One of the unavoidable consequences of political analysis is an out-of-the-blue event that upends apparent trends. For both the United States and China, that event is the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged as both governments were celebrating a trade deal and yet also clashing on other issues. The response to the pandemic in both capitals has been similar, framed by autocratic governing styles and serious mistakes in judgment that have undermined public trust. Sino-U.S. relations have also suffered at a time when a global humanitarian crisis might be one vehicle to revitalize engagement.
Both the Chinese and U.S. governments were initially unwilling to face scientific facts, were late in responding to people’s needs, and tended to blame others. Narrow political considerations dictated their initial blindness to reality and a cover-up of vital information. Neither system is a model of preemptive action in a pandemic.
But there are at least four important differences between Donald Trump’s leadership and Xi Jinping’s. First, whereas Xi recognized the scope of the crisis within a month and took radical steps to lock down the Wuhan area, Trump, during January and February, failed to act on reports from health experts and intelligence officials, including ignoring a pandemic “playbook” put together by Obama’s emergency preparedness team. Trump’s focus has been on the economy—falling production, unemployment, and a stock market crash—and not on public health, as suggested by his comment that coronavirus fatalities were small compared with those caused by the flu and auto accidents. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted on March 22—the unacceptable “cure” being shutting the country down to prevent out-of-control infections. By the end of March, infections surpassed 120,000, and Trump’s top two advisers on COVID-19 estimated that there would eventually be between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths.
Second, Trump didn’t use all the tools at his disposal to contain the virus. He took far too long to activate National Guard units and the Army Corps of Engineers. He initially resisted pressure to use his power under the 1950 Defense Production Act to order industries to produce critical equipment, such as ventilators, leaving it to states to work out deals with private industry while also competing with each other. His appointees in the bureaucracies responsible for public health were slow to grasp the enormity of the virus and gird for mass testing.
Third, some Chinese media and officials hold the United States responsible for the coronavirus, but not Xi (at least publicly). But Trump, some of his top advisers, and the right-wing media scapegoat China, employing racist language to boot. Trump has wondered aloud why China took “three or four months” to let the United States know about the virus, when in fact China identified the problem late in December 2019 and then shared the genetic code with U.S. scientists. He is among those who insist on calling the virus “Chinese” or “Wuhan”—a characterization that legitimizes growing anti-Chinese resentment around the United States.
Fourth, China has become the leading international donor of supplies and expertise to countries where the COVID-19 infection rate is especially high, including Italy, German, Spain, the United States. Of course, these donations have propaganda value and are meant in part to mask the mistakes at Wuhan. But China has emerged from the virus and is providing foreign aid to fight it, in comparison to the United States, which has shortages of essential equipment and no national strategy for obtaining it. This contrast speaks volumes about how world leadership is changing.
Unfortunately, one other leadership difference is that China is using the COVID-19 crisis to increase surveillance. To better identify carriers of the virus, all Chinese must register by cell phone for an app that separates the healthiest from the most vulnerable. But the data also gives police authorities another tool to locate and monitor individuals. This is occurring as large numbers of Internet police, who belong to a little-known cybersecurity force within the public security bureau, are searching for dissidents. Some prominent human rights advocates who have criticized Xi’s handling of the virus have been jailed, including law professor Xu Zhangrun, book publisher Gui Minhai, legal activist Xu Zhiyong, and real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang.
The Backward drift of relations
Until the onset of COVID-19, the U.S. view of China had been dictated by trade talks. Widespread violations of human rights norms in China—the mass incarceration of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the attempts to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, and the jailing of regime critics—got only mild and inconsistent notice from the Trump administration. When the virus hit Wuhan, Trump was advised by cabinet members and public health experts to ban travelers from China. He hesitated out of concern about a ban’s impact on trade talks and the U.S. economy. The ban went into effect at the end of January 2020, but Trump praised Xi’s handling of the virus on several occasions. He said at that time, for example, that China was “working very hard” to stop it and, throughout February, that China was showing “great discipline” under Xi’s “extremely capable” leadership. These remarks were made at the very time that Trump was ignoring warnings from within the administration of an impending pandemic.
