TPNW: The Treaty That the US Dare Not Speak Its Name

Sunday, September 26, could be an historic day for mankind to step back from the brink of nuclear destruction. The UN celebrates it as The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It stems from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the worldwide UN treaty that prohibits “the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities.” It is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal being their total elimination.

Should a nuclear armed state ratify, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of it nuclear weapons program.

The UN ratified TPNW 122-1 on July 7, 2017. It required ratification by 50 countries to become effective. That occurred January 22, 2021, 90 days after 50th ratifier Honduras, inked its approval. Six more countries have ratified since. Thirty-six other signatories are awaiting ratification.


Alas, TPNW is only binding on countries that ratify. The U.S., all other 8 nuclear powers and all the non-nuclear NATO nations boycotted the Treaty negotiations at the UN, and refused to sign onto or ratify it after its UN passage. The US and its nuclear compatriots are now international outliers in the effort to prevent Nuclear Winter. Instead of leading the cause of denuclearization, the US is leading in nuclear proliferation

US military, the nuclear weapons makers, the national security establishment, all current and former presidents and most congresspersons oppose US treaty membership. That makes US denuclearization a daunting task. So powerful is the effort to prevent the US from joining in, US media has largely ignored it; hence its sobriquet ‘The Treaty That Dare Not Speaks Its Name.’

But a tiny congressional faction of 11, led by DC Representative Eleanor Norton, has proposed a law in 2019, “The Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2019” requiring the US to join.

September 26 is a day that every American should be aware of and demand their congresspersons sign on to Rep. Norton’s bill for America to join TPNW. Instead of the treaty that dare not speaks its name, TPNW should be the law of the land.

Walt Zlotow
President, West Suburban Peace Coalition
Glen Ellyn, IL

Walt Zlotow became involved in antiwar activities since entering University of Chicago in 1963. He is current president of the West Suburban Peace Coalition based in the Chicago western suburbs. He blogs daily on antiwar and other issues at