During his years in the Nixon White House in the 1970s, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sought to manage the US-Soviet rivalry by creating arenas of engagement he hoped would advance the American effort to contain Moscow’s regional and global ambitions. The Soviet Union’s aims were no different. For both countries, the goal of détente, as the French word signifies, was to “relax tensions” while sustaining competition.
The recent if still nascent quest of Iran and Saudi Arabia to move from a cold conflict (and sometimes hot, if indirect) to détente also points to a diplomatic strategy whose ultimate purpose is to win time and maximum advantage. Tehran and Riyadh could reap strategic, diplomatic, and economic advantages from not only reestablishing diplomatic relations but also from initiating talks designed to find some common ground on a host of issues, not least of which is the war in Yemen and the role Houthi forces play.
But given its regional posture—and the widespread (if probably erroneous) perception that following the withdrawal from Afghanistan a US departure from the Gulf is now inevitable—Iran seems well positioned to maneuver talks with Riyadh to its advantage. Iran’s recent request that the two countries reopen their consulates in Mashhad and Jeddah, as a “sign of good will,” before any move to end the war in Yemen underscores Tehran’s confidence. It also suggests that despite the hopes of some western leaders that Saudi-Iranian talks could be a game changer, the prospects for significant diplomatic progress will remain modest. This outcome could ultimately be acceptable—or at least tolerable—to both Riyadh and Tehran.
Tactics and strategy
Two seemingly contradictory but ultimately compatible logics are driving the recent efforts to advance détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The first is the logic of improvisation: the leaders of both countries are making it up as they go along. Their chief concern being regime survival, they must demonstrate a capacity for adaptability at home and abroad. Such tactical concerns present Iranian leaders with the task of forging consensus on the key foreign policy challenges. This is no simple matter because on several vital issues, not least of which is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there seems to be no small amount of confusion. It is therefore wise for the new and largely untested leadership team in Tehran to keep juggling several balls, one of which is the Saudi question.
It is wise for the new and largely untested leadership team in Tehran to keep juggling several balls, one of which is the Saudi question.
For Riyadh, forging consensus is perhaps less complicated because there is only one voice that really matters: that of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). But he has far less political and geostrategic room to maneuver than his Iranian counterparts. In the immediate neighborhood, Saudi Arabia still faces a determined Houthi enemy, while in the wider global arena, Riyadh is yet to figure out its relations with the Biden Administration (and vice versa). By contrast, Tehran has diplomatic, strategic, and economic assets throughout the Middle East. Moreover, it might be prepared to forgo the effort to save the JCPOA and focus its sights on consolidating its array of relationships in the wider region and beyond. Indeed, Iran has the upper hand. And even if it does return to the negotiating table, it has opposed—and will continue adamantly to resist—linking these talks to its regional strategic posture.
This imposing reality brings us to the second logic, and that is strategic. Iran’s leaders have long shared the conviction that the ultimate objective of Tehran’s regional and global enemies is to lay economic, diplomatic, and (if need be) military siege to the Islamic Republic. This perception animates Tehran’s resolve to weaken the threat of “encirclement” by forging a diverse set of relationships that give Iran the capacity to impose varying degrees of pain on its opponents. Riyadh views this strategy as offensive rather than defensive. In its bid to deter what Riyadh sees as Iran’s “expansionist” or hegemonic aspirations, it has depended on the US military umbrella. Riyadh’s escalation of the war with the Houthis signaled a bid by MbS to push back against Iran by striking at its closest regional ally.
But the policy has backfired, thus signaling not only the limits of Saudi Arabia’s military might but also the absence of any coherent strategy for addressing Iran. That Riyadh is improvising on both the tactical and strategic levels gives Iran a real advantage that Saudi Arabia is unlikely to remedy, even if it tries to compensate by bandwagonning on the “Abraham Accords” between Israel, the Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco (and Sudan, although that agreement may now be in jeopardy following the recent coup).
Iranian hard-liners try to figure it out
With the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the helm and President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian manning the sails and rudder, it is reasonable to expect that Iranian foreign policy should reflect a common map and course trajectory. The perception that Iranian hard-line leaders are united—and thus able to respond more coherently to the diplomatic challenges, in contrast to the divided government of former President Hassan Rouhani—has apparently played a role in motivating Saudi leaders to pursue talks with Tehran.
If Iran’s foreign policy team agrees on the big picture, it appears that they have been improvising—and perhaps disagreeing—when it comes to key foreign policy decisions, including the fate the JCPOA.
Still, if Iran’s foreign policy team agrees on the big picture, it appears that they have been improvising—and perhaps disagreeing—when it comes to key foreign policy decisions, including the fate the JCPOA. Over the past weeks, multiple signals about when and whether Tehran might rejoin the Vienna talks have prompted criticism from various quarters, including the reformist oriented Aftab-e Yazd newspaper, whose chief editor on October 18 complained of a “confusing policy.” The economic newspaper Jahan-e Sanat offered a similar assessment when it argued that the government had created “nuclear confusion.” Adding salt to the wound, a senior member of the Iranian Majlis has asserted that the foreign minister’s policy echoed the “action for action” approach that Iranian hard-liners criticized during the last months of the Rouhani government.