Now the talk in Washington is about economic and technological decoupling with China. But the decoupling is not over human rights issues, which have never interested the Trump administration. Cybersecurity and a pandemic, however, are of great interest, since both affect U.S. industry and trade, and Trump’s chances of reelection. Casting China as a security threat is an easy way to garner support on Capitol Hill these days. A new bipartisan consensus on China has emerged, with some liberals joining with conservatives to argue the need to confront China’s across-the-board efforts to influence American opinion.
COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity for cooperation that is being squandered by xenophobic outbursts. At a time of an international public health crisis, we need more, not less, interaction with China. Cutting back people-to-people and other exchanges, closing down Confucius Institutes, imposing immigration and visa restrictions, limiting technology transfers, reclassifying Chinese media offices in the United States as foreign operations, and putting Chinese nationals and Americans of Chinese heritage who work in U.S. laboratories and universities automatically under suspicion is nothing less than a new Red Scare. Yes, China has engaged in cyber hacking, stolen technical secrets, and spied on sensitive US installations. Yes, in a few cases Confucius Institutes on American campuses have been kept from putting on programs on Taiwan and Tibet. And yes, some American scientists have accepted research positions in China that are more attractive, in money and equipment, than anything available at their home universities. But there is no evidence that these events are part of some Chinese master plan to compromise U.S. national security. They should not become a pretext for making unfounded accusations or threatening universities with loss of federal funds.
Is China really “the central threat of our times,” as Pompeo said in London in January 2020? The Trump administration evidently thinks so. But politically motivated sanctions that hold up China as an enemy foreclose opportunities for cooperation and encourage retaliation, which Beijing has conducted against the United States and other foreign journalists and NGOs since the trade war began. Sanctions and other negative incentives also fail to project the best of American society and democratic values—not to mention doing nothing to alleviate China’s repressive policies. Policy-specific criticism of and competition with China, on the other hand, are certainly in order—for instance, on human rights violations, Asia-Pacific trade and investments, and technology advances such as 5G networks. Also appropriate are actions against unfair Chinese practices, such as harassing journalists, receiving low-interest World Bank loans, and ignoring foreign investors’ intellectual property rights. But “reciprocity” and fairness should not be confused with containment.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement last year – that Beijing poses “a new kind of challenge; an authoritarian regime that’s integrated economically into the West in ways that the Soviet Union never was” – ignores the fond wish of U.S. leaders for many years that China embrace globalization. Also forgotten is that competition is supposed to be the American way—until now, when China is outcompeting the United States. Vice President Mike Pence has twice given major speeches on China policy, each time sounding like a cold warrior disappointed in China for failing to liberalize and determined that China’s “provocations” will be answered forcefully. “So far,” said Pence, “it appears the Chinese Communist Party continues to resist a true opening or a convergence with global norms,” by which he clearly meant compliance with U.S. policy preferences. Neither he nor Pompeo had anything to say about how U.S. policies, notably the trade war, have contributed not only to tensions with China but also to developments elsewhere contrary to US interests, such as deteriorating U.S. relations with South Korea and increased Russia-China military cooperation.
Positive relations with China are of far greater importance to U.S. national interests than are relations with Russia. That doesn’t mean that Washington should neglect opportunities for engaging Moscow. Rather, finding common ground with China is essential to maintaining a peaceful international order on such issues as disease control, terrorism, climate change, the international economy, energy, maritime rules of the road, nuclear and conventional weapons proliferation, and aid to developing countries. These are areas where U.S.-China cooperation is crucial to Asia’s and the world’s well-being. Red scares only make the friction worse. Evan Osnos writes that “uneasy coexistence” is the likely future of US-China relations. In policy terms, U.S. relations with China ought to rest on competitive coexistence.
There are at least two fundamental obstacles to finding common ground. The first is how to bridge the great divide between a newly empowered China and a United States used to being number one. The challenge here comes down to different notions about the international order—what is its essential aspect, who should define it, and how should it be maintained. For the United States, the international order is rules-based, it is defined by the post-World War II institutions that the United States led in creating, and it should be led first and foremost by Washington. China’s role should be that of “responsible stakeholder,” as Robert Zoellick famously said in 2005. For China, on the other hand, the international order is multipolar, demanding creation of a “new kind of great power relationship” in which China’s role is that of a “responsible great power.” These differences over global responsibility and rule-making will persist for some time. Although they need not inhibit finding common ground, they will be a constant source of friction unless directly addressed.
