Vicious in Vilnius

IssueAugust - September 2023
Die-in in Albertina Square, Brussels, on 7 July, just before the NATO summit in Vilnius. PHOTO: JULIE FLAM/KRASNYI COLLECTIVE
Feature by PN

The leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea attended the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, 11 – 12 July.

This underlined NATO’s growing involvement in the US military confrontation with China in ‘the Indo-Pacific’. The end-of-summit statement (the ‘communiqué’) said: ‘The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.... We are working together responsibly, as Allies, to address the systemic challenges posed by the PRC to Euro-Atlantic security....’ France is said to have vetoed the plan for a NATO office in Japan.


CND condemns the outcomes of the NATO summit in Vilnius: the nuclear-armed alliance continues its global expansion while failing to take any initiative to bring the bloody war in Ukraine to a peaceful conclusion.

Finland is the latest state to join NATO with Sweden hard on its heels. The summit confirms that Ukraine’s future belongs in NATO – a recipe for continued conflict and instability.

Elsewhere NATO is planning to further increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific, and is looking at how to expand its reach in the Middle East and Africa by the time of next year’s summit.

Pressure is mounting on member countries to boost spending in the military-industrial sector, which at a time of economic uncertainty and climate breakdown, will only lessen our overall security and cause serious hardship.

CND’s ‘Wages Not Weapons’ campaign calls instead for defence diversification into socially-useful sectors.

The summit stresses that British and US nuclear weapons remain at the heart of NATO’s defence posture in Europe, that NATO will continue to modernise its arsenal and prepare for its use.

This refers not only to the UK’s Trident [submarine-launched nuclear missile] system but also to the US’s upgraded B61-12 guided nuclear bombs stationed across Europe.

CND calls for all NATO nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from Europe and all Russian nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from Belarus.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: ‘This summit makes a very bad global situation even worse. Instead of pushing for peace, NATO is hellbent on continuing the war in Ukraine, and dragging its member states’ economies into massive military-industrial escalation at the expense of their citizens’ welfare and the future of the planet. As the risk of nuclear war continues to grow, CND calls on civil society to resist the militarisation of our societies and work for peace and disarmament – and a new concept of security based on equality, justice and meeting the needs of people and planet.’


The leaders of NATO countries, meeting in Vilnius at a time of unprecedented nuclear risk, took no action to reduce nuclear dangers and, on the contrary, issued a communiqué continuing to support the use of nuclear weapons.

The alliance pointed to the risks posed by Russia’s nuclear weapons while hailing its own nuclear deterrent and nuclear-sharing arrangements. It also criticised the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the only area of progress on nuclear disarmament in decades, demonstrating its concern about the Treaty’s power to stigmatise and eliminate nuclear weapons.

The communiqué, released at the end of the first day of the Summit, condemned Russian deployment of weapons in Belarus and Russia’s ‘irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and coercive nuclear signalling’, while reiterating the alliance’s willingness to use nuclear weapons itself, and its ‘resolve to impose costs on an adversary that would be unacceptable’.

On nuclear sharing

NATO presented its justification for the US deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe, despite democratic and legal challenges to the practice.

It also criticised Russia for the same concept – to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The communiqué is more explicit on nuclear-sharing than previous statements, stating that ‘NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies on the United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe’. But it ignores concerns raised by parliamentarians and citizens in NATO countries.

The communiqué repeated NATO’s position that ‘NATO’s nuclear burden-sharing arrangements have always been fully consistent with the NPT [Non Proliferation Treaty]’, despite the repeated challenges by other NPT members to this assertion.

Nuclear sharing, or stationing nuclear weapons in another country, is explicitly prohibited under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which all countries should join as a matter of urgency to prevent further deployment of nuclear weapons in additional countries.

On the TPNW

The communiqué dedicated several sentences to rebuking the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the only treaty to adopt an action plan on disarmament in over a decade.

[The summit communiqué said: ‘We reiterate that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) stands in opposition to and is inconsistent and incompatible with the Alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy, is at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, risks undermining the NPT, and does not take into account the current security environment.’ – ed]

NATO’s attention to this treaty demonstrates the alliance’s fear about its ability to undermine the possession, threat of use and stationing of nuclear weapons and challenge the practice of nuclear deterrence that all members currently engage in.

The reality is that there is no inconsistency between the two treaties (NATO and the TPNW) – only between the practice of nuclear deterrence and joining the TPNW.

The communiqué claimed that the treaty is ‘in opposition to and is inconsistent and incompatible with the Alliance’s nuclear deterrence policy’.

Yet, throughout the history of NATO, members of the alliance have taken different approaches to weapons and strategy issues, and – as the communiqué itself outlines: Every nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements.

There is no legal impediment to NATO members joining the TPNW.

In fact, several NATO countries are engaging with the constructive work underway in the TPNW, including by observing the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in 2022, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

The NATO Summit in Vilnius could have been an opportunity for member states to demonstrate their commitment to bolstering peace and security by reducing the unacceptably high level of nuclear risk.

As nuclear-armed states, states that host US nuclear weapons and states that accept the use of nuclear weapons on their behalf, they have the power to agree to end these dangerous practices.

Instead, they chose to issue a communiqué with language on nuclear weapons that was hypocritical and empty.

Fortunately, member states to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will meet at the end of November to take real action to address nuclear dangers and advance towards disarmament.