NUCLEAR THREATS AND THE PATH TO ELIMINATING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Map of nuclear-weapon-states
NPT(Nonproliferation Treaty)-recognised nuclear-weapon-states in blue; nuclear-weapon-states outside the NPT in red; former nuclear-weapon-states in green; nuclear-weapon-hosting states in dark blue; undeclared nuclear weapon states not shown (Israel). Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AA_map_of_states_possessing_nucl...
On January 19 2015, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight – a disturbing reminder of how close we are coming to the brink of human and planetary catastrophe.
The trigger for resetting the clock is the continuing failure of world leaders to deal with the dual threats to human existence posed by climate change, and by “global nuclear weapons modernizations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals” in a context where “the disarmament process has ground to a halt” .
This forum explore possible ways out of this impasse, including a number of promising initiatives.
Opening Comments From Chairs
On January 19 2015, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight – a disturbing reminder of how close we are coming to the brink of human and planetary catastrophe.
The trigger for resetting the clock is the continuing failure of world leaders to deal with the dual threats to human existence posed by climate change, and by “global nuclear weapons modernizations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals” in a context where “the disarmament process has ground to a halt” (BAS, 19/1/15).
In Geneva, efforts by the Conference on Disarmament to even start negotiations on modest arms control and non-proliferation measures have been frustrated for over 12 years as a result of the abuse of the consensus rule.
In the Non-Proliferation Treaty context, the five NPT-recognised nuclear powers have failed to make adequate progress on substantive nuclear disarmament negotiations as required under Article VI; and nuclear weapon states outside the NPT framework, including Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, are continuing to reject any constraints on their nuclear arsenals, and are themselves beginning to provoke further nuclear acquisition and threats within their respective regions, especially in the Middle East.
Despite pressure to convene a conference to discuss a Middle East Weapon of Mass Destruction Free Zone (as agreed at the last 2010 NPT Review Conference), the US and Israel have sought to delay the conference; and the NPT itself may unravel as member states draw their own conclusions about being constrained by the NPT while other regional states are allowed to acquire and threaten to use nuclear weapons.
In the Ukraine conflict, two nuclear armed parties, Russia and NATO, are potentially becoming involved in a proxy war, with increased tension and confrontation along NATO/Russian borders, a crisis that, if not resolved quickly, may yet lead to inadvertent launches of nuclear weapons, as, most frighteningly, nearly occurred during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Despite this ominous context, the Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons, launched by Norway at the Oslo Conference in March 2013, was taken further at the Narayat Conference in Mexico in February 2014, and further still at the Vienna Conference in December 2014. This initiative offers some hope of finally moving towards a greater commitment on the part of the world community to deal with the nuclear threat.
Attended by 158 UN member states, including two NPT-recognised nuclear weapon states (the US and UK), the Vienna Conference made substantive progress on highlighting the humanitarian transboundary catastrophic consequences of even a limited nuclear war, and the greatly increasing risks of nuclear conflict as a result of proliferation, accident, miscalculation, non-state actor acquisition, and cyber-attacks.
The conference went further still in focusing on the legal gap in the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons compared to chemical and biological weapons, despite the fact that nuclear weapons pose a far greater risk of destroying the very conditions for continued human existence. An increasing number of states, 44 UN member states, are now calling for immediate negotiations on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Austria, for its part, has issued the Austrian Pledge with the aim of having all NPT parties at the (27 April-22 May) 2015 NPT Review Conference in New York commit to “the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and, to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.
Civil society groups active on the issue, particularly the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), called at the Vienna Conference for immediate action to fill this legal gap, including, potentially through a legally binding instrument or treaty that bans nuclear weapons similar to the conventions that outlaw chemical and biological weapons. At the Vienna Conference, immediate negotiation of a ban treaty continued to be opposed by nuclear weapons states (and some of their allies, who cited the need for “security” in the form of “extended deterrence” arrangements). New Zealand pointedly asked what these countries meant by “security” but failed to receive answers. Clearly, with the evidence now available on the transboundary human and economic devastation and decade-long nuclear winter following even a limited (100 bomb) nuclear exchange, national notions of security no longer apply.
Despite the impetus generated by the Humanitarian Initiative, there are issues both within governments and within civil society antinuclear movements as to the most effective ways to break through the current nuclear disarmament impasse.
One issue is the appropriate legal instrument to be pursued. This might take the form of a framework nuclear weapon convention involving (as currently proposed by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in a working paper to the 2015 NPT Review Conference) “a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specific timeframe”.
Alternatively, it might take the form of a nuclear ban treaty that is immediately negotiated amongst like-minded states with or without the initial participation of the nuclear weapon states. The expectation here is that nuclear weapon states will come under pressure to join at a later date.
Yet a third approach, not necessarily incompatible with either of the other two approaches (but potentially diverting attention away from them), is to pursue multiple but partial measures, tackling various aspects of the nuclear threat, such as the Fissile Material Control Treaty under discussion in the CD, the CTBT, de-alerting, reductions in nuclear arsenals, outlawing of particular classes of nuclear weapons, new systems of verification and compliance, and a further expansion of regional and national NWFZs.
As of now there appears no overall consensus on the best way to fill the “legal gap”.
This suggests an important question on which to focus our conversation:
What is the best way forward, legally and politically, for filling the gap? What are he relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a framework convention, compared to a nuclear ban treaty, or a mix of separately negotiated measures ?
A related question worth exploring is:
How important is it for the nuclear weapon states, both the NPT-recognized ones and the other four, to be involved in negotiations right from the start?
Yet another question might be:
What is the best forum for negotiating legal instruments for the elimination of nuclear weapons? The traditional forum, the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva, while historically important, has been deadlocked for the past 12 years. Other possibilities include UN forums and structures, including the General Assembly, or Special Sessions of the General Assembly.