The second challenge in U.S.-China engagement is that both leaderships share a dangerous insecurity. They both operate out of fear. China worries about popular demands for democratic reforms, social protest, an independent media, and economic downturns that create instability. The Trump administration fears democracy, avoids accountability, is contemptuous of the rule of law, and is plagued by corruption and constant internal friction. It faces a population deeply divided over national priorities, culture, race relations, and even the coronavirus, with Democrats far more fearful than Republicans about its effects on health. Both leaderships fear the foreigner, whether that takes the form of reducing immigration or weeding out non-native influences.
Significant portions of both the Chinese and American populations are angry and lacking confidence in their leaders. Political leaderships thus confronted, and convinced of their righteousness, may lash out in a variety of directions. Trade wars, tit-for-tat responses in diplomatic disputes, and military confrontations are all possible. Promoting conspiracy theories and demonizing the other are to be expected. The times call for mutual restraint, recognizing that the latest pandemic, like climate change and mass migrations, can only be effectively dealt with through international collaboration.
This article was republished with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus.
Two years ago on Feb. 24, 2022, the world watched as Russian tanks rolled into the outskirts of Kyiv and missiles struck the capital city.
Contrary to initial predictions, Kyiv never fell, but the country today remains embroiled in conflict. The front line holds in the southeastern region of the country, with contested areas largely focused on the Russian-speaking Donbas and port cities around the Black Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, having recognized the Russian-occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent days before the invasion, has from the beginning declared the war a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine. His goals have alternated, however, between existential — bringing all of Ukraine into the influence of Russia — and strategic — laying claim to only those Russian-speaking areas in the east and south of the country.
It is in the latter that Russia has been much more successful. Yet after two winters of brutal fighting and hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides, as of the end of 2023 Russia only laid claim to 18% of Ukraine’s territory, as compared to 7% on the eve of the war and 27% in the weeks after the invasion.
Meanwhile, the West’s coffers have been opened — and, as some say, drained — to help Ukraine’s government, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, defend itself against Moscow.
Regardless, Ukraine’s military forces have been wholly depleted as they compete with a much more resourced and populous Russia. While Ukraine’s military campaign was able to take advantage of Russian tactical mistakes in the first year, its much-heralded counteroffensive in 2023 failed to provide the boost needed not only to rid the country of the Russian occupation, but also to put Kyiv in the best position to call for terms.
If anything, as Quincy Institute experts Anatol Lieven and George Beebe point out in their new brief, “there is now little realistic prospect of further Ukrainian territorial gains on the battlefield, and there is a significant risk that Ukraine might exhaust its manpower and munitions and lay itself open to a devastating Russian counterattack.”
The only and best solution, they say, is to drive all sides to the negotiating table before Ukraine is destroyed.
The narrative of the war — how it began, where it is today — is well documented. On the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, RS thought it might be instructive to look at the numbers — weapons, aid, polling, population, and more — that illustrate the cost and the contours of the conflict over 24 months, and counting.
The U.S. Congress has allocated a total of $113 billion in funding related to the war. The vast majority of this money went directly to defending Ukraine ($45.2 billion in military aid) and keeping its government and society functioning ($46 billion in economic and humanitarian aid). Other funds went to rearming allies ($4.7 billion) and expanding U.S. military operations in Europe ($15.2 billion).
After two years of war, that funding has dried up. The Biden administration, which once shipped two or three new weapons packages each month, has not sent Ukraine a major arms shipment since Dec. 27, 2023. As Congress struggles to pass an additional $60 billion in Ukraine-related funding, observers increasingly believe that aid package may have been the last.
The Pentagon has sent at least 3,097,000 rounds of artillery to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. Most of those (2,000,000) have been 155 mm shells, the standard size used by the U.S. and its NATO allies. For perspective, that’s about 95,000 tons of 155 mm ammunition alone.
Despite ramping up military manufacturing, the U.S. still only produces about 340,000 155 mm shells per year, meaning that Ukraine has been firing rounds at three times the rate of American production.
