Photo : REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
13 January 2022, Thursday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #97
By Padmashree Anandhan
P5 statement to prevent nuclear wars: Four takeaways
On 03 January, China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US issued a joint statement to prevent further nuclear arms. The statement said: “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.” The five nuclear power nations called the P5 or N5, recognized under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, hold permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
First, the commitment the P5 nations are ready to give to the NPT. The treaty is an international agreement that aims to achieve nuclear disarmament, deals with the prevention of nuclear weapons and related technology development. The treaty came into force in 1970 with 191 signatories. Two exceptions to the treaty include South Africa and North Korea. The former initially possessed nuclear weapons but later took down the arsenal while the latter withdrew from the treaty and has recently been testing hypersonic missiles. The 10th review of the treaty, scheduled to take place in January 2022, was postponed. It is in place of this review session, the joint statement has been issued. The statement shows the commitment of the P5 nations to the treaty and increased momentum it is to gain in the coming decades.
Second, the assurance provided to non-nuclear weapon states. The non-nuclear-weapon states who are members to the NPT are angered with the nuclear developments taking place in the P5 countries. This statement assures the non-nuclear nations that the nuclear power nations will keep their nuclear capacities under control.
Third, the pledge helps P5 nations monitor Russian and Chinese nuclear developments. In terms of bilateral arms control agreements, only one exists between both, that is the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I and SALT II) which was recently extended till 2026. Apart from that, Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 2019 and the Open Skies agreements in 2020, were all withdrawn by the US while the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is yet to be ratified. In the case of China, the count of nuclear arsenals is on the rise, and the US and other nations need to ensure that Beijing does not become a global nuclear threat. China is estimated to have around 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, and the US, foreseeing this threat, has been urging both parties to sign a new arms treaty.
Fourth, the statement masks the hypersonic tests conducted by nuclear power nations. 2021 saw various hypersonic missiles, hypersonic glide vehicle tests, and the like being launched by the P5 countries. The technology enhances the capability of deploying nuclear weapons, thereby making it more critical for the rest of the world. Hence, the issuing of the joint statement helps reduce criticism against testing of new technologies.
Rishabh Kachroo, “The status of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” The Hindu, 07 January 2022.
“Russia, China, Britain, U.S. and France say no one can win nuclear war,” Reuters, 04 January 2022.
“UN chief ‘encouraged’ by first joint statement from key nuclear armed States,” UN News, 04 January 2022.
“Joint Statement of the Leaders of the Five Nuclear-Weapon States on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races,” The White House, 03 January 2022.
“Five world powers issue pledge to prevent nuclear war,” Deutsche Welle, 03 January 2022.
By Ashwin Dhanabalan and Joeana Cera Matthews
THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Dublin: Birth Information and Tracing Bill approved by the government
On 12 January, the Republic of Ireland introduced a law to allow adoptees to access their birth certificates under the "Birth Information and Tracing Bill". The legislation has been termed a landmark ruling as it would give adoptees above the age of 16 the right to know the identity they were born with, their medical information, and details about their early life. Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman said: "With this bill, we are restoring to adopted people the information that so many of us take for granted as part of our own, personal stories." He added: "... for decades in this country, adopted people have been failed in being denied clear access to their identity information.” Earlier, the parents had the right to object and block the release of information to the adopted individuals which gave those adopted a disadvantage when it came to knowing about inherited medical conditions and genetic diseases. ("Irish adoptees to get right of access to birth certificates," BBC, 12 January 2022; "Ireland to give adopted people access to birth records to end 'historic wrong'," The Guardian, 12 January 2022)
THE UNITED KINGDOM
Johnson accepts violating restriction measures during May 2020 lockdown; apologizes
On 12 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized for attending a drinks party on Downing Street when Britain underwent its first lockdown in May 2020. Johnson spoke to lawmakers during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons saying: "I want to apologize. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months." He had claimed that it was a work event as opposition leaders such as Labour leader Keir Starmer said his reasons were "ridiculous" and called for Johnson's resignation. Starmer further said: "Can't the Prime Minister see why the British public think he's lying through his teeth?" Johnson has recently been facing a lot of heat with the uncovering of scandals and discontentment from his colleagues as he accepted he should have sent everyone home than continue with the event. (Esther Webber, "Boris Johnson apologizes for attending Downing Street lockdown garden party," POLITICO, 12 January 2022; "UK PM Johnson offers apology for attending party during Covid-19 lockdown," France24, 12 January 2022)
IEA head claims Russia to have caused the European energy crisis
