrating on the streets of Sweden, and as long as the terrorists are inside the Swedish parliament, there is not going to be a positive approach from Turkey towards Sweden,” Erdoğan said at a news conference after a summit of the European Political Community.

In late June, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to agree to a trilateral memorandum, under NATO auspices, with Finland and Sweden that was supposed to pave the way for the Nordic nations to join the alliance. Finland and Sweden affirmed their support for Turkey against threats to its national security and insisted that they should join NATO together.

“When Finland, together with Sweden, eventually becomes a NATO member, our one Nordic family will finally be welded together by a common alliance, too,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said on Oct 10.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has accelerated such shifts in the European security architecture by altering the threat perceptions of its Western neighbors. “The threat is real," said Col. Magnus Frykvall, commander of Sweden’s Gotland Regiment during BALTOPS 2022, an annual NATO military exercise in which Finland and Sweden traditionally have trained in the Baltic Sea alongside NATO forces. "[W]e have seen what, in this case, Russia is prepared to do to a neighboring country.”

It is unclear when the Hungarian National Assembly will consider Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications. Turkey’s support will still be needed.

Once on a fast-track, the Nordic states are being delayed by Turkey and Hungary. Ukraine is more complicated.

Russia Blocks NPT Conference Consensus Over Ukraine

September 2022
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández and Daryl G. Kimball

Russia blocked the 2022 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference from reaching consensus on a substantive outcome document on Aug. 26 because of differences over the nuclear safety crisis caused by the Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya (L) and Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun confer at a UN Security Council meeting on August 24. During that meeting and the concurrent NPT review conference, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations about the nuclear security crisis engulfing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)At a time of rising nuclear dangers, 151 NPT states-parties worked intensively Aug. 1–26 at UN headquarters to hammer out a document designed to assess implementation of the landmark treaty and identify actions to advance its core goals and objectives of disarmament, nonproliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

But the effort to agree on a joint declaration collapsed in the final hours of the conference when Russia demanded changes to several paragraphs in the 35-page draft outcome document, including those that stressed “the importance of ensuring control by Ukraine’s competent authorities” of the Zaporizhzhia facility.

Ukraine and dozens of other countries originally sought explicit references to Russia’s responsibility for the deterioration of safety at the nuclear plant, which was seized by Russia in March.

Russian and Ukrainian officials exchanged accusations over the course of the conference and in a special session of the UN Security Council on Aug. 10 about who bore responsibility for the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility, which remains occupied by Russian military forces. The text was modified in an effort to strike an acceptable balance, but in the end, Russia was alone in opposing the compromise language.

The result marks the second consecutive NPT review conference that failed to reach consensus on a final outcome document. Given the growing tensions among the five nuclear-armed NPT member states, the conference conclusion was not surprising. Never before has an NPT conference been convened in the midst of a major war in Europe involving one of the treaty’s three depositary states: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

In remarks following the meeting, conference president Gustavo Zlauvinen said that, despite the failure to reach consensus, “this should not detract from the fact that the states have engaged in sustained, in-depth negotiations…that brought us extremely close to an outcome document that contained agreed actions steps. This shows the commitment by all delegations to the treaty” and “provides a basis for momentum going forward.”

Zlauvinen cited the conference agreement on a procedural measure “to establish a working group to strengthen the review cycle to achieve more transparency and accountability and to accelerate the actions states have agreed to pursue.”

The conference breakdown also elicited expressions of disappointment and determination from many of the states-parties.“[T]he NPT will remain a fundamental and irreplaceable cornerstone of the rules-based order,” insisted Adam Scheinman, head of the U.S. delegation, in a closing statement on Aug. 26. “This month has shown that while we still have much work to do, we do agree on more than we disagree, and we are prepared to define ourselves by what we hold in common rather than by what divides us.”

Russia may have been alone in blocking consensus, but it was not the only nuclear-weapon state that resisted making clear commitments to fulfill NPT goals. As time ran out on the conference, many states-parties expressed unhappiness with various elements of the Aug. 25 draft final outcome document, but chose not to oppose consensus. Many non-nuclear-weapon states were displeased with the lack of ambition in the disarmament action plan after years of inaction.

