The United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom have issued a rare, joint statement saying that a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” and pledging to avoid a nuclear war. Five nuclear powers – also known as the P5 or N5 – are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the five states recognized by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The joint statement said that the five countries consider it their primary responsibility to avoid a nuclear war, reduce strategic risk while working with other countries of the world to create an environment of security.
“As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war”, the English version of the statement read.
The statement said that the bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest since the cold war and the relations between China and the West are also deteriorating. Such a common statement of global security, especially from Russia, the US and China, has become a rarity owing to the friction between these countries. With Moscow threatening to invade Ukraine and China ready to use force to capture Taiwan, the joint statement presents a renewed commitment to avoid confrontation and prevent a nuclear Armageddon.
It took several months of negotiation on the wording of the statement before the five nuclear states agreed on it. France in particular was concerned that such a statement would undermine the deterrent effect of its nuclear arsenal.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was a bargain between the countries without nuclear weapons to not acquire them and the five countries – the P5 – that had them disarm. The attempts at disarming have been stalled as the five countries continue to modernize their arsenal.
Four other countries not recognized by the NPT – India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan – have also shown no signs of reducing their stockpile of nuclear weapons. With the breakdown of the 2015 deal with Iran and the deadlock attempts to salvage it, the prospects of nuclear proliferation are grim in the Middle East.
A joint statement at such a crucial time is welcome.