Given the increased impetus generated by the Humanitarian Initiative conferences one further question is worth posing:
How best might we continue to galvanize the the great majority of countries behind a common approach? What mobilizing and engaging strategies are needed at civil society, governmental and intergovernmental levels?
In all of this the regional dimension should not be overlooked:
Can regional organizations and groupings, for example, existing regional NWFZ members and regional civil society networks, play significant advocacy roles in mobilizing support for global measures?
COMMENTS ON MODERATOR’S DEBATING POINTS
By Sergio Duarte*
Q. What is the best way forward, legally and politically, for filling the gap? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a framework convention, compared to a nuclear ban treaty, or a mix of separately negotiated measures?
Q. How important is it for the nuclear weapon states, both the NPT-recognized ones and the other four, to be involved in negotiations right from the start?
Lasting solutions must take into account the legitimate interests of all parties involved. There is no better way to achieve results than making use of the forums offered by international universal organizations such as the United Nations and agencies within its family. Civil society has an important role to play by providing inputs in the form of studies, suggestions and advocacy.
Several universal or near universal treaties starting from the UN Charter in 1945 define the objective clearly: the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. There is no disagreement on that. The international community has managed to achieve significant, albeit painstaking progress over the past few decades. Important multilateral treaties to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons were concluded. Two categories of weapons of mass destruction have been (or are being) eliminated: chemical and bacteriological. The international community must now take action to eliminate the last remaining category: nuclear weapons, which have the most destructive and indiscriminate effects on human beings and on the environment.
The proposals for nuclear disarmament presented in the past few years in international forums are not mutually exclusive.
In 2008 Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon proposed a 5-point plan that included a nuclear weapons convention or “a framework of mutually reinforcing instruments”. This proposal received wide support form a very large and significant majority of United Nations Member States. The Secretary-general did not suggest what specific shape a convention, or a framework, should take. This should be the matter of negotiations. One possible outcome could envisage an immediate and outright prohibition of development, manufacture, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons to be applicable to all parties. If States that currently possess such weapons accede to such a pact, this would entail a process of elimination of arsenals under an international verification system that would be much more complex than the process of elimination of chemical arsenals under the Chemical Weapons Convention. It would be difficult, but not impossible. Another path would be to start by opening for signature a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons, as some civil society groups advocate. Even if the current nuclear weapon States do not accede immediately to either one of those Conventions, proponents believe its existence – with a significant number of adherents – would create a strong moral standard based on positive international law. Over time, they contend, nuclear weapon States would be compelled to adhere to it under pressure from world public opinion. Irreversible, legally binding agreements to eliminate such weapons under a specific time frame could then follow. Finally, a “framework of mutually reinforcing instruments” could bring existing and future treaties, such as the NPT, the CTBT and other legal texts on nuclear weapons under a chapeau, or general clause that would set forth a clear, legally binding, irreversible commitment to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons within a specific timeline. These would be the guiding principles for subsequent negotiations of further specific measures.
Skeptics, as well as those interested in keeping the current status quo, may dismiss these ideas as far-fetched or utopian, as it indeed has been the case. However, it is undeniable that seventy years after the UN Charter and forty-five years after the NPT, scant progress on real nuclear disarmament has been achieved. To date, no nuclear weapon has ever been dismantled as a result of a multilateral agreement and the danger of nuclear war, by design or accident, still persists. Reductions agreed between to two largest possessors do not point the way to disarmament, but rather to the perpetuation of a nuclear confrontation at lower levels of armament. States that possess nuclear weapons continue to take measures to maintain and improve their arsenals under the pretext that they are indispensable for their security and that of their allies. Bilateral agreements for reductions of arsenals should be organically linked to a concrete, commitment to achieve their elimination within an agreed timeframe.
Many observers see no inclination on the part of nuclear armed States to take decisive action on nuclear disarmament. Some interpret the often-repeated mantra that atomic arsenals are to be kept “as long as nuclear weapons exist” as a justification for perpetual possession. Perception of a lack of willingness to achieve progress in disarmament provides a strong incentive for further proliferation. Permanent nuclear rivalry, the persistence of a technological arms race under the guise of “modernization” of arsenals and the prospect of further proliferation by additional States – not to mention nuclear terrorism and blackmail – jeopardize the security of all nations, of all individual human beings and of the environment in which we live and on which we all depend.
Q. What is the best forum for negotiating legal instruments for the elimination of nuclear weapons? The traditional forum, the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva, while historically important, has been deadlocked for the past 12 years. Other possibilities include UN forums and structures, including the General Assembly, or Special Sessions of the General Assembly.
In 1978 the First Special Session of the United Nations on Disarmament agreed on a Final Document that set forth a balanced and sensible approach to all questions related to disarmament. It also established multilateral organs to deal with different aspects of the problem. The Disarmament Commission and the First Committee of the General Assembly were tasked with deliberating and formulating recommendations on issues brought before them; the Conference on Disarmament received a mandate to negotiate specific measures; and an Advisory Board was set up to make suggestions to the UN Secretary-general. Over the years, this structure achieved some important multilateral understandings and instruments in the field of disarmament, notably the CWC and the CTBT and set the stage for further progress. To-day, thirty-seven years later, however, the panorama of international relations has changed considerably. It seems now necessary to discuss and agree on fresh ideas and methods that may facilitate progress toward multilateral agreement on further measures aimed at halting the technological nuclear arms race and to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, as well as on current problems that affect the security of all nations. Unfortunately, nuclear weapon States and some of their allies have consistently opposed proposals for a new Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament.
The longstanding deadlock in the existing negotiating forum – the Conference on Disarmament – should not be blamed on its structure and procedures but mainly reflect the lack of will on the part of nuclear armed States to enter into multilateral negotiations on real measures of nuclear disarmament, which they consider “premature”. Since the inception of the Conference nuclear disarmament has been at the top of its agenda; nevertheless, those States and their allies have systematically prevented any progress in that direction. In order to block consensus on longstanding proposals to negotiate nuclear disarmament agreements or legally binding security assurances to non-nuclear weapon States they invoke of the same rules of procedure – of which, incidentally, they were the main authors – that they now claim to be abused by others.
