Implementing the Global Nuclear Disarmament Agenda: A Challenge to NATO

September 28-30, 2000
Ottawa, Canada
Convened by The Simons Foundation in partnership with Project Ploughshares.

Introduction by Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons, President of The Simons Foundation:

This consultation built on a Strategy Consultation convened in Vancouver in October 1999, at which The Simons Foundation honoured the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, for his role in calling for a review of NATO’s nuclear policy. We want to continue to encourage the Canadian government to actively pursue a meaningful review of NATO’s plan and policies to make them consistent with the NPT 2000 Action Plan; and to further the goal of nuclear elimination by exploring global security arrangements as alternatives to a nuclearized and expanded NATO and to unilateral initiatives such as the United States’ National Missile Defence system.

We have to accept that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, specifically in relation to Article VI, has so far failed in its objectives, notwithstanding the rhetoric to the contrary. It has failed to halt proliferation, and it has failed to secure the elimination of nuclear weapons. Proliferation continues both vertically and horizontally and the vertical proliferation is taking place in several of the nuclear weapons states where modernization, research and development of nuclear weapons continue.

The Conference on Disarmament remains stalled, despite the new NPT Action Plan, so there is no progress on a fissile material ban treaty, no body established within the Conference on Disarmament to deal with nuclear dangers, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into effect. Moreover, there has been a reassertion of the nuclear war strategy policy as essential to the United States, to NATO and to Russia. All we have are hopes that the Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS) and the NATO Alliance will not continue to flout International Law.

Canada is a champion of International Law and it is in the country’s best interests to comply, and also to insist on compliance in any alliance in which it is a member, particularly with regard to NATO because NATO “operates on the principle of unanimity.”(IALANA doc., 5) Therefore Canada, as a member of NATO, with nuclear policies unanimously agreed upon, is de facto in favour of nuclear war strategy, and of nuclear-sharing – a form of nuclear proliferation. It is therefore, essential that Canada continue to push, not just for a review of NATO’s nuclear weapons policy but for their elimination from NATO’s Strategic Plan.

The International Court of Justice Opinion states “that any realistic search for complete disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, necessitates the co-operation of all States.” This responsibility, according to an IALANA document, applies to all states but in particular to the NATO member states, “even those that own no nuclear arms or have no nuclear arms on their territory.”

Any reflection on NATO has to include reflection on Russia. The early damage done to relations with Russia with the expansion of NATO has been exacerbated with the bombing of Kosovo, the United States’ threatened abrogation of the ABM Treaty, the proposed National Missile Defence system, and failure to ratify the CTBT. The situation is more dangerous than ever because of the deterioration of Russia’s military establishment, of nation-wide low morale, a poor economy, and Russia’s perceived need to rely on its nuclear force as its sole symbol of power. It is dangerous to ignore this, according to Bruce Blair of the Center for Defence Information. Because of this situation, both sides have thousands of warheads on high alert and, he says, the conference briefing of the U.S. President lasts only 30 seconds. Before there is a catastrophe, both the United States and Russia must be encouraged to take the weapons off this alert and stand down all nuclear weapons.

Moreover, further expansion of NATO will not only have a catastrophic effect on U.S/Russia relations, but with Romania and other Balkan countries lobbying to join NATO, it will further destabilize the Kosovo region. I do not think we can ignore the possible consequences of the further alienating Russia. NATO Nuclear Weapons Policy cannot be viewed by NATO in isolation from its other concerns. NATO expansion will create more de facto nuclear-weapons states. The Balkans situation will be exacerbated by a few of the Balkan states under the NATO nuclear umbrella. European Union relations with NATO in discussions on European Union security strategies cannot exclude nuclear policy. National Missile Defence is a response to nuclear missile proliferation and relations with Russia always include the nuclear component. Nuclear policy is integrally connected with all these problems, and any discussion of these, in the context of the current Review, should include the issue of nuclear weapons policy.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO’s raison d’etre ceased, and as NATO scrambled to redefine itself, the opportunity was lost to pursue alternative security structures more suitable to a changed and changing world system. This was the time when the OSCE, a partnership which ranges from Vancouver to Vladivostok, could have been supported and strengthened with terms of reference emphasizing partnership, and cooperative security measures. However, because of the failure of political imagination, the opportunity has gone, and a re-invented NATO, thus far, has demonstrated that it is not the vehicle for a globally secure world unless it radically changes its terms of reference or one resigns oneself to nuclear domination and United States hegemony. NATO’s idea of conflict prevention is to threaten nuclear attack. And Kosovo is an example of NATO’s failure at humanitarian intervention.

Nuclear weapons cannot be viewed in isolation from chemical and biological weapons. Chemical and biological weapons are the poor man’s weapons of mass destruction – a substitute for nuclear weapons – and there are treaties banning both. There is no treaty banning nuclear weapons. Richard Falk makes the point that it would be “surreal” to propose arms control arrangements for biological and chemical weapons. Can you imagine, states will agree to each destroy two vials of a virus and stand down 10 containers of their most deadly “humanicide” (if that is the equivalent word to “insecticide”). They are all weapons of extermination – nuclear weapons exterminate on a greater scale by incineration and radioactive poisoning lasting for generations. Yet only biological and chemical weapons are considered outrageous and their use unconscionable. Nuclear weapons – at this point more threatening to life on the planet than both (biological are predicted to reach this danger level) – are treated as if they were normal weapons of normal war. Even though it is bizarre, “it seems normal to pursue incremental steps for nuclear weapons.” (Falk).

I have made the point elsewhere, on other occasions, that the words “weapons” and “war” are euphemisms when used in relation to “nuclear”. Nuclear weapons are not weapons in the conventional sense of weapons for war, but rather a nuclear weapon is “an instrument of unlimited, universal destruction.” Nuclear war is suicide and genocide.

Policies of extermination are irrational. And we are dealing with irrational forces. Richard Falk believes that “the danger is seriously underestimated [because] the real danger comes not from proliferation – horizontal, that is – but from those who have weapons.” He makes the point that we have the tendency to treat “our leaders as normal, rational individuals acting in good faith.” However, he believes that there is something “cultist” about the nuclear policy-makers and refers to General Butler’s term “nuclear priesthood” and suggests that Butler is making the point that one is not dealing with rational-policy-makers.

Even so, and notwithstanding the absurdity of “security” policies based on the threat of annihilation, the recommendations that follow are designed to offer real and realistic steps toward nuclear disarmament. They continue to rest on the expectation that governments can and must provide rational leadership and that rationality and public will can combine to produce policies and alternatives capable of moving us back from the nuclear brink.

September 2000