At a meeting of the UN Security Council on 18 March, UK Ambassador James Kariuki condemned Russia for suspending its obligations to preventing nuclear proliferation, reaffirming the P5 leaders statement of 2022: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.”

Particularly alarming, according to Kariuki, is Russia’s withdrawal from its commitments under the New START treaty, its cessation of participation in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and violations of resolutions regarding Iran and North Korea to procure arms for its ongoing conflict in Ukraine. He urged Russia to return to compliance with its international obligations.

The statement comes five days after Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian nuclear forces were on “constant alert” and that from a “military-technical” perspective Russia is prepared for nuclear war.

“Weapons are there to be used,” said Putin, in a state television broadcast on 13 March, in the days before the Russian presidential elections.

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However, in a statement that surprises international onlookers, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, signalled during a live television interview to the Izvestia TV channel on 17 March that Russian is ready to join discussions on nuclear-disarmament and non-proliferation. 

Ambassador Kariuki underscored the pivotal role of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in maintaining global security over the past fifty years. He highlighted the treaty’s success in promoting peaceful nuclear technologies while safeguarding against the spread of nuclear weapons, and called on the international community to not become complacent regarding nuclear proliferation.

The UK, he stated, is looking forward to a working alongside UN members to strengthen the treaty’s impact: “The UK is committed to a successful review conference in 2026 and looks forward to working with all UN members to this end.” 

The UK stands out as the only nuclear-armed state to have streamlined its arsenal to a single delivery system, maintaining what it deems a minimum credible deterrent. The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure transparency in nuclear disarmament and has significantly contributed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation, hosting thirteen of its monitoring facilities.

Highlighting the broader benefits of non-proliferation efforts, Kariuki detailed the UK’s contributions to expanding access to peaceful nuclear technology, particularly in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. He mentioned the UK’s financial support for the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Fund with $4.3m, and acknowledged the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the Council’s adoption of resolution 1540, which aimed to prevent non-state actors from acquiring materials for weapons of mass destruction.

Ambassador Kariuki specifically pointed to the need for continued vigilance against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, urging the country towards denuclearisation. He also called for Iran and Syria to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noting with concern the advanced state of Iran’s nuclear program.