Disarmament and non-proliferation are two sides of the same coin; they complement each other and can only be effective and lasting if pursued in tandem. However, all instruments that the international community has been able to negotiate and adopt in the nuclear realm so far deal with the prevention of proliferation. None deal with nuclear disarmament proper. To prevent additional States to acquire nuclear means of destruction is of course important and necessary, and the existing international legal framework has been so far successful in containing proliferation. Even so, some States continue to advocate further restrictions on peaceful activities of non-nuclear States and resist proposals for disarmament. For instance, the idea of a ban on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes is actively promoted at the CD. Proposals in that direction were made back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when only a few advanced industrialized countries could produce such materials in significant quantities. At that time, the prohibition made sense as a measure intended to prevent a nuclear arms race involving a larger number of States. In the present times, however, many consider that such a ban would be redundant, since non-nuclear weapon States are already prohibited under the NPT to produce fissionable material for weapons purposes and their domestic facilities are subject to IAEA safeguards, additional verification measures or equivalent instruments. According to this view, a ban on production would also be innocuous, since under the current proposals, the huge stocks accumulated by the nuclear weapon States would remain untouched. It is indeed hard to see what practical objective such a measure would achieve, except perhaps impose new and stricter constraints on peaceful nuclear activities in developing countries. It would simply reinforce existing non-proliferation restrictions and could hardly be called a “disarmament” measure. Rather, it would leave nuclear-weapon States free to use their stocks of fissile material to improve and expand their arsenals as they see fit.
Q. How best might we continue to galvanize the great majority of countries behind a common approach? What mobilizing and engaging strategies are needed at civil society, governmental and intergovernmental levels?
Q. Can regional organizations and groupings, for example, existing regional NWFZ members and regional civil society networks, play significant advocacy roles in mobilizing support for global measures?
Unfortunately, priorities are not perceived in the same way by different governments. As UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon remarked in 2011, “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”. Examples from the past show that it is possible to bring together the will of governments in order to achieve significant measures in the field of disarmament. Latin American States successfully negotiated and adopted instruments such as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which established the first nuclear weapon free zone and was emulated since in other parts of the world. The agreement among Brazil, Argentina, OPANAL and the IAEA that created the Argentine-Brazilian Agency for Accounting and Control in the 1990’s demonstrated that it is possible for countries to unite for the achievement of common objectives above narrow sectorial interests. In the early 1980’s citizens’ concern for the presence of nuclear weapons in Europe created a powerful push for the negotiation and adoption of the INF Treaty. Every year the United Nations receive millions of signatures on petitions for nuclear disarmament. Many civil society organizations and groups actively advocate nuclear disarmament and seek to educate public opinion and influence their governments. The results of the vote on disarmament issues at successive Sessions of the UN General Assembly show a remarkable and consistent degree of agreement on the general directions to be followed. In 2010 for the first time a Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT recognized the catastrophic consequences of any nuclear detonation. In the past few years, an impressive majority of governments, experts and non-governmental organizations attended three international conferences on this question. Under pressure from public opinion, some nuclear weapon States have shown a degree of willingness to work constructively. This is a promising road that must be pursued and developed. The forthcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT in April/May and the General Assembly of the United Nations are the best forums for progress in this direction. Independent debate on and study of the effects of nuclear explosions should also be encouraged.
Civil society organizations have been a valuable tool to promote advocacy and raise the awareness of populations and governments to the dangers of the existence on nuclear weapons and of the reliance on military doctrines predicated on their use. They can provide encouragement and build momentum to bring about the necessary political will. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, for instance, recently moved its “doomsday clock” forward to three minutes before midnight. Dedicated individuals regularly contribute studies and proposals on nuclear disarmament as well as well-documented analyses of the consequences of the use of atomic weapons and conduct public opinion campaigns. These organizations seek to represent the conscience of the overwhelming majority of populations. Their voice should be heard and their message heeded. It is important to understand, however, that just as governments cannot perform the same function as civil society organizations, the latter cannot and should not take the place of representatives of governments at international bodies composed of States. For good reason civil society organizations are “non-governmental”. They should remain so and develop independent ways to cooperate with governments in order to facilitate the achievement of common objectives.
* Ambassador (ret.), former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
I commend Dr Michael-Hamel Green and Professor Joseph Camilleri for initiating and facilitating this forum. Open discussion on the possibilities and approaches to achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world is vital. The questions posed are useful ones to guide this discussion.
And the timing is excellent - coming after the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons and prior to the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Indeed, the questions reflect some of the key proposals being put to the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Analysis of these proposals will help guide advocacy at the Review Conference.
Ambassador Duarte's opening response to these questions demonstrates much wisdom and guidance for this discussion. A key point that Ambassador Duarte makes is the importance of building political will. Some discussion on ways to do this will be helpful.
If there are proposals/actions that can be undertaken by non-nuclear States that will make a real difference, how can their political will to take such measures be enhanced?
If there are proposals in which it is important to involve the nuclear-armed States (and those under extended nuclear deterrence doctrines), how can they be moved to join? Can the current case in the International Court of Justice, lodged by the Marshall Islands against the nuclear-armed States, help in this regard? Can parliamentarians influence government policy and decisions - especially in light of the agreement by the parliaments of the world to work with governments to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and negotiate a nuclear weapons convention (the Inter Parliamentary Union resolution of March 2014)? Can civil society cooperation and action more effectively impact on government policy?
Civil Society is coming together for the 2015 NPT Review Conference through Peace and Planet, http://www.peaceandplanet.org, a collective mobilisation calling on governments to develop a time-bound framework for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. This will include a large rally plus advocacy in New York and Global Wave actions around the world. How can this action help build political support for key proposals at the NPT Review Conference and if so, which proposals are best to focus on?