“Costa Rica was prepared to join the consensus on the final document because of our commitment to the treaty…. In truth, the document was well below our expectations, falling short on concrete measures to advance us toward nuclear disarmament,” Maritza Chan, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United Nations, said in her closing statement on Aug. 26.

In his closing comments, Alexander Kmentt, the head of the Austrian delegation to the conference, noted “the dramatic trust and confidence deficit among some nuclear-weapon states.” They can agree on very little, he said, except the one area of “no forward movement on nuclear disarmament. This damages the NPT, puts the norm against the proliferation of nuclear weapons under duress, and reinforces the credibility deficit of this treaty on the implementation of [NPT] Article VI,” on disarmament.

In the final week of the conference, Zlauvinen invited the Finnish delegation to convene consultations involving some two dozen key states to try to iron out consensus language on the thorniest issues. Those negotiations included the NPT’s five nuclear-armed states (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States); the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Egypt); Indonesia, which chairs the Non-Aligned Movement; Austria; Iran; Japan; the Netherlands; Sweden; and Switzerland.

For example, the NPT states-parties could not agree on whether the conference should condemn recent threats of nuclear weapons use issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 and April 27 in the context of the Russian war on Ukraine. As Zlauvinen reminded delegates at the opening of the conference, “[W]e live in a time when the unthinkable—the use of nuclear weapons—is no longer unthinkable.”

Representatives from France, the UK, and the United States, along with their NATO allies, also criticized Putin’s nuclear threats and wanted the conference to condemn “irresponsible rhetoric concerning potential nuclear use intended for military coercion, intimidation, or blackmail” but not nuclear threats that “serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war,” according to a working paper issued by the three countries on July 29.

Many non-nuclear-weapon states, including Austria, Costa Rica, and Ireland, argued that such attempts to distinguish between nuclear threats are unhelpful and that all threats of nuclear use must be condemned as contrary to international law and the UN Charter. In the end, states could only agree that the final draft should commit the nuclear-weapon states “to refrain from any inflammatory rhetoric concerning the use of nuclear weapons.”

The topic of naval nuclear propulsion also drew significant attention. China and Indonesia expressed concerns about the nonproliferation implications of the AUKUS initiative announced in September 2021, by which the United States and the UK would share advanced nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia. The project will likely involve highly enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear weapons, and creates unique challenges for maintaining International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on the nuclear material.

A small group negotiated compromise text on this issue that simply noted “the topic of naval nuclear propulsion is of interest to the states-parties to the treaty” and “the importance of a transparent and open dialogue on this topic.”

The Chinese delegation also opposed references in the draft calling for a voluntary halt of fissile material production for nuclear weapons purposes, pending negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Several state-parties called attention to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which prohibits all nuclear weapons activities and aims to ban all nuclear weapons, as a mechanism that could encourage nuclear-weapon states to implement their NPT Article VI obligations. The draft text acknowledged the entry into force of the TPNW in 2021.

One of the most significant agreed elements in the draft conference outcome document was a pledge by Russia and the United States to fully implement the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) "and to pursue negotiations in good faith on a successor framework to New START before its expiration in 2026, in order to achieve deeper, irreversible, and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals.”

Although the review conference failed to formally reach consensus, several states expressed hope that Washington and Moscow would fulfill their pledges to resume negotiations to further reduce the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

States-parties agreed that the next NPT review conference will be in 2026 with the next preparatory meeting in 2023.

Despite the disappointing outcome, NPT states-parties still hope Russia and the United States will honor pledges to resume nuclear negotiations.

How to Strengthen the NPT

News Date: 
August 24, 2022 -04:00

Updates from the 10th NPT Review Conference

State Parties Fail to Achieve Consensus at The NPT Review Conference August 26, 2022 After four weeks of negotiations, State-Parties failed to achieve consensus at the NPT Review Conference (RevCon). On Thursday night, President Designate Gustavo Zlauvinen released a final version of the conference document. During the last plenary session, Russia objected to the final document over paragraph 34. In its statement regarding the final outcome document, Russia claimed that many delegations had objections to the text and accused other states of politicizing the RevCon. “If there is a wish to find...


Subscribe to RSS - Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández