The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Changing Disarmament Discourses in Germany?

A new publication by Katja Astner together with Moritz Kütt

March 1, 2024

The 2021 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) outlaws nuclear weapons—from production and possession to use and threat of use. Germany holds an unusual position as a non-member of the Treaty, a NATO ally hosting U.S. nuclear weapons, and, simultaneously, a regular advocate of global nuclear disarmament. In this chapter, the TPNW is used as a probe to explore whether it has changed the German disarmament discourse. In a first step, Germany’s role in the TPNW negotiation process and the official government position are assessed. A thought experiment is then proposed: assuming the country were to decide to join, what challenges would remain? In the third part, Germany’s discursive actions in international fora and general domestic disarmament discourses are analyzed with a view to determining how the TPNW has shaped them. The analysis shows that Germany’s disarmament policies and responses to the TPNW have often boiled down to a “sowohl als auch” (as-well-as) approach that attempts to combine two conflicting positions: nuclear deterrence and complete nuclear disarmament.

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