I look forward to engaging in this discussion, learning from other experts, offering reflections on the questions and then moving from this analysis into political action and advocacy to help ensure success.
Thank you again Joe and Michael for initiating this dialogue.
What is the best way forward, legally and politically, for filling the gap? What the relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a framework convention, compared to a nuclear ban treaty, or a mix of separately negotiated measures?
Austria’s national pledge at the end of the Vienna conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons that it hosted in December 2014 included a commitment to ‘fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and Austria pledges to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.’ This appears to have galvanized campaigners for a ban treaty in ICAN. Moreover, some states—including Ireland, just last week in the Conference on Disarmament (CD)—have also associated themselves with the pledge.
The pledge emerges in an environment in which there are already a range of mooted approaches to getting to a world without nuclear weapons. The five NPT nuclear-weapon-states (the ‘NPT5’) are quite opposed to any approach that doesn’t accord with their notion of a ‘step-by-step’ approach to nuclear disarmament—one of the most immediate being the commencement of negotiations in the CD on halting the production of fissile materials for making nuclear weapons. However, there are two glaring issues with step-by-step. The first issue is that progress on step-by-step has stalled, and the NPT5 give every indication of being willing to stick with that status quo—as shown by deadlock in the CD for the last 18 or more years. As Sergio Duarte pointed out elsewhere on this forum, this deadlock reflects lack of political will among the nuclear-weapon-possessor states (among them, Pakistan), not solely procedural obstacles.
Meanwhile, the NPT5 claim that other measures they have not endorsed in the step-by-step approach, for instance as described in the NPT 2010 Action Plan, would undermine the NPT. Frankly, this claim lacks much credibility. Rather, it’s widespread concern about their inaction for the health of the disarmament and non-proliferation regime that’s driving new initiatives. Concern extends to the evident and growing loss of faith among some non-nuclear-weapon states in the so-called grand bargain between non-proliferation and disarmament at the 45 year-old NPT’s heart. The NPT5 have said “trust us, and stand back” for the last 20 years or more, but nothing is happening on nuclear disarmament. This dynamic of mistrust has to change if the NPT is to survive, let alone a nuclear-weapon-free world be achieved.
The second issue with the step-by-step approach is that any road to nuclear weapons elimination is going to require multiple steps, so to call it the step-by-step approach is really a bit of a misnomer. As one element of that process, there is actually no reason why prohibition itself should require multiple steps: as nuclear campaigners point out, prohibition could precede elimination, as it has for some other weapons, including other classes of weapons of mass destruction.
I’m intrigued by the call for filling the legal gap (i.e. prohibiting nuclear weapons, like chemical and biological weapons have been). Intellectually speaking, it pulls the rug from beneath the nuclear-weapon possessors and the so-called nuclear umbrella states. Those states have been saying for many years that they support the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world while continuing to depend on nuclear weapons for their security. But in the end you can’t eat your cake and have it and some helpful pressure could be applied to clarify this point in the minds of policy makers on those states. In sum, I think that those trying to focus public attention on this dissonance between words and actions are on to something.
A comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) (like that espoused by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon in 2008) is a useful idea, and one worth supporting. But at present there are no signs at all of how negotiations for such an instrument could get off the ground: its prospects rely entirely on the nuclear-armed countries—who are not interested—having a radical change of heart. I can’t see that change of heart happening without significant pressure, which is why as an interim step a ban treaty approach holds promise, in principle, based on what we can see from other recent international processes of norm formation.
Overall, I really think that a ‘framework convention’ (by which I assume it’s meant a NWC), a ban treaty or a mix of separately negotiated measures are, in practice, not wholly separate options. Whether we talk about ‘steps’ or ‘frameworks’ or ‘elements’, what we should really acknowledge is that the challenge here is not completing nuclear disarmament, its actually getting it started again that is the task at hand.
I can see value in a ban treaty process among the non-nuclear-weapon states as a bit like the low-range gearbox in a jeep: as a means to get us over the immediate steep obstacle, and to pick up a bit of momentum so we can change up in due course in order to get to our destination of a nuclear-weapon-free world. The NWC might be top gear. Or it might be something else. And there are likely to be other steps or gears in between, including further nuclear-weapon-free zones in regions that currently lack them.
We don’t talk about gears in a car gearbox being in competition or detracting from one another, and its in that sense I see trying to create more propitious conditions for nuclear disarmament. Both a ban treaty and a NWC fit within a framework but at different points in the rev range. Each needs to work in turn.
At the moment the disarmament engine is idling and in danger of sputtering out altogether on a lonely hillside, as I think the NPT review meeting in New York in April-May will show. But the NPT review is an opportunity to take stock of these different options. In that sense, the New Agenda Coalition’s working paper 18 from the last PrepCom is already a helpful push in order to figure out how to move forward—and upward. It’s going to take a good eye, a gentle foot, and getting into gear.
If you’re interested, we’ve produced on the humanitarian initiative, and the upcoming NPT review process, see our blog at www.effectivemeasures.org in partnership with the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI).
Friends, I was much encouraged to read the initial contribution ‘from the Chairs’. In my view one of the questions they put might well have come higher up on their list. I say this from recent experience in talking to a wide variety of adult groups and many school and university students up and down the country.
What mobilising and engaging strategies are needed at civil society… level’? they ask.
Writing from a British perspective I have to say that getting out of the nuclear weapon club is a long way down on the current British political agenda. Encouragingly, it now is a vote-winner in Scotland, but that may also have something to do with nuclear missile submarines, perceived as English, being based in Scottish waters at Faslane. The probable influx of Scottish Nationalist MPs to the Westminster Parliament after our general election in May is very hopeful. A substantial SNP group might even hold a balance of power.
In terms of shifting English public opinion the prospects have not been so rosy. We seem to campaign sectionally. There is a health lobby, an education lobby, a penal reform lobby, a housing lobby, an environment lobby and of course a development lobby. But too often links between these causes are not made. Often the problem of the militarisation of our society, expressed at its worst with the commitment to ‘independent’ nuclear weapons is seen to be too hot a potato.
