International platform for disarmament and non-proliferation dialogue, research and education

Europe and Nuclear Disarmament: Controversial Views

by Ekaterina Shirobokova

The views expressed in this paper are the author’s own and do not represent those of the VCDNP.

Publication originally appeared on the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium Next Generation Papers website.


International negotiations on a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons divided European states into two groups—strong advocates and opponents of a new document. Furthermore, three states—Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland—preferred to remain neutral and abstained from voting on the resolution to convene the negotiations. However, Switzerland and the Netherlands took part in a new multilateral process. In this article, the author investigates the key factors influencing the positions of Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Germany on nuclear disarmament in general, as well as on the international Humanitarian Impact Movement, and the negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This analysis, based not only on the available sources of information, but also on interviews with a number of high-ranked diplomats and experts, shows that different attitudes of these five European states are driven by a wide range of factors—from the strategic situation in Europe and the influence of major powers and alliances to the various domestic circumstances, threat perceptions, identities, and political traditions. This study also reveals that, despite having relatively similar strategic positions, states may have significantly different visions of nuclear disarmament processes.

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