Global pressures on the US

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Addressing the threat from climate in the short-term means a massive national and global effort to drastically reduce carbon emissions from generating electricity, driving cars and heating buildings. Addressing the threat from nuclear weapons in the short-term simply means getting the US President to sign a piece of paper.

And yet opposition to the latter is just as ferocious, if not more so. No one believes that a US President is about to sign the TPNW. But unless that is the demand of a global movement pushing for this as the short-term goal, it is unlikely to happen at all.[1]

And that’s where the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) comes into the picture. There is a global movement pushing for all countries to sign, ratify and implement the TPNW. And slowly but surely it is making headway.[2]

So far, most of the countries who are party to the TPNW are in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific. Many of them are small, but some are big: like Nigeria (6th most populous country in the world), Bangladesh (8th most populous country) and Mexico (10th most populous). Both Indonesia (number 4 in population) and Brazil (number 7) have signed and are expected to ratify soon, which would mean all of the largest countries in the world being parties to the Treaty, apart from those that currently have nuclear weapons (China, India, US, Russia and Pakistan).

Which countries are more likely to influence the US to sign the TPNW? Those with large populations, those who share strong cultural ties and/or military alliances, and, as we’ll see in Chapter 17, those with a significant trading relationship with the US can help put collective pressure on the international corporations involved. 

Existing parties to the TPNW

As of early 2024, 70 countries have ratified the TPNW. The following are some of the most likely to urge the US to join it:

Figure 10.3 States Parties to the TPNW as of September 2023[1]

New Zealand was a military ally of the US but became a thorn in its side over the nuclear weapons issue back in the 1980s, when it refused to allow US ships carrying nuclear weapons to dock at any of its ports.[1] New Zealand is no longer in the ANZUS military alliance with the US and Australia, but remains a close partner of both countries in all other respects, so it does have some influence on them. New Zealand is a strong proponent of the TPNW.

New Zealand, however, hosts a private company that is launching satellites for the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the US Space Force. New Zealand’s official government policy is that it “will not allow a launch from New Zealand if the satellite contributes to nuclear weapons programs or capabilities.”[2] It remains to be seen whether New Zealand can hold its line and help curtail US nuclear weapons developments.

[1] New Zealand activists were blockading US nuclear warships long before it became government policy to deny them entry to New Zealand ports. See Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2020, October 6). USS Buchanan refused entry to New Zealand. New Zealand History.

[2] See Corlett, E. (2022, October 17). New Zealand MP says Rocket Lab launches could betray country’s anti-nuclear stance. The Guardian

 Ireland is another country with strong cultural ties to the United States, although it is not officially in NATO and retains its neutrality. Ireland is a strong proponent of the TPNW and has the strongest national legislation of any country to date, incorporating the TPNW into Irish law and making it an offense to have anything to do with nuclear weapons on the territory of the Republic of Ireland. Violations are punishable by an unlimited fine and up to life in prison.[1]

Despite its claim to neutrality, Ireland has been allowing US military personnel and munitions to land and re-fuel at Shannon Airport on their way to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other locations.[2] The Irish government insists that no bombs are allowed through Shannon, conventional or otherwise, but this could be another key point where Ireland’s adherence to the TPNW potentially impinges on US nuclear weapons policies and planning.

[1] See the Ireland Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2019: Office of the Attorney General. (2019, December 11). Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Act 2019.

[2] See detailed documentation of this at Shannon Watch. (2021, July 8). Military Use Of Shannon Airport

Austria is another European country strongly committed to the TPNW. Although not a member of NATO, Austria is an important member of the EU, OSCE and other international bodies. Austria is host to a number of UN agencies including the IAEA, and in 2014 hosted the third international meeting on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. At the close of this meeting, Austria announced a pledge to “cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, states, international organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”[1] This Austrian Pledge was subsequently signed by another 127 countries and became the basis for negotiating the TPNW.[2]

Austria is an important trading partner with the US, and an important source of finance for US companies as well as an important market for their products. Several of the European companies involved in the nuclear weapons business have operations in Austria, including Thales, Airbus and Leonardo. Lockheed-Martin, one of the largest US nuclear weapons contractors, recently sponsored an exhibition at the UN Office in Vienna to promote some of its more “peaceful” activities.[3]

[1] See text of Austrian Pledge at

[2] See more details at

[3] This was an exhibit about the GPS satellite network that “supports a wide range of civil, scientific and commercial functions—from air traffic control to car navigation systems and from cell phones to wristwatches. GPS is increasing productivity in areas as diverse as farming, mining, construction, surveying, package delivery and supply chain management. The system is also enhancing public safety by reducing response times for ambulances, firefighters and other emergency services.” See their press release here:

Mexico has only one-third the population of the US and a much smaller economy. Nevertheless, it shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States and is now its largest trading partner. Mexico is another very strong proponent of the TPNW. Together with the whole of Central America, which is now party to the TPNW, Mexico and its neighbors have an opportunity to exert some influence on the US through trade agreements and hosting of US companies.

Honeywell, for instance, is one of the top US nuclear weapons companies. It is also one of the top five US businesses operating in Mexico.[1] Honeywell also owns 11 other companies in Mexico, and, together with a number of other US companies, it operates a major aerospace industry in the Baja region of Mexico. Whether any of that work is directly related to nuclear weapons development is as yet undetermined.

[1] Tijuana EDC. (2023, January 19). What US companies manufacture in Mexico? Top 5 businesses. Tijuana EDC

Philippines is another important ally of the United States, and a key location for many US industries. The US navy had its largest overseas naval port at Subic Bay in the Philippines until that was closed down in 1992. Now the US is preparing to open several new bases in the Philippines, in preparation for confrontation with China over Taiwan and disputed islands in the South China Sea.[1]

To remain in keeping with their ratification of the TPNW, the Philippines is in a strong position to insist that US nuclear weapons have nothing to do with their bilateral arrangements with the US military.

[1] Vergun, D. (2023, April 3). New EDCA sites named in the Philippines. DOD News

[1] ICAN. (n.d.-c). TPNW signature and ratification status. Microsoft product screenshot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation.

Signatories in process of ratifying

In addition to the 70 countries that have so far ratified or acceded to the TPNW, another 27 have signed it but not yet ratified. These include Indonesia and Brazil, two of the most populous countries in the world, plus Myanmar, Colombia, Sudan and other regionally and geopolitically important countries.

Figure 10.4 Countries in the process of ratifying the TPNW[1]

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and an important player in the BRICS bloc [1]that crucially includes two nuclear-armed states, India and China (as well as South Africa, a formerly nuclear-armed state). Brazil itself was working to develop its own nuclear weapons during the 1970s and 80s, before dismantling its program in 1990.[2]

With the re-election of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as President in January 2023, Brazil is poised to ratify the TPNW – and to play a leading role in working for its universalization. During the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, at which Brazil was an invited guest, President Lula da Silva made an impassioned speech in support of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.[3] Brazil could play a key role in pressuring nuclear weapons companies like Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, or General Dynamics, currently operating in Brazil.


[2] See Cornejo, R. M. (2000). When Sukarno Sought the Bomb: Indonesian Nuclear Aspirations in the Mid-1960s. The Nonproliferation Review

[3] “As long as nuclear weapons exist, there will always be the possibility of their use,” he said. See Da Silva, L. I. L. (2023, May 21). Speech by President Lula at the G7 working session: “Towards a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous World.” In Planalto. G7 Working Section, Hiroshima, Japan.

Indonesia is another country that tried to acquire nuclear weapons in the 1960s but has since forsworn that ambition.[1] Indonesia is spread over 18,000 islands and with a population of over 275 million people; only India, China and the United States are larger by population. Its importance to the world economy and especially to the United States cannot be overstated. Along with billions of dollars in food and clothing exports to the US, Indonesia has vast reserves of key minerals, including a number of rare earth metals used in EV car manufacturing and battery production.

What role can Indonesia play in the global dance with the US and the other nuclear-armed nations?

[1] See Cornejo, Robert (2000), “When Sukarno Sought the Bomb: Indonesian Nuclear Aspirations in the 1960s.” in Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp.31-43.

[1] ICAN. (n.d.-c). TPNW signature and ratification status. Microsoft product screenshot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation.

Countries that voted for the TPNW

Another 29 countries voted in favor of the TPNW at the end of treaty negotiations in 2017 but have not yet signed it. These include a number of countries in the Middle East that are of vital interest to the United States, like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Djibouti and Yemen.[1] These countries host a number of US nuclear weapons companies and are big buyers of US military hardware and technologies. They are also key sources of finance for those industries.

If and when some of these countries sign and ratify the TPNW, that will add another dimension of difficulty for the US and for US companies involved in the nuclear weapons business. 

Saudi Arabia, for instance, is a base for numerous US, UK, French and Indian nuclear weapons contractors, including Honeywell, Jacobs Engineering, Raytheon, Fluor, Leidos, Thales, Larson and Toubros, Bechtel, Boeing, and Northrup Grumman. Many of these companies are also in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in Qatar, countries that also took part in the negotiations and voted in favor of adopting the TPNW.

