Zone free of WMD in the Middle East: Moscow’s view on progress towards it


MOSCOW. APRIL 28, 2020. PIR PRESS. – “November 2019 witnessed a very significant event in the sphere of strengthening WMD non-proliferation regime, namely the UN-facilitated conference on the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East. In our view, the November conference was successful. More successful than anyone could expect in the beginning. Thus, a new, serious and long-term process for making further progress towards the Middle East free of any WMD has begun” – Natalia Artemenkova and Vladimir Orlov for article “Zone free of WMD in the Middle East: Moscow’s view on progress towards it” published in the International Affairs journal.

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In their preface to the article, the authors refer to the historic TASS statement, published in Izvestia evening daily newspaper (№18, 1958), that indicates that the Soviet Union first proposed “nuclear-weapon-free” approach to the Middle East. Then the article thoroughly reviews the evolution of Russian stance on the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East since 1995 and analyses the results of the November conference in the context of the next NPT Review Conference.

Summing up the results of the November 2019 conference, the authors identify the following aspects:

  • First, the conference marked the beginning of a practical implementation of the 1995 Resolution, and it got a broad participation of regional states and four nuclear weapon powers.
  • Second, claims about “non-inclusive” nature of these negotiations turned out to be unfounded as any state is invited to join the next sessions of the conference.
  • Third, political declaration of the conference sends a clear signal to the international community that participants are determined to continue to work together.
  • Finally, the negotiations revealed complementarity of two forums, namely NPT Review Conferences and UN machinery, for WMDFZ discussions.

At the same time, the authors state that the disagreements between the main groups of players (the League of Arab States on the one hand, and Israel together with the United States on the other) remain unresolved. There is no reason to believe that Israel and the U.S. will change their attitudes to the process that kicked off in the framework of the UN. The authors view U.S.-Israel policy aimed at undermining the conference with concern. Tel Aviv and Washington are known to have urged other states in the IAEA or other international organizations not to attend the November conference.  

What does it mean for Russia?

“The Russian Federation has been taking sustained and systemic efforts to make the idea of the WMD-free Middle East come true since 1995” – write Natalia Artemenkova and Vladimir Orlov. – “Russia is acting in a complex and surgical manner at the same time. So, it has put in many efforts to make Syria free from chemical weapons. For many years, Moscow has been consistently searching for diplomatic solutions aimed at preventing the regional state – Iran – from acquiring nuclear weapons. Strenuous diplomatic efforts led to the JCPOA conclusion and greater transparency in Iran’s nuclear actions and intentions. No one can blame Russia for the deal falling apart. On the contrary, Russia is trying to save the JCPOA, and therefore to ensure long-term guarantees that Iran continues to abide by the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state, and that this compliance is verified.”

“The Middle East is close to Russian borders and the borders of Russian CSTO allies,” the authors continue. -“The establishment of the zone meets Russian national interests. Moscow is also strongly interested in making the periphery of the Middle East region free from WMD. For instance, Turkey is known to remain a base for US nuclear weapons. Though Israel’s nuclear and missile arsenal does not pose a direct threat to Russia, as both states recently have had strategic partnership relations, and yet any WMD arsenal is a destabilizing factor in the region and on its periphery.”

The authors of the article believe that despite the unfavorable international situation and skepticism, and even a direct opposition from Washington, Russia should further stand its ground concerning a Middle East WMDFZ. Such a consistent and determined approach has been viewed as positive by our regional partners. Even the regional states that treat Russia with caution (as the monarchies of the Persian Gulf do) cannot ignore the fact that Russia’s position on a WMDFZ is clear, logical, independent, and it is not a subject to any political environment.

In conclusion, the authors note that Russia cannot do homework of those to whom it was assigned, namely the regional states themselves. Consistently contributing to making the circumstances more favourable for the establishment of a Middle East WMDFZ, Russia cannot and will not do someone else’s homework. Security in the region is a primary task of the regional states. The Middle East is gripped with conflicts, and it rarely enjoys peacetime. The presence of any WMD in the region has already caused dramatic consequences: Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the war against Iran. It is necessary to prevent any repeat of similar events. It is of crucial importance to halt proliferation of nuclear weapons and military sensitive technologies in the region.

Read (available in Russian)

About the authors:

Natalia Artemenkova, expert, MA in Nonproliferation Studies from MGIMO and Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Vladimir Orlov, MGIMO Professor, PIR Center Director, Head of the Center for Global Trends and International Organizations in Diplomatic Academy of Russian MFA, PhD Candidate in Political Science. 

 PIR Center Research Project: 

“Russia’s Role in the Process of Establishing the WMDFZ and Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy in the Middle East”

Within this Research Project framework, the PIR Center is working closely with all stakeholders, including the Conference co-sponsors - Russia, the U.S. and the UK - and with key regional players, including Israel, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. PIR Center has established working relationships with leading research centers in these countries decision-makers in current discussion on the WMD zone in the region.

June, 2011. International Affairs journal published the article by Vladimir Orlov “Zona, svobodnaja ot OMU, na Blizhnem Vostoke: ne otkladyvat' poisk razvjazok” (Zone free from WMD in the Middle East: Urgent Search for Solutions). Available in Russian at

October 4, 2012. PIR Center held a major international conference in Moscow entitled "The 2012 Conference on the Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Searching for Solutions." The conference was attended by senior representatives of Foreign Ministries of Russia, the U.S., Israel, Iran, the Arab League, the experts from Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. The event was attended by over 90 experts from 31 countries.

2013. White Paper on “10 Steps toward a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East” was presented to the delegates of the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference in Geneva.

2016. PIR Center’s Recommendations for Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime, 2016 – 2020, including part on the establishment of a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East, were issued. The recommendations were elaborated within the framework of PIR Center's Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation Program, discussed in PIR Center seminars in New York (May, 2015), Geneva (June, 2015) and Moscow (September and December, 2015) with the help of Center for Global Trends and International Organizations, Diplomatic Academy of Russian MFA.

Within this Research Project framework, PIR Center experts have participated in international conferences, meetings and lectures on multiple occasions. The issue of WMDFZ in the Middle East will be actively discussed during the next NPT Review Conference that was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.

PIR Center Analysis

PIR Center web-site publishes analytical papers on WMDFZ in the Middle East:

Vladimir Orlov. A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East: Looking for Solutions. International Affairs, Volume 57 (Number 4), 14, 2011. URL:

Ivan Trushkin. WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East: From Ideas to Reality. Security Index, PIR Center, 2011. URL:

The White Paper “NPT-2010: Strengthening the Regime.” PIR Center, 2010. URL:

 For all questions related to Research Project “Russia’s Role in the Process of Establishing the WMDFZ and Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy in the Middle East” please contact Vladimir Orlov by e-mail: Orlov at