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Ban Nuclear Weapons Now

Weapons designed to mass murder civilians, terrorize the world, and enable impunity for war crimes can no longer be relied on to “prevent war.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and his willingness to brandish the threat of nuclear weapons will spur a renewed drive to rid the world of them.

WASHINGTON, DC – The events of the past three months in Ukraine – like Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine in 2014, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the long proxy war in Syria – have given the lie to the claim that nuclear weapons prevent war. Nuclear deterrence might stop nuclear-armed countries from directly engaging in war with each other, just as it might stop proxy wars from escalating and spreading to the North Atlantic or the Pacific. But it is equally possible that nuclear deterrence has caused war and enabled national leaders to act with impunity.

Nuclear weapons have certainly not stopped Russia from waging aggressive war against Ukraine. On the contrary, President Vladimir Putin is using nuclear threats as a shield behind which to commit flagrant, grave, and systematic war crimes – and possibly crimes against humanity.

States that possess nuclear weapons have frequently gone to war with states that lack them. The erroneous belief that Iraq had developed nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons led the United States and its allies to invade the country against the will of the United Nations Security Council, triggering a humanitarian catastrophe and two decades of insecurity in the region and beyond. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), by suggesting that the status quo of nuclear haves and have-nots should be maintained at all costs, has provided some cover for these actions, as well as for attacks on suspected nuclear facilities in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.