The sheer cost (£100 billion to renew and maintain our Trident submarine nuclear weapons) is rarely contrasted with the costs of other and genuine needs of our people.
Why this non connection? Partly because here, and elsewhere I am sure, we are used to campaigning for our particular cause without making connections to other issues: a kind of well-meaning rivalry between campaigns I suppose. It is assisted by our ‘charity‘ laws and therefore tax concessions which give financial benefits to non-politically-challenging groups.
But there is also, on the negative side, the influence of the most powerful religion of the day—nationalism. It was Ernest Bevin who in 1947 turned around an Attlee cabinet meeting which, before he arrived, had been opposed to developing British nuclear weapons. His ringing phrase that he wanted them over here ‘with a bloody great Union Jack on top’, won the day. National hubris is as important now as ever it was in Bevin’s day.
So the challenge today in large part is to change popular culture and to work together across borders. Pope Benedict XVI commented in January 2006 that the view that nuclear weapons add to security is ‘not only baneful but completely fallacious’. Like the words of another Pope Benedict, XV, who tried to stop the carnage of World War 1, a hundred years ago, his words have in practice fallen on deaf ears.
I hope that this welcome international dialogue will help to open closed ears and bring fresh air to shut minds.
These days, the problem that we have with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is that very few people in any decision-making capacity truly believe in its power to effect lasting change.
The reasons for this lack of faith in the NPT are clear. The nuclear weapons states (NWS) have committed through the Treaty itself to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’. That was in 1968. Throughout the cold war, the US and USSR drove the nuclear arms race to tens of thousands of nuclear warheads and did not establish mutually verifiable reductions until the 1980s. And note that France and China did not join the Treaty until 1992 just as the campaign to extend the Treaty was beginning – and when they were still testing their nuclear warheads.
In 1995 however, the decision to extend the Treaty was based on a set of decisions: the understanding that, ‘as a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension, the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely’; on the adoption of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East; a decision to strengthen the review process; and a set of principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The principle and objectives included a commitment to the ‘determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’.
Post 1995 and the indefinite extension of the NP , efforts got off to a shaky but fairly positive start with the completion of the Comprehensive (nuclear) Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) that was adopted in the UN General Assembly . But the nuclear weapons tests by India and Pakistan and the breakdown of progress in the North Korean nuclear talks and the continuing battles over Iran’s nuclear capability has mean that the promise of 1995 has yet to be realised.
Despite further commitments in 2000 to the ‘unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all States parties are committed under article VI’ and then in 2010 to the NPT Action Plan, the NWS are all in the process of either renovating and retaining their nuclear weapons arsenals or increasing their capabilities.
The 2010 Action Plan relies heavily on progress in both the CD and the US-Russia bilateral nuclear negotiations both of which are currently stalled. The CD has not been able to achieve a sustained negotiation in nearly 20 years and the breakdown in relations between the US and Russia over Ukraine will not encourage progress in bilateral nuclear weapons reductions for some time.
Small wonder then the supporters of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament started to think creatively about ways forward.
There have been several critical questions that have been asked throughout the process of creative thinking including:
1) Why is it that chemical and biological weapons have been prohibited (and almost completely eliminated) on the grounds that they are inhumane weapons when nuclear weapons are just as - or even more - inhumane and have not been prohibited?
2) Why is it that almost every state in the world has agreed not to use chemical and biological weapons on the grounds that they are ‘justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world’ but the NWS and those outside the NPT with nuclear weapons will not agree to prohibit their use?
3) Why are anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions correctly classed as inhumane weapons and prohibited in recent treaties whereas nuclear weapons, which have even more long-lasting and inhumane effects are not as yet prohibited?
4) How did states and non-governmental organizations address and discuss these weapons systems (chemical, biological, landmines and cluster munitions) in such a way that they were prohibited and then destroyed?
5) Are there approaches and understandings that the nuclear weapons debate can borrow from these other inhumane weapons systems and their prohibition so as to bring progress towards nuclear disarmament forward?
In discussing and considering the various experiences from other forums and other types of weapons, a number of key factors emerged - including the obvious realization that nuclear weapons are the most inhumane of all weapons and that there is a humanitarian imperative to prohibit and eliminate them. The reframing of nuclear weapons through a humanitarian lens enabled a number of other issues to become clearer and easier to think about. For example, the decades of destruction caused by nuclear weapons testing – primarily on the territories of vulnerable indigenous peoples – a humanitarian and human rights issue. The debate over the risks involved with accidental or inadvertent detonations – it turns out that these risks are far higher than we had been led to believe – changes when the humanitarian impact is weighed against the imagined benefits of nuclear deterrence. Can such proposed benefit ever be worth that sort of risk? Indeed, the humanitarian framework has engendered a new worldwide discussion and educational process for young people who - up until recently had been kept in the dark about the very real physical impact of nuclear detonations. Thinking about what nuclear weapons do when they explode and how the humanitarian community could respond has brought the horrific consequences of their use into sharp relief and has focused the minds of those involved in the debates. Considering nuclear weapons for what they really are – enormous, dirty fireballs of explosions with a residual radioactive legacy – has stripped them of their mystery and empowered people – particularly younger people – to question the wisdom of such weapons remaining in the hands of mortals. The next generation will be the inheritors of these inhumane explosive weapons unless they are prohibited and eventually eliminated.
What we need to discover is how we can best go about achieving exactly that.
I deeply thank the organizers of this on-line dialogue for inviting me to participate.
The following is my first response to the following question by the moderator: How best might we continue to galvanize the great majority of countries behind a common approach? What mobilizing and engaging strategies are needed at civil society, governmental and intergovernmental levels?