Washington has also given Kyiv 76 tanks, including 31 Abrams tanks and 45 Soviet-era T-72Bs. Ukraine has received 3,631 American armored vehicles of various types, from infantry fighting vehicles to personnel carriers and medical trucks.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has made use of 39 American-made HIMARS, a mobile rocket launcher that has become famous for its utility in the war. As for smaller arms, the U.S. has sent at least 400,000,000 grenades and bullets in the past 24 months.
The war has killed at least 10,378 civilians and injured an additional 19,632, according to the UN. More than three in four non-combatant casualties occurred in areas held by the Ukrainian government, indicating that Moscow is responsible for the lion’s share of civilian harm.
When it comes to military casualties, good data still remains hard to come by and estimates are sometimes wildly different. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have offered detailed, public indications of the war’s impact on their soldiers.
The U.S. estimated in August that 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers had died and an additional 100,000 to 120,000 had been injured, putting the number of total casualties at over 170,000. Russia, for its part, claimed in November that 383,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or wounded.
On the other side, the United Kingdom estimates that Russia has suffered at least 320,000 casualties, with 50,000 deaths among Russian soldiers and 20,000 deaths among Wagner Group mercenaries. Washington said in December that Moscow had suffered 315,000 casualties, though American officials did not provide a breakdown of deaths and injuries.
The United Nations estimates that the Ukrainian population (the entire country within internationally recognized borders), which totaled 43.5 million people in 2021, dropped to 39.7 million in 2022 as war swept through the country’s east. This trend continued into 2023, as the population dropped to 36.7 million — the lowest level since Ukraine became independent in 1990.
As of January, 6.3 million Ukrainians have become refugees abroad, with another 3.7 million displaced internally. As the frontlines have settled, Ukraine’s population has slowly started to grow again, reaching 37.9 million in early 2024. Meanwhile, demographer Elena Libanova estimates that only 28 million of those people live within areas currently under Ukrainian government control (outside of Crimea and the Donbas).
Two new polls that came out within the last week illustrate the complexities of Americans’ feelings toward the war in Ukraine and the U.S. role in it.
First, a Pew poll published February 16 found that a large majority of Americans (74%) see the war between Russia and Ukraine as somewhat (30%) or very important (43%) to U.S. interests. And another survey, from the Harris Poll and the Quincy Institute, which publishes Responsible Statecraft, found that Americans broadly support a U.S.-led negotiated end to the conflict.
But the past few months in Washington have been largely focused on U.S. aid to Ukraine, specifically whether Congress will pass President Biden’s request for roughly $60 billion for Kyiv’s fight against Russia.
According to Pew, in March 2022, 74% of Americans said U.S. aid to Ukraine was “just right” or “not enough.” In December 2023, that same survey found that just 47% said the same. The biggest change came from Republicans: 49% said in March, 2022 that U.S. aid was “not enough,” while just 13% said the same in December.
Meanwhile, Gallup found in August 2022 that 74% of Americans said U.S. aid to Ukraine was “about right” (36%) or “not enough” (38%). Those numbers came down slightly in Gallup’s latest track on this question in October, 2023, with 58% saying U.S. aid was about right (33%) or not enough (25%).
There have been several attempts to bring nations together to outline talks to end the war. Russia and Ukraine engaged in five rounds of talks in Belarus and Turkey shortly after the invasion, but the talks collapsed amid allegations of Russian war crimes and Western pressure on Kyiv to keep fighting.
Since then, the belligerents have spoken directly about secondary issues, like Black Sea shipping and prisoner swaps. Ukraine, meanwhile, laid out a “10-point peace plan” that has formed the basis for five international summits, none of which included Russia. These took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in June 2023; in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August 2023; in Malta in October, 2023; in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2023; and Davos, Switzerland, in January of this year.
Since the start of the war, Congress has passed four aid packages for Ukraine, totaling $113 billion. While none of the four packages were identical and aid for Ukraine was sometimes bundled with other spending, the trends for support for Kyiv in Congress are similar to those we see in polling, particularly among congressional Republicans.
The 2022 supplemental, which became law in May 2022 and provided Ukraine with $39.34 billion in aid passed the House 368-57 and the Senate by a vote of 86-11. By September 2023, when the House voted on the Ukraine Security Assistance and Oversight Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provided Kyiv with $300 million in security assistance, it passed by a vote of 311-117, with a majority of Republican members opposing the legislation.
