How to Support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Without Signing It

| March 28, 2021 | Leave a Comment


Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: Article - Recent

Date of Publication: February 7

Year of Publication: 2021

Publication City: Cambridge, MA

Publisher: Harvard Kennedy School - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Author(s): Jayita Sarkar


Editor’s Note: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which outlaws nuclear weapons, entered force just after Biden’s inauguration.  Although the Biden administration is highly unlikely to adhere to it directly, can it take smaller steps in line with the TPNW’s goals? Boston University’s Jayita Sarkar outlines a series of measures the administration could take, such as providing assistance to victims of radiation, that would advance the TPNW’s agenda but do not require complete adherence.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on Jan. 22, 2021, only two days after a new U.S. administration was sworn in. The treaty is the first multilateral legal document to outlaw nuclear weapons. How will the Biden administration respond now that it is international law? In recent weeks, former policymakers, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Undersecretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman, have called for the Biden administration to adopt a supportive position on the TPNW. Critics of the treaty, such as then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have called for proactive opposition, or at least benign neglect. But perhaps there is a third option that the administration could consider: the middle ground of selective support.

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