Delegates to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons have launched preparations for their 2026 review conference. They met on Monday in Vienna, Austria but found themselves divided over Russia.
The envoys are hoping to make progress after failing last year to reach a final agreement. Russian representatives had objected to wording over their control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine.
Russian leaders have said repeatedly that they may "be forced" to use nuclear weapons to counter their rivals in Ukraine and NATO. They have been moving some of their arsenal into the territory of their allies in Belarus.
The UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Nakamitsu Izumi, said the fact that nuclear weapons have openly been used as "tools of coercion" should worry all members.
The US Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Adam Scheinman, criticized Russia's "unprovoked war against Ukraine" and "irresponsible nuclear rhetoric." He called Russian actions around Zaporizhzhia "reckless" and the suspension of an arms reduction agreement with the US "inconsistent with international law."
Other delegates warned leaders in Belarus about allowing nuclear weapons onto their land, saying that goes against their treaty commitments. The Belarusians said they believe in taking steps toward nonproliferation in "full compliance" with the accord. They said the Russians share that view.
The Russian delegate pointed to representatives who are participating as observers, including those from the European Union, and said such diplomats give themselves power to put blame on member states. He said that type of conduct reflects their "arrogance."