Last October, a total of 155 countries and territories, including, for the first time, Japan, signed a Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. Through this and earlier statements, than 80 percent of the member states of the United Nations have now clearly expressed the view that the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons renders their use unacceptable under any circumstance.
The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use have now been the theme of three major international conferences, most recently in Vienna, in December of last year. This conference was attended by representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom. Although neither government indicated any significant change to their long-standing policies regarding nuclear weapons―holding that deterrence must be maintained and the best way to realize a world without nuclear weapons is through a step-by-step of negotiated reductions―the fact of their participation was in itself meaningful. It demonstrated that the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons―what happens to real, living human beings when nuclear weapons are detonated―is taking an increasingly central place in the disarmament discourse.
While there is no point denying the gulf between the position of the nuclear weapons states and those who see abolition as the most certain means of ensuring that these apocalyptic weapons are never used, we must not overlook the common ground shared by both groups. These seemingly distant positions are in fact linked by a “bedrock of shared concern” regarding the devastating impact of nuclear weapons. It is crucial that on-going efforts to understand the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons work to expand and solidify this common ground.
In this sense it is important for those working for the early realization of a world free from nuclear weapons that we take the professions of the nuclear weapons states regarding their concern about the impact of these weapons at face value. We need to exercise an inner discipline in not leaping to quick assumptions of bad faith. The world of nuclear weapons is one predicated on the poisonous effects of mutual distrust. We need to made continuous efforts to detoxify the atmosphere in any way we can.
In this, as well as more concretely visible ways, the world’s faith communities can contribute to enhancing efforts toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Firstly, we help mainstream the moral and ethical―the human―perspectives. The Vienna Conference was the first in the series where the ethical and moral aspects of nuclear weapons were directly addressed. This motivated Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and World Council of Churches (WCC), collaborating with International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), to co-organize a panel “Faiths United Against Nuclear Weapons: Kindling hope, mustering courage.” This brought together activists and experts from both religious and secular backgrounds to discuss the moral and ethical perspectives of the nuclear weapons debate.
The panel issued a joint statement as an outcome document that gave voice to common ground, uncovered by dialogue and across difference faith traditions. It stated, in part, that, “Nuclear weapons are utterly incompatible with the values upheld by our respective faith traditions―the right of people to live in security and dignity; the commands of conscience and justice; the duty to protect the vulnerable and to exercise the stewardship that will safeguard the planet for future generations. Nuclear weapons manifest a wanton disregard for all these values and commitments. There is no countervailing imperative―whether of national security, stability in international power relations, or the difficulty of overcoming political inertia―that can justify their continued existence, much less their use.”
The question of nuclear weapons has tended to be discussed only from political, military or security perspectives, typically by men (gendered language intentional) in the grip of a worldview that divides the world into friend and enemy, “us” and “them.” However, the fuller understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons shows that even the most limited, regional exchange of such weapons would present a threat to the continued existence of humankind as whole. These weapons represent the paramount challenge to human security in all its aspects. The humanitarian impact debate is a stark reminder of the need to remain focused on human beings―individually and as societies―in addressing the issue.
It is important that this more expansive understanding of “humanity" as a universal ideal be incorporated into the debate alongside the law-centered approach to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of the letter International Humanitarian Law. This less specialized discourse―most people do not spend much time thinking about what constitutes proportionality in the use of military force or what divides necessary from unnecessary suffering in the organized slaughter of war―is crucial to building broader constituencies and is an area in which faith based organizations can make a particular contribution.
I deeply appreciate this opportunity and look forward to engaging in further dialogue with other distinguished panelists to explore a way forward to achieve a world free from nuclear weapons.
I am perplexed. It has now been 70 years since nuclear weapons were first used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, the world has heard countless first-hand testimonies from the hibakusha recounting the terrible, multi-generational humanitarian consequences of using such weapons. Yet for reasons unknown, citizens and governments are today finally recognizing such effects. Gee, who'd have thought using nuclear weapons would have grave humanitarian consequences. Golly.
One can of course speculate why this has occurred. Decades of frustration over the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament have encouraged the anti-nuclear-weapon community to explore alternative approaches to advance their cause--alternatives, for example, to the customary reliance on: the Conference on Disarmament as the single forum for negotiating a nuclear disarmament convention, the NPT and its review conferences, the UN, and one might add, hope for enlightened leadership from the nuclear-weapon States or their nuclear allies. This is a hope that, until now, has triumphed over experience, as Dr. Johnson would say.
Perhaps we should simply welcome this new awakening, rather than wonder why the world has ignored these consequences for so long. I am less interested in the reasons for this belated humanitarian epiphany than in exploring where it should or may lead.
Most optimistically, it should contribute to a broad, international dialog over the very existence of nuclear weapons, and the pragmatic, moral, and ethical aspects of threatening to use them -- issues all tied closely to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. The stronger the consensus on the goal of elimination, the greater will be the likelihood of willingness to explore concrete practical means to achieve it.
Most pessimistically, advocates of nukes will cite the grave humanitarian consequences of using such weapons as precisely why "nuclear deterrence works". Some will predictably argue that while the consequences of use would be horrific, disarmament is not the only or most effective solution. Instead, they will argue the case for nuclear "arms control" --i.e., palliatives to "reduce the risk" of use, including the usual suspects: de-alerting, enhanced safety and security over stockpiles and fissile materials, no-first-use declarations, the "sole purpose" rationale, missile defense, incremental reductions in the US/Russian nuclear arsenals, "security assurances", and the ever-popular "reducing the role of" nuclear weapons in security policy ... all crowd pleasers, but measures that have little or nothing to do with actually eliminating such weapons.
Each camp has its own challenges ahead. Optimists must explain exactly why a consensus on the wickedness of nuclear weapons will necessarily lead to a consensus on the means to eliminate them. The former could exist forever, but so too could the weapons. The vast majority of UN members support getting rid of these weapons -- yet most of humanity still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of a nuclear alliance. Another English writer, Charles Dickens, contributed an apt term for those who can simultaneously condemn nuclear weapons yet embrace nuclear deterrence: "pecksniffian" -- or with extreme hypocrisy -- after a character in his novel "Martin Chuzzelwit".
