NATO and the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons

What does the entry into force of the TPNW mean for NATO and its member states?
Research paper Updated 30 March 2021 Published 29 January 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 441 9
The NATO star sculpture reflected in windows outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

Steven Hill

Associate Senior Policy Fellow, Institute of Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021.

As part of a project examining NATO obligations and how they interact with nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament law and policy, this paper focuses on what the entry into force of the TPNW should mean for members of the NATO Alliance.

NATO has long maintained a strong unified position in opposition to the new treaty, meaning that under current circumstances it is unlikely that any NATO member will join the TPNW. But the reality for NATO, its members and partners is that the TPNW is now here to stay.

There is a risk that if the Alliance maintains an intense focus on opposing the TPNW, this may obscure NATO’s broader long-standing commitment to global nuclear disarmament, and may undermine the potential for NATO and supporters of the TPNW to work together to advance the common goal of nuclear disarmament.