Nuclear Treaty Dodge Pleases NATO

Finland has refused to sign up to an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, and a Tampere University professor says it's just to keep NATO happy.

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Flags of Finland and NATO / Credit: @FinlandMissionToNATO Twitter

Dozens of countries around the world have signed up to an agreement banning nuclear weapons in recent weeks.

But Finland is following NATO’s example, and won’t commit to the agreement.

Professor Hanna Ojanen of Tampere University says the reason for this, is that Finland doesn’t want to complicate its relationship with NATO.

“In Finland’s decision not even to participate in the preparation [of the treaty] it showed traditional caution in dealing with nuclear matters” says Ojanen.

The legally binding agreement was approved in July and it will enter into force 90 days after at least 50 states have ratified it. The agreement implies a comprehensive ban on the development, purchase and possession of nuclear weapons.

It is the first agreement in the world concerning a total ban on nuclear weapons, and among EU countries, opinions are divided.

NATO members oppose the agreement, while countries outside of NATO like Ireland and Austria, were among the first to sign it. Finland announced well in advance that they wouldn’t even take part in preparing the groundwork for the treaty.

“Different world view”

The Finnish government has said that this new agreement, would conflict with the previous nuclear non-proliferation agreement, especially as nuclear-armed nations will not be signatories to the new treaty.

At the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Head of Department¬†Timo Kantola says that Finland won’t be a part of the new treaty, because it doesn’t promote nuclear disarmament in the best possible way.

Kantola says that the current non-proliferation agreement covers disarmament adequately already, and the new agreement is more like just a declaration, without sufficient contingencies for monitoring a nuclear ban.

“You have to ask yourself how the agreements relate to each other, since there are now two different treaties that ban nuclear weapons” says Kantola.

Professor Ojanen sees the situation slightly differently – two different world images that stand opposite each other.

The current non-proliferation agreement was prepared in the 1960s by the then nuclear powers of the USA, Russia, China, France and Britain. And the language of the treaty didn’t compromise the rights of those countries to have nuclear weapons.

But now there are a large number of countries who are questioning whether nuclear weapons should be allowed at all, and that sentiment lead to this new treaty being prepared.

NATO has clearly stated that it opposes the new agreement. But Professor Ojanen argues that the military alliance doesn’t want member countries signing up to the treaty, because in fact – with USA, France and Britain – nuclear weapons are an important part of its military deterrent.

“NATO has a clear nuclear weapon doctine” says Ojanen. “It would be serious for NATO if it appeared that member states think differently” and sign up to the new treaty.

Sweden’s Position

Finland’s western neighbour, and fellow non-NATO nation Sweden, participated in the preparation of the new agreement, but has not signed up to it yet.

According to Swedish media, the USA has been putting pressure on the Swedes to stay out of the treaty agreement, and warned that defence cooperation between the countries might be at risk.

Dagens Nyheter reported recently on a letter sent by American Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist, which suggested that defence cooperation could be at risk if Sweden signs the nuclear ban treaty.

The Finnish government side-stepped that pressure from the beginning, by sticking to the NATO line.