For their part, pessimists must explain how alternatives to disarmament will necessarily ensure against any future use of such weapons--alternatives including sole reliance on export controls, non-proliferation, sanctions, intelligence improvements, so-called "counter-proliferation" measures, preemption, improved "command and control", deterrence, and endless increases in military spending.
What's most troubling right now is the mis-match between official assertions of support for disarmament as a goal of policy -- especially by possessor states and their allies -- and the total absence of any domestic infrastructure to implement those alleged goals. Here, "infrastructure" includes disarmament agencies (they just don't exist), domestic laws, policies, regulations, plans, budgets, timetables, and support from a broad network of businesses and laboratories with a stake in the disarmament process. Disarmament has not been internalized. That's the problem.
Widespread agreement on the common goal of nuclear disarmament is therefore a necessary but by no means a sufficient condition for achieving this goal. The commitment must be reflected in concrete actions, particularly in the political systems of the possessor states and their allies. It must have strong and growing support in the public bureaucracy, including the military and defense communities. It must be understood and supported in the legislature. It must be reflected in public laws, policies, and budgets. It must be recognized by key political parties as a legitimate high priority. It must receive regular attention by the news media, along with the costs and risks of existing nuclear arsenals.
Advocates of a plurilateral "ban treaty" would therefore best devote their attention to addressing this particular challenge in the relevant countries. The notion that a treaty disarming the unarmed -- effectively, an "NPT II" minus the nuclear-weapon States -- would necessarily lead to global nuclear disarmament, needs to be re-examined if not rejected outright. The nuclear-weapon States must be engaged directly at all levels: domestic, regional, and international. The alternative is not global zero, but zero disarmament.
Thanks for inviting me to participate in this very interesting panel.
As to the opening questions from the moderator: Fist of all, it seems to be important to discuss what is meant by “the legal gap”. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the key international instrument that specifically deals with nuclear weapons as such. The NPT has served the very significant purpose of largely preventing nuclear proliferation since its inception in 1968, but it has proved less efficient with regard to nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states.
If we compare international law’s regulation of nuclear weapons to the legal regimes pertaining to the two other weapons of mass destruction, the treaties on biological and chemical weapons, there is indeed a gap. Patricia Lewis has also, earlier in this forum, eloquently pointed this out.
Contrary to what is the case for the two other weapons of mass destruction, the NPT does not contain a rule prohibiting use of nuclear weapons, and it has no time bound and specific rules on destruction of stockpiles.
Most international lawyers would agree that, as is the case for chemical and biological weapons, most foreseeable uses of nuclear weapons would be prohibited under the general rules of international humanitarian law (IHL), particularly under the rules on distinction and superfluous injury.
Also other weapons, such as non-detectable fragments, blinding laser weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, have been specifically banned from use because they in practice will not be used consistently with these general IHL rules.
But a clear-cut prohibition against nuclear weapons has yet to be put in place.
This fact constitutes a double paradox: First, from a legal perspective, it is puzzling that the use, possession, transfer and production of other weapons of mass destruction have been clearly and explicitly prohibited, whereas nuclear weapons are not subject to such prohibitions. Second, in light of the evidence presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, which clearly shows that the effects of nuclear weapons use would be unacceptable by any standard, it is a rather strange fact that nuclear weapons are not yet clearly prohibited. Other weapons whose effects are deemed unacceptable by the international community are, after all, prohibited.
In other words, there seems to be a mismatch between current international law and the perception of the effects of nuclear weapons use. The lack of a clear prohibition against nuclear weapons does constitute a normative gap.
That brings me to the question about forums, and the best way forward for filling this gap.
Framed as a normative problem, the question is not first and foremost which forum or arena might be best placed to take forward a prohibition on nuclear weapons use or on nuclear disarmament, either in the form of a nuclear weapons convention, a nuclear weapon ban treaty, a ”step-by-step” approach, or in a different way. In fact, I believe an overriding focus on procedures and process, forums and arenas, might be part of the problem and one of the reasons we have seen very little progress in this field over the last two decades.
Framed as a normative problem, the question instead becomes how one most effectively can align the international legal framework with the moral perception of the evidence presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. This question seems to have informed the “pledge” delivered by Austria at the end of the Vienna Conference, but the pledge does not seem to exclude any specific forums or policy outcomes.
The NPT Review Conference is coming up in a couple of months, and the newly documented short- and long-term effects of nuclear weapon detonations as well as the spectacular lack of any remotely adequate preparedness measures (how many burn units do hospitals in Europe have, for example?) should form the backdrop for discussions at the Review Conference. I don’t see any reason why discussions about how to align international law with the overwhelming documentation of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons should not form part of the discussions at the Review Conference either. After all, it was the references to catastrophic humanitarian consequences in the outcome document of the last Review Conference that paved the way for the three conferences on humanitarian consequences.
This does not mean that I don’t find specific proposals, such as the ones outlined in the NAC paper, interesting, and they might be the way forward if the NPT fails to deliver something tangible. I agree with John Borrie, who said earlier in this forum that the solutions suggested in the NAC paper are not mutually exclusive, but I think a key question is whether the nuclear-weapon states need to be part of the negotiating process, or whether there is merit in negotiating a ban without them.
I would argue that the 2015 Review Conference will be the acid test. The nuclear-weapon states can more or less decide the outcome of the Review Conference by undertaking a serious commitment to disarm. It would certainly be a great advantage from any perspective if they willingly did this. But if this does not happen, I disagree that they should be allowed to keep the rest of the world hostage to the perils of their nuclear weapons. Nine states continue to risk the welfare of the entire planet through possessing these weapons. Patience is growing thin.