Figure 10.5 Countries that voted in favor of adopting the TPNW, July 7, 2017[2]

[1] United Nations General Assembly. (2017). United Nations conference to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons: Second session

[2] ICAN. (n.d.-c). TPNW signature and ratification status. Microsoft product screenshot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation.

Countries under strong pressure to sign the TPNW

The US will start to feel the real impact of the Treaty when some of its closer military allies in NATO and elsewhere sign and eventually ratify the TPNW. The NATO countries most likely to break away and sign the TPNW are Iceland and Finland. That might have little effect on the US directly, but it could open the floodgates for other NATO countries to follow.

Iceland is a member of NATO, but it has never had nuclear weapons stationed on its soil. It’s a self-declared nuclear weapons-free zone “subject to international commitments.”[1] The US had secret plans to deploy nuclear weapons to Iceland in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, but these were never implemented.[2] Iceland does not have a standing army of its own, but it hosted a US military presence of up to 4,000 troops based at Keflavik air base until they were withdrawn in 2006.

 In its statement to the NPT Review Conference in August 2022, Iceland affirmed that it is “strongly committed to work towards the objective of eliminating nuclear weapons,”[3] but this has not yet been translated into joining the TPNW. Nevertheless, the current Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and at least two of her Cabinet Ministers have signed the ICAN Pledge[4] committing Iceland to sign the treaty, along with one-third (21 out of 63 members) of the Icelandic parliament.

Iceland has some of the strongest public support for the TPNW of any NATO country, with a recent opinion poll showing 86% in support of Iceland joining the treaty.[5]

[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (n.d.). National Security. Government of Iceland. from

[2] Burr, W. (2016, August 15). U.S. government debated secret nuclear deployments in Iceland. National Security Archive.

[3] Oskarsson, T. A. (2022, August 2). Statement at the 10th NPT Review Conference. 10th NPT Review Conference General Assembly 76th session.

[4] Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Minister for Social Affairs Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson. See ICAN. (n.d.-a). Full list of pledge takers.

[5] ICAN. (n.d.-c). Iceland.,per%20cent%20opposed%20to%20joining

Finland has just joined NATO after 78 years as a neutral country. The controversial move included a decision not to allow nuclear weapons to be stationed on Finnish territory, although Finland will take part in NATO nuclear war planning.[1] Finland also has a long history of public opposition to nuclear weapons, with 84% of Finns in a recent poll wanting their country to join the TPNW.[2]

Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister of Finland from 2019-2023, is a signer of the ICAN Pledge, along with 30 other colleagues in the Finnish parliament.[3] Haavisto has served in the Finnish government in a number of other capacities and is considered by some to be one of Finland’s most popular politicians. He recently announced his intention to run for President of Finland in 2024.

[1] Reuters. (2023, April 13). New member Finland to take part in NATO’s nuclear planning. Reuters

[2] Laitinen, E. (2019). 84% of Finns want the government to join the TPNW. Rauhanliitto

[3] See ICAN. (n.d.-a). Full list of pledge takers.

Sweden has also broken its long tradition of neutrality by joining NATO in early 2024. Like Finland, Sweden has declared that despite its membership of NATO it will not host nuclear weapons on its soil.[1] Unlike Iceland and Finland, Sweden actually took part in the negotiations for the TPNW and voted in favor of its adoption at the UN on July 7, 2017.

In 2019, the Swedish government published a report recommending against joining the TPNW. However, the door was left open for it to reconsider that decision, and Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister at the time, later said that she had regretted not being able to convince her colleagues to join the Treaty.[2]

Sweden’s largest political party, the Social Democrats, continues to support the TPNW. Their November 2021 party platform states unequivocally, for the first time, that “the goal is that Sweden will join” the treaty.[3] 

Before joining NATO, Sweden joining the TPNW would not have caused much of a stir. But now, with both Sweden and Finland inside NATO, the internal discussions and balance of positions for and against nuclear weapons could begin to shift.

Already a majority of NATO countries have chosen not to host US nuclear weapons on their soil, and a number have explicitly rejected hosting them in peacetime or even in wartime. In addition to Iceland and Finland, Denmark and Norway prohibit hosting nuclear weapons in their countries. Spain and Lithuania both have clauses written into their constitutions that prohibit the stationing of nuclear weapons. Greece and Canada both hosted US nuclear weapons at one time and later withdrew from that arrangement. Currently only Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Turkey are part of the NATO “nuclear sharing” arrangements.  All NATO countries, however, follow current NATO policy on nuclear weapons, which states that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”[4]

[1] Reuters. (2022, November 11). Sweden to spurn nuclear weapons as NATO member, foreign minister says. Reuters

[2] See remarks quoted here: Wright, T. [@TimMilesWright]. (2020, December 16). The former Swedish foreign minister @margotwallstrom expressed regret today at having failed to convince the Swedish parliament to agree to… [X post]. X.

[3] ICAN. (2021, November 9). Ruling party in Sweden: the goal is to join the TPNW.

[4] See Wallis, T (2017), Disarming the Nuclear Argument, Luath Press, p. 100 ff.

Spain, a member of NATO, prohibits the stationing of US nuclear weapons on its soil, and also has the highest popular support in Europe for joining the TPNW: a whopping 89% according to a recent poll.[1] The coalition agreement that brought the left-wing parties, PSOE and Podemos, into power in 2018 included a commitment by both parties to join the TPNW.[2] So far, no action has been taken, but the commitment still stands.

[1] Survey conducted January 2021, see Portela, C. (2021, July 15). Weapons of Mass Debate – Spain: a dispassionate supporter of nuclear deterrence. Institut Montaigne.

[2] See above for history.

Belgium hosts US nuclear weapons at the Kleine Brogel air base, despite strong public opposition. After parliamentary elections in 2020, a coalition agreement among seven political parties included a commitment to explore “how the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can give new impetus to multilateral nuclear disarmament.” That was followed by a parliamentary motion to direct the government to withdraw US nuclear weapons from Belgian territory and to join the TPNW. That motion was narrowly defeated by 74 votes to 66.[1] In 2022, Belgium sent an official delegate to the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in Vienna, along with a number of other countries who had not previously engaged with the Treaty.

[1] ICAN. (n.d.-a). Belgium

Germany is host to more than 35,000 US troops at numerous US military bases all over the country. There are currently around 20 US nuclear weapons at the US base in Buchel, Germany. These are technically under the control of the US military, but they’re designed to be dropped by German planes flown by German pilots.[1] There is strong opposition to these nuclear weapons, with recent polls suggesting as many as 83% of Germans want them removed.

There is also strong support for Germany to sign the TPNW, and more than 100,000 Germans have signed a petition calling for that.[2] Two of the main political parties in Germany, the Greens and the Social Democrats, have become increasingly opposed to nuclear weapons. More than 180 parliamentarians in the German Bundestag have signed the ICAN pledge and are calling for Germany to sign the TPNW.

A new coalition government took office in 2021 after 16 years of Angela Merkel as German Chancellor. The new government includes both Greens and Social Democrats, and the new Foreign Minister is Annalena Baerbock, herself a signatory to the ICAN Pledge. The coalition agreement included commitments to change German policy on nuclear weapons,[3] but so far, all that has come from the new German government is attendance at the first meeting of States Parties to the TPNW as “observers.”[4]

Nevertheless, Germany is poised to join the TPNW sooner or later, and when it does, it will have a seismic effect on US foreign policy, including the ability of the US to maintain its arsenal of nuclear weapons in Europe.

[1] See Stelzenmüller, C. (2021, November 19). Nuclear weapons debate in Germany touches a raw NATO nerve. Brookings.

[2] See ICAN. (2021a). NATO Public Opinion on Nuclear Weapons. In ICAN

[3] The Economist. (2021, November 18). Allies fear Germany’s incoming government will go soft on nukes. The Economist

[4] Kyodo News. (2021, November 25). Germany to observe nuke ban talks in policy shift under new gov’t. Kyodo News+

Australia is another key ally of the United States that has had a recent change of government and is now more inclined toward the TPNW. The current Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has himself signed the ICAN Pledge and is a strong supporter of the TPNW. The Australian Labor Party, of which he is the leader, adopted a resolution in 2018 committing them to sign the TPNW when in government.[1] ICAN itself was founded in Australia and 76% of Australians want their country to join the TPNW.[2]

There is already some controversy surrounding plans to transfer nuclear-powered submarines from the US and UK to Australia. These are not nuclear missile submarines, but they are powered by highly-enriched uranium (HEU), which is the same grade of uranium used in nuclear weapons. This would be the first time HEU is being transferred from a nuclear-armed state to a non-nuclear armed state, potentially in breach of the NPT.[3]

Australia has insisted it will not use the HEU or any of the waste fuel (which also contains plutonium) for making nuclear weapons, but this deal clearly sets a precedent for the transfer of HEU to other states, risking further proliferation of nuclear weapons. One obvious solution to this arrangement would be for Australia to sign and ratify the TPNW, making it clear that it will not make nuclear weapons, and setting the precedent for any other state accepting HEU that they should also commit to the TPNW before doing so.

