British Pugwash update: June 2024

  1. Fact checking the Sunday Telegraph’s interview with Jens Stoltenberg

A recent ‘exclusive’ article in the Sunday Telegraph featured an interview with Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. It is concerning that the summary of Stoltenberg’s answers provided in the article is misleading in places. For example, the journalist who conducted the interview wrote that: “NATO is in talks to deploy more nuclear weapons in the face of a growing threat from Russia and China, the head of the alliance has said.”

However, as experienced nuclear analysts have pointed out on social media, the transcript of the audio interview shows that Stoltenberg did not use those words and that the journalist was wrong to present this as the Secretary General’s position. What Stoltenberg did say was that, “I will not go into the operational details about exactly how much of the warheads should be operational and which should be stored, but we need to consult closely on these issues and that’s exactly what we do in NATO, and we have for instance meetings in the NATO nuclear planning group as we had during the defence ministerial meeting this week.”

Accurate reporting on these matters is of paramount importance during a time of rising tension between the major powers. It is of great concern that the US may respond to China’s build-up of nuclear weapons and Russia’s new nuclear capabilities (the “two nuclear peer problem”) by expanding its own nuclear arse­nal. Such developments need to be discussed with the utmost care. It should not be necessary for those with expert knowledge of nuclear weapons to point out obvious reporting errors which could cause diplomatic incidents, or worse.


  1. Nuclear Education Trust report: ‘The Future for UK Defence, Diplomacy and Disarmament: 50 proposals for a more peaceful world’

In May the Nuclear Education Trust published a report entitled ‘The Future for UK Defence, Diplomacy and Disarmament’. The report considers how, given current global instability, the UK can best harness its defence and foreign policy to reduce international tensions and help get the world back on a path to nuclear disarmament. For example, the report found that discussion regarding the UK’s international policy must be opened up to include a much wider range of voices, based on the principles of democracy, transparency, and accountability.

The report was written by British Pugwash Secretary Dr Tim Street and was based on over 40 interviews with parliamentarians, think tank experts, academics, and representatives of civil society organisations. Interviewees included Peter Jenkins, British Pugwash Chairman. The starting point of the report was the UK Government’s Integrated Review Refresh of 2023, which updated the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The report gathered a range of views on six key international policy issues which are featured in these two documents:

i) What are the key global security trends of our time and how do they interact with the nuclear arms control and disarmament regime?

ii) What sort of relationship should the UK have with China and Russia; how can the UK prevent, de-escalate and resolve conflict; and how can the UK contribute to nuclear risk reduction?

iii) How can the UK help revitalise and rebuild the nuclear arms control and disarmament regime?

iv) What are the UK’s key international relationships and how do they relate to nuclear arms control and disarmament; what are the costs, risks and benefits of the AUKUS deal?

v) Does the UK have a “minimum credible, independent nuclear deterrent”, as the Integrated Review Refresh claims, and what are the alternatives to the current UK nuclear weapons policy?

vi) Is the UK’s defence and nuclear weapons budget justifiable and necessary; and is such spending compatible with progress on arms control and disarmament?

The report can be downloaded here.