ICAN statement on Nuclear Sharing to NPT Prepcom 2023


ICAN campaigner Elisabeth Saar, from Germany, delivered ICAN’s statement to the Preparatory Committee for the 2026 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), focusing on nuclear sharing practices. Please find the full statement below. 

Our statement will focus on the practice commonly known as “nuclear sharing”. ICAN is deeply concerned that a small but growing number of NPT states parties are undermining the NPT by engaging in this dangerous practice. At a time when states parties should be redoubling their efforts to strengthen the norm of non-proliferation and advance disarmament, these few states are exacerbating nuclear risks and jeopardising international security.

Two NPT nuclear-weapon states now claim to station their nuclear forces on foreign soil, following Russia’s announcement in June that it has begun deploying nuclear weapons to Belarus, with more to be delivered by year’s end. This mirrors the United States’ long-standing deployment of nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Türkiye – a practice apparently endorsed by the entire NATO membership.

We condemn all such deployments, and call on those NPT states parties that are genuinely committed to nuclear disarmament – which is the vast majority – to do the same. Such deployments must be brought to an immediate end.

If the concerned states parties fail to take prompt action to cease this practice, the NPT membership should decide by vote at the next review conference on the inadmissibility of nuclear sharing under the NPT. This practice runs counter to the fundamental tenets of the treaty and is a threat to the entire regime.

We are eager to hear from those states that engage in the practice: What is your legal justification? And what, in your opinion, are the legal limits of this practice, if any? Can all nuclear-weapon states lawfully deploy their nuclear weapons on the territories of other states? Can all 185 non-nuclear-weapon states accept the deployment of such weapons on their territories? Surely not. It is in the interests of all NPT states parties that this practice does not spread further. And to guarantee that, it must be brought to an end.

While the views of NPT members on the illegality of nuclear sharing under the NPT may differ, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons leaves no room for doubt: nuclear sharing is expressly, absolutely prohibited. The TPNW provides the highest available multilateral norms against nuclear weapons. Roughly half of all NPT states parties have already joined it, either as signatories or parties, and more are expected to do so in the months and years ahead.

The TPNW rejects the double standards that some NPT states parties seem intent on maintaining and entrenching. It fills a major gap in international law. As the recent embrace of nuclear sharing by Russia and Belarus demonstrates, double standards cannot be maintained indefinitely.

I am from Germany and over and over our government and nuclear weapon states and their allies suggest to us supposed security through nuclear sharing, through nuclear weapons. Security for whom and from whom at all? From their production, deployment and threat to their use, nuclear weapons are an existential security risk for people and the environment. This supposed security has devastating consequences for all of us, especially for those who have suffered for decades in succeeding generations from uranium mining, testing and oppression by nuclear weapons. It is important to take responsibility, to recognize the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons instead of continuing to invest in this practice.

The late South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, who served as a patron of our campaign for many years, once wrote: “We must not tolerate a system of ‘nuclear apartheid’ in which it is considered legitimate for some states to possess nuclear arms but patently unacceptable for others to seek to acquire them. Such a double standard is no basis for peace and security in the world. The same standard must apply to all countries: zero nuclear weapons.” And this is the standard set by the TPNW. We urge all states to join it without delay.

The TPNW complements and reinforces the NPT, and offers the best hope of achieving real progress towards a world forever free of nuclear weapons.