Meanwhile, with mounting support for the TPNW from the new Australian government, Australia could well be the first major US ally to sign, presenting a major challenge to US efforts to present nuclear weapons as a crucial “deterrent” to China.

[1] ICAN. (2018, December 18). Australian Labor Party commits to joining Nuclear Ban Treaty

[2] According to a 2022 IPSOS poll: ICAN. (2022, May 13). New poll results. ICAN Australia.

[3] Doherty, B., & Hurst, D. (2023, March 14). What is the Aukus submarine deal and what does it mean? – the key facts. The Guardian

Canada is a member of NATO. During the Cold War, it hosted a large number of US nuclear weapons and delivery systems. These were all withdrawn by 1984, after years of political controversy in Canada.[1] Nevertheless, Canada remains closely aligned with US nuclear weapons policy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far shown no interest in parting from that, despite strong opposition to nuclear weapons from within his own party and the Canadian public.

A 2021 public opinion poll found 74% of the Canadian public either strongly or mildly in favor of Canada joining the TPNW.[2]  An open letter in 2020 calling on the government to join the TPNW was signed by seven former Canadian prime ministers, foreign ministers, and defense ministers.[3] Forty-one members of the Canadian House of Commons have so far signed the ICAN Pledge, along with 33 from the Senate and several from Provincial legislatures.[4]

As the US’s closest neighbor and ally, Canada’s support for the TPNW would have serious implications for the US. For this reason alone, it is unlikely to happen as soon as some of the other countries listed here, but when it does, it will be huge.

[1] The fact that US had nuclear weapons in Canada was kept secret from the Canadian public for many years, but a number of nuclear accidents and close calls brought it out into the open to much consternation. See Noakes, T. C. (2021, August 6). Canada and nuclear weapons. The Canadian Encyclopedia.

[2] Nanos. (2021). A strong majority want Canada to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, despite pressure it may face from the United States. In Nanos (No. 2021–1830).

[3] The letter was signed by, among others, Lloyd Axworthy, Jean-Jacques Blais, Jean Chrétien, Bill Graham, John Mccallum, John Manley, and John Turner. See Fifty-Six Former Officials of Nuclear-Dependent Nations. (2020). Open Letter in Support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In ICAN

[4] ICAN. (n.d.-a). Full list of pledge takers.

Getting to a US commitment to join the TPNW

The countries listed above, along with many others, may or may not join the TPNW in the coming months or years. The countries already party to the TPNW may or may not increase their pressure on US companies involved in the development, production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. And even if all of that happens, those factors may or may not have a direct effect on the US government’s interest or willingness to sign the TPNW.

The TPNW is not perfect. No treaty is perfect. All treaties are by definition the result of negotiations between countries who have their own national interests to consider. But if our goal is the total elimination of nuclear weapons in the medium term, there is no viable pathway other than the TPNW. There is no other treaty that bans everything to do with nuclear weapons and sets a pathway for their elimination. There is unlikely to be another one.

To reach the point where a US President is ready to sign this treaty will require a combination of pressures from both outside and inside the US. It will require a US movement pushing for the US to sign the TPNW for sure. (We’ll explore that in more detail in chapters 16, 17 and 18.) And it will also require international pressures from the many pro-TPNW neighbors, allies and trading partners described in this chapter.

This is where the real significance of the TPNW comes into play. The TPNW does not just affect the countries who join it, though that is important in itself for putting pressure on the US companies through the “assistance clause.”

The TPNW is changing the global norm regarding nuclear weapons. It is directly undermining the concept of nuclear deterrence by rejecting the idea that the use – and therefore the threat of use – of nuclear weapons can ever be justified under any circumstances. And it is stigmatizing both the countries and the private companies who are clinging on to the development, production and maintenance of those weapons.

We’ll still need to do much more to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but for the first time in over seven decades, there is the possibility of a real, concrete first step toward a world without nuclear weapons: getting the US to sign the TPNW. This has to be our short-term goal, and nothing short of this is worth fighting for.

[1] See more discussion about challenges and strategies in the final section of this book, Chapters 16-18.

[2] As of September 21, 2023, 69 countries have ratified the TPNW and another 28 countries have signed but not yet ratified it. See ICAN. (n.d.-d). TPNW signature and ratification status.