On February 12 of this year, the Senate voted 70-29 to pass a national security supplemental, which would provide approximately $60 billion in aid for Kyiv alongside money for Israel and partners in the Indo-Pacific. The bill has not yet been voted on in the House.
Ben Armbruster, Blaise Malley, Connor Echols and Kelley Vlahos contributed reporting. Graphics by Khody Akhavi.
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A woman lays flowers at the monument to the victims of political repressions following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Moscow, Russia February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
President Biden was entirely correct in the first part of his judgment on the death of Alexei Navalny: “Putin is responsible, whether he ordered it, or he is responsible for the circumstances he put that man in.” Even if Navalny eventually died of “natural causes,” his previous poisoning, and the circumstances of his imprisonment, must obviously be considered as critical factors in his death.
For his tremendous courage in returning to Russia after his medical treatment in the West — knowing well the dangers that he faced — the memory of Navalny should be held in great honor. He joins the immense list of Russians who have died for their beliefs at the hands of the state. Public expressions of anger and disgust at the manner of his death are justified and correct.
The problem comes with the other part of Biden’s statement, that “[Navalny’s death] is a reflection of who [Putin] is. And it just cannot be tolerated.” If he had said “approved,” “justified,” or “defended,” that would have been absolutely right. But “tolerated”? What can Biden do in response, that he has not done already?
The U.S. president has promised major new sanctions intended to “cut Russia off from the world economy” — but that requires Washington to control the world economy. Economic sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine have failed, and even strengthened the Russian economy and the state’s grip on it. They cannot be significantly extended, because this would damage and infuriate countries that are dependent on Russian energy exports, including India, a key U.S. partner. As to sanctions against Russian individuals part of or linked to the Russian regime, there are already thousands of them, and they have had no effect whatsoever.
Statements like Biden’s are both pointless and dangerous. For the spoken or unspoken implication is that it is impossible to deal with Putin. But like it or not, Putin is the president of Russia. To all appearances, he will remain so for a considerable time to come, and will hand over to a successor of his own choosing. The Biden administration has said that it wants Ukrainian victory (whatever that now means), but it has also said that it believes that the war will end in negotiations, and following the failure of last year’s Ukrainian offensive, is now reported to be moving in this direction.
Who does Biden think that he will negotiate with, if not Putin? Seeking talks on an end to the Ukraine war does not imply approval of Putin’s crimes or his invasion of Ukraine, any more than the Eisenhower administration’s negotiation of an end to the Korean War implied approval of the North Korean regime and its invasion of South Korea.
By its own account, the Biden administration has supposedly made the promotion of democracy around the world a central part of its diplomacy, with the clear implication that only democratic governments that respect human rights are truly legitimate. Actual U.S. diplomacy does not work like this and never has; not because of American imperialist or capitalist wickedness, but because the world does not work like this.
Nobody should be required to like or admire the governments of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Mohammed Bin Salman or Narendra Modi (though we might well wish that U.S. officials had been less effusive in their praise of them). Like Putin, they are however the heads of their countries’ governments, and likely to remain so. You deal with Saudi Arabia and India — and you have to deal with Saudi Arabia and India — you deal with MBS and Modi.
The other thing to be wary of in the outpouring of outrage at the death of Navalny, is that this is already being used to build a strategy of greatly increased Western official support for the Russian opposition. Many (not all) people and groups in the Russian liberal opposition are personally and politically admirable. Some, like Navalny, have shown tremendous courage. To say this is quite different from believing that they are ever likely to form the government of Russia, and that the U.S. should base its policy towards Russia on the hope that this will be so.
The sad truth is that the Ukraine war has placed the Russian liberal opposition in a politically impossible position. Having been largely chased into exile by Putin, they are dependent on Western support. This means however that their principled opposition to the Russian invasion can be portrayed by the Russian government — and is seen by many ordinary Russians — as treason in time of war. As with the Iranian, Chinese, and other oppositions, official support from Washington only allows the ruling regimes to paint the name “traitor” in brighter colors.
