All eyes were on Geneva today, as US President Joseph Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held their first summit. The summit was a unique opportunity for both presidents to make real progress towards nuclear disarmament, but the outcome of the Geneva Summit does not reflect the gravity of current nuclear risks. Presidents Putin and Biden have made no further commitments to reduce their nuclear arsenals, which would be in line with the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and global opinion.
Presidents Biden and Putin, who together control who control 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals, met for several hours and discussed a number of topics, including cyber security, nuclear weapons and human rights.
After the summit, the two presidents released a joint statement on strategic stability, asserting that a “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” and agreeing to launch a bilateral dialogue on strategic stability to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk mitigation measures.” Crucially, however, Presidents Putin and Biden made no further commitments to reduce their nuclear arsenals in line with the TPNW and global opinion.
ICAN supports diplomacy, but this summit’s outcome doesn’t match the seriousness of the situation. We need to see actual disarmament progress from the countries with the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. The risk of nuclear weapons use is higher than it has ever been, due in part to cybersecurity concerns the presidents discussed. Meanwhile, nuclear weapons spending reached new heights at $72.6 billion in 2020 during a global pandemic.
"We have this chance now" to make progress towards an end to nuclear weapons: @NobelPrize winner @BeaFihn joins @FrancoisF24 in #Geneva 🇨🇭#F24Debate#GenevaSummit 🇺🇸🇷🇺@nuclearban pic.twitter.com/47YMoGmyAh— The Debate – France 24 (@F24Debate) June 16, 2021
The summit in Geneva could have been an opportunity for both presidents to pull us back from this very dangerous position we are in right now and to make real progress towards nuclear disarmament. After all, Geneva is renowned for advancing peace and disarmament. It is the city where Reagan and Gorbachev’s 1985 summit contributed to a turning point in the Cold War, ultimately resulting in significant reductions in their nuclear arsenals. And it is also one of the more than 400 cities that support UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force on 22 January this year.
The world rejects nuclear weapons. Concerned individuals around the world are looking for more than a vague commitment to create the groundwork for status quo arms control; they want real progress on disarmament that will safeguard our future and agree that all countries should join the TPNW.
Biden and Putin should get on board.
Header photo: ICAN | Aude Catimel