On 12 January, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol blamed Russia for creating an energy crisis in Europe. The Guardian cited Birol speaking to reporters, saying: “We believe there are strong elements of tightness in the European gas market due to Russia’s behaviour. I would note that today’s low Russian gas flows to Europe coincide with heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.” This is considered to be the most incriminating statement the agency has released against the Kremlin’s energy policy. Birol added: “The current storage deficit in the European Union is largely due to Gazprom. The low levels of storage in company’s EU-based facilities account for half of the EU storage deficit although Gazprom facilities only constitute 10 percent of the EU’s total storage capacity.” (Jillian Ambrose, “Russia is orchestrating Europe's gas crisis, says energy agency boss,” The Guardian, 12 January 2022)
ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Research article accounts for significance of rainy days in economic impact of climate change analyses
On 12 January, POLITICO reported a research article published in the journal Nature titled “The effect of rainfall changes on economic production”. The article commented on how scientists had failed to account for rainy days when analyzing the economic impact of climate change. One of the article authors and Deputy Head of the Complexity Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Leonie Wenz said: “More rainy days: that's bad for the economy. Droughts and extreme rainfall events and the number of wet days … are all changing due to climate change.” A survey conducted in association with the research estimated that 77 countries in 1,554 regions were inept at dealing with varying weather. POLITICO cited the example of Spain where the “second-worst summer storm of the past 100 years” had “paralyzed the city, flooding tunnels, interrupting metro and regional train services and clogging highways with traffic jams caused by weather-related accidents”. (Karl Mathiesen and Aitor Hernández-Morales, “The rain in Spain causes financial pain,” POLITICO, 12 January 2022)
Human Rights Watch releases its annual report
On 12 January, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its annual report on increasing human rights violations across the globe. The “World Report 2022,” revealed a worldwide increase in repressive and violent acts against civilian protestors by autocratic leaders and military regimes. In contrast, the report also mentioned how ideologically-opposing parties formed coalition governments to remove corrupt, repressive governments and leaders. The Guardian cited instances of these "unlikely" opposition coalitions, stating: "… the Czech Republic, where the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, was defeated, and Israel, where the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu was brought to an end after 12 years in power in 2021." HRW Director Kenneth Roth, concerned with the rising repression and violence, said: "There is a narrative that autocrats are prevailing and democracy is on the decline, yet if you look at the trends in human rights over the last 12 months it doesn't look so rosy for the autocrats." (Annie Kelly, "Increased repression and violence a sign of weakness, says Human Rights Watch," The Guardian, 13 January 2022)
Former Syrian Colonel sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity
On 13 January, a German court sentenced Syrian Colonel Anwar Raslan to life imprisonment for committing crimes against humanity in Syria. The ruling is considered a landmark judgement as an international court under universal jurisdiction has ruled that crimes against humanity did happen under the Bashar al-Assad regime. The BBC reported: "This trial serves another purpose too: to build a body of evidence for use in future proceedings." Raslan was accused of perpetrating crimes during the early stages of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 and 2012. Deutsche Welle reported: "Raslan was allegedly responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people in a General Intelligence Service prison in the capital, Damascus." (Jenny Hill, "German court finds Syrian colonel guilty of crimes against humanity," BBC, 13 January 2022; "German court finds Syrian ex-colonel guilty of crimes against humanity," Deutsche Welle, 13 January 2022)
NATO-Russia Council: Russian demands rejected; agreement on further talks
On 12 January, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was held in Brussels for the first time since July 2019. Primarily focused on the Russian military build-up near the Ukrainian borders, the meeting lasted four hours. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commented on the talks: “Our differences will not be easy to bridge. But it is a positive sign that all 30 NATO allies sat down with Russia after two years.” Stoltenberg stated that both sides agreed on further talks relating to arms control and missile deployment, along with negotiations to reinstall the Brussels and Moscow offices. The Russian security proposals, however, were rejected by NATO; Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko commented: “I think we have managed to make it clear to NATO members that the situation is becoming intolerable for Russia.” He maintained that NATO’s “expansion” into eastern European countries failed to “resolve them” as it only “moves the division lines” instead of removing them. Stoltenberg responded: “We can discuss many issues but we cannot discuss some core principles.” Meanwhile, the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned: “Russia, most of all, will have to decide whether they really are about security, in which case they should engage, or whether this was all a pretext. And they may not even know yet.” (“NATO open to more talks with Russia amid Ukraine tensions,” Deutsche Welle, 12 January 2022; “Ukraine tensions: US says Russia faces stark choice,” BBC, 12 January 2022; David M. Herszenhorn, “Ukraine tensions: US says Russia faces stark choice,” POLITICO, 12 January 2022)