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Policy intervention | 14 June 2017

Open letter to the Italian government on the nuclear ban treaty negotiations

UN Conference on the Ban of nuclear weapons called by Resolution 71/258 of the General Assembly

In 2007 four eminent US personalites (a Senator and three former Secretaries of State and Defense: Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and Bill Perry) made an appeal in favor of a world free of nuclear weapons. Other personalities, belonging to various geographical areas and President Obama himself followed that example.

Ten years later the euphoria provoked by that project has all but vanished and no significant progress has taken place at the multilateral level to implement the ideal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Not one of the eight states possessing nuclear weapons has reduced its reliance on such weapons. Since 2006 the DPRK has joined this club. There is a general tendency to modernize existing arsenals; in some cases the very survival of existing treaties is being questioned.

As a reaction to this negative trend, UN General Assembly resolution 71/258 was voted in 2016 calling for a negotiation of “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons leading to their total elimination”. This initiative is coherent with the legally binding NPT commitment to negotiate “the early cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament”.

Last March, a large majority of UN members participated in the preliminary phase of this negotiation. The nuclear weapons states as well as countries such as NATO members which rely on nuclear deterrence for their last defence did not show up to the conference. The fact that these countries, including Italy, have excluded themselves, makes them run the risk that their interests and values and their legitimate motivations, will not be considered by the Conference.

The pledge to pursue the objective of a nuclear weapons free world is already part of the political patrimony of the international community, including NATO, the European Union and the G7. Participation in the New York conference would be a logical consequence of that engagement.

A second negotiating round of this Conference will take place in New York from June 15 to July 7th. In view of the increasing tensions and risks that present confrontations could lead to a nuclear conflict, the signatories of this open letter invite the Italian Government to participate in the conference and encourage other NATO and EU countries to do the same.


Signed by:

Carlo Bernardini, Giuliano Colombetti, Nicola Cufaro Petroni, Marco De Andreis, Mirco Elena, Roberto Fieschi, Diego Latella, Francesco Lenci, Giuseppe Longo, Mario Rocca (members of the Scientific Council of the Union of Scientists for Disarmament -USPID) and

Carlo Trezza, Francesco Calogero, Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Carlo Schaerf, Giorgio La Malfa (European Leadership Network)


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the signatories and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.