Beyond the domestic arena, these criticisms of Tehran’s improvised diplomacy will surely shape the perceptions of key regional and global players. After all, whether Iran ultimately decides to pursue the JCPOA talks is of no small consequence for Iran’s friends and foes alike. Echoing this point, Russia’s envoy to the Vienna talks has openly criticized Iranian leaders for promising to return to the talks “soon.” What, he asked, can that “mean in practical terms?”
For Saudi Arabia, the answer is critical. If a return to the talks—which Iranian leaders have now suggested is possible—leads to a revived JCPOA that provides for removing nuclear related sanctions, and yet offers no provisions for wider talks on regional security, Tehran’s leverage in any talks with Riyadh will be greatly enhanced. Saudi Arabia could thus be under increased pressure to make concessions on vital issues such as the Houthi campaign in Yemen. By contrast, if the nuclear talks fail to materialize and US-Iranian tensions increase, Riyadh might be under less pressure from Washington to pursue diplomacy with Tehran or to revive talks with the Houthis. Still, given Iran’s strategic presence in the region and recent Houthi military advances in Yemen’s energy-rich regions of Shabwa and Marib, a failure of diplomacy would not necessarily work to Riyadh’s advantage.
Yemen, the JCPOA, and the diplomatic waiting game
Reiterating Iran’s confidence, Abbas Neil Foroshan, who serves as the assistant for operational affairs in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated on October 14 that Saudi Arabia has no choice but to negotiate a conclusion of the Yemen war. Because the “enemy,” he declared, “cannot defeat the Yemeni resistance front,” the “wisest way is to reach a peaceful agreement.” Not surprisingly, the Saudi position is that Iran must first end its support for Houthi militias before any meaningful talks between Tehran and Riyadh could advance.
The Saudi position is that Iran must first end its support for Houthi militias before any meaningful talks between Tehran and Riyadh could advance.
Presumably, the two sides began staking out these positions during their September 21stmeeting at Baghdad’s international airport. With Iraq continuing to serve as the crucial mediator, reports suggest that Saudi and Iranian diplomats created a tentative framework for addressing the Yemen conflict. But as one analyst notes, Iran “still has to prove it has real influence over the Houthis—at least enough to make them sit down for peace talks.” If, as suggested here, Tehran’s capacity to push Houthi forces to the negotiating table were in fact limited, its capacity to leverage the Yemen conflict for its strategic advantage may also be constrained. This prospect will surely influence the calculation of Saudi leaders, who will wonder if Tehran has the political will or even the means to deliver on the Houthis.
The significance of these contending calculations will ultimately rest on the course of US-Iranian relations and the fate of the JCPOA. Recent statements by Iranian negotiators that talks will resume in Vienna by the end of November could indicate a real desire to get back to the negotiating table. They could also constitute a tactical maneuver designed to win Tehran time, now that it has been vigorously criticized by the International Atomic Energy Agency for further expanding its enrichment program in ways that the head of the IAEA has warned could lead to a total breakdown of the United Nations’ monitoring mechanism of Iran’s nuclear facilities. This prospect surely helps to explain the White House’s cautious, if not skeptical, response to the recent statement by Iranian officials. As noted above, Iranian leaders are still trying to work out where they ultimately stand on this crucial question.
At the end of the day, both Iran and Saudi Arabia will benefit from a process of détente which, if it advances, could provide substantial economic benefits. Paradoxically, a return to the JCPOA talks—and along with that, the prospects for increased Iranian oil exports—may be putting an end to a recent oil rally that had sent the price of crude oil to $85 a barrel. At the same time, if talks restart and advance, then Iran might also increase its exports. Yet if Iran might have much to gain from a sustained effort to advance the Vienna talks, its hard-liner government remains profoundly—and perhaps understandably—skeptical that the Biden Administration would honor any commitments it makes at the negotiating table.
Thus, whether by design or default, the confusion occasioned by the various promises and statements made by Iranian leaders on the JCPOA talks works far more to the favor of Tehran than Riyadh. As they try to make up their minds and keep their options open, Iran’s hard-liners could create more space to maneuver by pursuing a détente with Saudi Arabia that might very well go nowhere fast. Hoping to end the conflict in Yemen but unsure of whether this could really happen, Saudi leaders also have an interest in relaxing relations with Tehran. At the very least, an incremental process of détente might lower political and strategic temperatures in the Gulf while winning a measure of support from western leaders. In the Gulf, as elsewhere, détente is more about managing rather than transcending conflicts.
This article has been republished with permission from Arab Center DC.
Daniel Brumberg is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at Arab Center Washington DC, Director of Democracy and Governance Studies at Georgetown University, and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). From 2008 through 2015 he also served as a Special Adviser at the United States Institute of Peace.
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.