A combination (differing from individual to individual) of idealism, dependence on the West and hatred of Putin means that instead of advocating a compromise peace in Ukraine, many Russian oppositionists have — willingly or unwillingly — identified themselves with Ukrainian and Western positions that explicitly demand complete Russian defeat.
And while not many Russians wanted the war, not many Russians want to see Russia defeated. As I have remarked before, even many Americans who strongly opposed the war in Vietnam were outraged when Jane Fonda went to Hanoi. If she stood a chance of being elected to any office in the U.S. before that trip, she certainly didn’t afterwards.
Any hope of rebuilding liberalism in Russia (and indeed Ukraine, albeit to a much lesser extent) therefore requires an end to the war. For some degree of authoritarianism is a natural accompaniment to every war, and regimes all over the world have exploited this to increase their own power. Equally importantly, mass support for Putin is critically dependent on the general belief that the West intends not just to defeat Russia but to cripple it as a state, and that to prevent this it is essential to support the government.
For the moment at least, this has eclipsed previously widespread resentments —which Navalny channeled — at regime corruption. No amount of Western or Russian opposition propaganda can change this Russian picture. Peace might, if it is given a chance.
For the third year in a row, globally, the number of investors in nuclear weapons producers has fallen but the overall amount invested in these companies has increased, largely thanks to some of the biggest investment banks and funds in the U.S.
“As for the U.S., while there is, like past years, indeed a dominance, and total financing from U.S.-based institutions has increased, the total number of U.S. investors has dropped for the third year in a row (similar to our global findings), and we hope to see this number will continue to fall in the coming years,” Alejandar Munoz, the report’s primary author, told Responsible Statecraft.
In 2023, the top 10 share and bondholders of nuclear weapons producing companies are all American firms. The firms — Vanguard, Capital Group, State Street, BlackRock, Wellington Management, Fidelity Investments, Newport Group, Geode Capital Holdings, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley — held $327 billion in investments in nuclear weapons producing companies in 2023, an $18 billion increase from 2022.
These companies are also profiting from the enormous government contracts they receive for developing and modernizing nuclear weapons.
“All nuclear-armed states are currently modernizing their nuclear weapon systems,” says the annual “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report from PAX and ICAN. “In 2022, the nine nuclear-armed states together spent $82.9 billion on their nuclear weapons arsenals, an increase of $2.5 billion compared to the previous year, and with the United States spending more than all other nuclear powers combined.”
American weapons companies are some of the biggest recipients of contracts for nuclear weapons. Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics are “the biggest nuclear weapons profiteers,” according to the report. Combined, the two American weapons manufacturers have outstanding nuclear weapons related contracts with a combined potential value of at least $44.9 billion.
Those enormous government contracts for nuclear weapons, alongside contracts for conventional weapons, have helped make nuclear weapons producers an attractive investment for American investment banks and funds.
“Altogether, 287 financial institutions were identified for having substantial financing or investment relations with 24 companies involved in nuclear weapon production,” says the report. “$477 billion was held in bonds and shares, and $343 billion was provided in loans and underwriting.”
The report notes that while the total amount invested in nuclear weapons has increased, the number of investors has fallen and trends toward firms in countries with nuclear weapons.
ICAN and PAX suggest that concentration may be a result of prohibitions on nuclear weapons development for signatories to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a 93 signatory treaty committing to the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The report says:
The TPNW comprehensively prohibits the development, manufacturing, testing, possession, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance with those acts. For companies that build the key components needed to maintain and expand countries’ nuclear arsenals, access to private funding is crucial. As such, the banks, pension funds, asset managers and other financiers that continue to invest in or grant credit to these companies allow for the production of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons to proceed. By divesting from their business relationships with these companies, financial institutions can reduce available capital for nuclear weapon related activities and thereby be instrumental in supporting the fulfilment of the TPNW’s objectives.
Susi Snyder, managing director of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Project, told Responsible Statecraft that even U.S. banks, like Pittsburgh based PNC Bank, are facing shareholder pressure to divest from nuclear weapons and that the tide may be shifting as shareholders in U.S. companies grow increasingly sensitive to investments in nuclear weapons.
“For three years shareholder resolutions have been put forward at PNC bank raising concerns that their investments in nuclear weapon producers are a violation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and that they are not in line with the bank's overall human rights policy guidelines,” she said.