The third day of the “Forum of Knowledge” took place at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in Saint Petersburg on 24 September 2020. The last day of the Forum hosted two panels that discussed the evolution of the threat of nuclear war and future prospects of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) respectively.
Future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as Seen From Russia & the EU
The prominent conductor, head of the faculty of Arts at Saint Petersburg State University, general and artistic director of Mariinsky Theatre Valery Gergiev delivered the opening statement on the last day of the Forum. He stated that at the time of Covid-19 it is a step of immense importance to convene together and discuss important issues such as nuclear weapons. The maestro pointed out that "nuclear weapons are dangerous and we all have responsibilities toward our children and the future generations. We have to do our bit to help create peace and understanding among nations, countries, and most difficult between politicians." Only through dialogue we would be able to achieve those goals.
Later on, Anastasia Malygina, associate professor at the Saint Petersburg State University, the moderator of the panel discussion gave a brief introduction highlighting the main purpose of this event. First of all, there is an educational need for such discussions. Students of the Strategic and Arms Control Studies Master's Programme at the School of International Relations at SPBU attended the event, as well as the rest of the events of the Forum of Knowledge, because the future of the NPT is in their hands. The second purpose is raising awareness. In the realms of existing nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war, it is vital to spread knowledge among the public the about this issue.
The first speaker was Ambassador Sergey Batsanov (retired) a member of the Pugwash Council of the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. He delivered an overview of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its history.
“It is easy to talk about the NPT, many people know what it is about, and there are many common words used about this treaty. Maybe at the same time, it is not easy because there are so many established narratives in the world and you end up following in the already well-established tracks. The narrative is not the same each time, for most countries it is a cornerstone of national security and stability… for some others, it is still an indiscriminate treaty,” said Ambassador Batsanov.
“The NPT is still a monumental piece of diplomacy, politics, and law which allow us to go through difficult situations in the world, avoiding the worst thinkable and unthinkable consequences of those situations,” he added.
Ambassador Piet de Klerk (retired), co-chair of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV), and chairperson of the Supervisory Board of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee followed. He started his speech with some remarks, concerning the history of the treaty, following ambassador Batsanov's words, only to move afterwards to talk about the future of the treaty and the issues of peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Concerning the nature of the treaty, he said that “the NPT is in the interest of all of us, but it is fair to say that it is relatively, primarily in the interest of the nuclear-weapon states under NPT, because they have these powerful weapons”.
Ambassador de Klerk touched upon the issue of export control saying that “…there is a responsibility to keep export control upright, it is a very important dimension that is not as such in the treaty (the NPT), you can only export nuclear goods by informing the IAEA ... but it is not enough to focus on nuclear goods, you also need to focus on dual-use items, so it has become a much broader area than was foreseen in the treaty”.
"There are a number of clouds in the horizon,” said Ambassador Klerk talking about the future of the NPT.
Oliver Meier, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, and the coordinator of Deep Cut Commission, touched upon the issues of the correlation between the NPT and the newly-created the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). He added that despite the fact that nuclear-weapon states think that this treaty is irrelevant and unnecessary, they keep paying attention to it.
"The nuclear-weapon states reject that the TPNW is a positive element, they argue that it is basically irrelevant to article 6 commitments, and they point out that they are not bound by the TPNW because they have not signed it. But, this stands in contrast to the hysterical reaction to the ban treaty. I think that they are proving themselves wrong, otherwise, why are they spending so much time and effort trying to play it down if it was so unimportant?”
Tytti Erasto, a senior researcher in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said that “the NPT was the great success” and highlighted the responsibilities of nuclear weapons states within the NPT regime. She touched upon the problem of Russia-US relations in the field of nuclear weapons.
“The majority of the NPT members feel that the nuclear-weapon state do not live up to their commitments, either regarding the implementation of article 6 or in terms of managing nuclear threats,” she said.
Peter Jenkins, CMG, chairperson of the British Pugwash Group, tackled a very urgent issue, that of the Iran nuclear deal. He focused on the observation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He predicted the future of the JCPOA in case of the election of a new administration in the United States.
Highlighting the relevance of this issue to the NPT he said that "the US assault on the JCPOA in some sense is an assault on the NPT. At the very least it can be seen as such by many of the NPT’s non-aligned parties”
Several questions were posed by the audience (online and in the room) on different aspects of the NPT issues. You can watch the full discussion on the official channel of the Presidential Library on YouTube.
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About the Library:
Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library is a unique project that combines the capabilities of a digital library and a multifunctional information centre. The Library has about 1000 remote access centres in all 85 regions of Russia and 39 centres in 30 foreign countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain. Furthermore, it contains digital copies of archival documents, scientific materials, periodicals, as well as audio, photo and video documents reflecting the formation and evolution of Russian statehood and the Russian language.
About the Forum
The Forum of Knowledge is an all-Russian academic and educational project annually held by the Presidential Library. This forum consists of a series of events held over several days in September each year at the central site of the Presidential Library in St. Petersburg. The event is broadcast on the library's portal and social media platforms. Video recordings of all panels are available in the digital archive of the library as well. The Forum of knowledge was organized by joint efforts of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library and Saint Petersburg State University (SPbU) and accompanied by informational support of the New Defence Order. Strategy journal.