Thanks Chair for giving me a chance to contribute in this highly fascinating discussion. At this point I will only make a few brief comments on some of the issues raised and discussed above;
The importance of institutional arrangements and legal instruments cannot and should not be undermined for building consensus against nuclear weapons as well as translating that consensus into practical and effective actions. However, we also need not lose sight of why the consensus against nuclear weapons has not been successfully developed particularly in the Nuclear Weapons Possessor States. One of the major challenges in this regard emerges from the social construct and perception of security elite about the utility of nuclear weapons in different countries either possessing nuclear weapons or being part of an alliance that commits security under a nuclear umbrella. Besides, these perceptions and the place of nuclear weapons in the social, political and national security discourses of various nuclear weapons possessor states vary so do the nature of challenges to nonproliferation and disarmament.
For example, in states where people’s fundamental right to live is challenged frequently by terrorist attacks, drone strikes, oppressive regimes, sectarian conflicts, hunger, drought and disease; would the call for disarmament based on the human cost of a nuclear war mean the same thing as it might for people living in Scandinavian countries? While, the humanitarian initiative is a great step it might fail to get registered in societies where the notion of humanitarian problems may appear convoluted due to the plethora of challenges that they are faced with. To sum it up, people in different parts of the world define their priorities differently owing to differences in their circumstances, socialization and the nature of problems they are faced with. In such circumstances, what should be the way forward? Can international institutions, legal frameworks or for that matter civil society led movements help change the way people (or more specifically policy makers) think about nuclear weapons? Can they generate political will in favor of disarmament?
While, all these factors may prove helpful, the epistemic communities with in all the relevant states might need to play a more crucial role. It is upon them to revisit the existing discourse on the utility of nuclear weapons in Nuclear Weapons Possessor States, identify and highlight the gaps in the national security discourses on nuclear weapons and propose workable solutions. Once the policy-makers are convinced of the ‘essential irrelevance’ of nuclear weapons in contemporary world, disarmament will not be a distant goal.
Therefore in my view, country specific tailor-made approaches might be as important as institutional and legal frameworks.
Firstly, thank you to Professor Joseph Camilleri and Professor Michael Hamel-Green for initiating and hosting this useful discussion forum. The expert contributions above offer a rich and stimulating setting for further discussion.
Randy Rydell’s incisive argument that nuclear disarmament has not been internalized by nuclear possessor states and their allies—highlighting the disjuncture between NWS’ declaratory aspirational policy and domestic infrastructure—is particularly significant. In my initial contribution to this forum, I would further stress that regrettably the various constituencies involved in nuclear weapons policy (both deterrence and disarmament) remain disparate and 'enclaved'.
Progress in reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in defence doctrines and towards implementing NPT nuclear disarmament commitments requires engagement and informed dialogue between various constituencies involved in the nuclear weapons policy debate. These various constituencies include: the strategic nuclear communities of nuclear possessor states which architect, implement and sustain nuclear deterrence policy; NNWS and civil society groups driving and advocating nuclear disarmament (including those driving the humanitarian initiative); and NNWS relying on extended nuclear deterrence. At present, the discourse on nuclear weapons policy regrettably remains engaged only in ‘enclave deliberation’ perpetuating the views within and excluding external or opposing views and arguments. Palpable frustration and miscommunication abounds within and between the various constituencies. It is imperative to aim to engage and stimulate meaningful dialogue between the separate constituencies and to promote informed, respectful, and frank engagement and dialogue between these camps, to facilitate in attempts to assuage current evident frustrations. Perhaps a way to inch closer to establishing a dialogue would be to attempt to convene key stakeholders of these separate constituencies with a progressive yet balanced agenda which addresses the underlying social constructs, assumptions and rationale of the role of nuclear weapons in security strategies and defence doctrines. An informed and balanced forum across the spectrum of widely diverging perspectives can attempt to begin to etch a bridge across these divides.
Convening dialogue between various constituencies on effective measures towards NPT nuclear disarmament commitments may be a initial step in efforts to bridge existing divides on nuclear weapons policy. Perhaps such a non-binding, Track II forum can be established to foment informed and frank dialogue on nuclear policy and disarmament issues between the 2015 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) and the 2017 NPT PrepCom. The 2015 NPT RevCon is likely to be a challenging meeting, as many NNWS have argued in its preceding PrepComs that the lack of implementation of the 2010 Action Plan—particularly on nuclear disarmament commitments—is further undermining the credibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the NPT review process. Some in the strategic communities may perceive the NPT RevCons as high-level diplomatic theatrics that take place every five years and which have no direct relevance to infrastructure and policy on nuclear deterrence. Efforts to consolidate a stigmatization of nuclear weapons through a legal framework such as a proposed nuclear weapons ban without the engagement of the nuclear weapons possessors and their respective strategic communities will encounter challenges to ‘progress’ on achieving nuclear disarmament. If the important and overdue discussions on attempts to reframe the narrative and social construct on nuclear weapons taking place in New York, Geneva (as well as Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna) are to have an impact on nuclear deterrence policy and its associated infrastructure, efforts should be focused on filtering these through to the stakeholders in the defence and strategic communities of the NWS and the nuclear weapons possessors outside the NPT framework.
My compliments on the creation of this online forum for discussing an issue of great relevance. Prof Michael has fittingly given it some direction by articulating a set of thought provoking questions. But there is equally such a sense of déjà vu!!
Unlike the upbeat environment which preceded the last NPT RevCon in 2010, the meeting this time appears to be headed for a lackluster performance owing to the many adverse trends that have been recounted in the first post of this online conversation. An examination of the nuclear weapons thinking and policies of the nuclear weapons possessor indicates that each is maintaining its capability to "hedge against future uncertainties". The problem with this is that it raises risks of perpetuating an ever-widening circle of nations with nuclear weapons, materials and technologies. Indeed, lack of meaningful moves towards universal nuclear disarmament could well bring about the nemesis of the treaty. It is going to be impossible and unsustainable to maintain focus on non-proliferation without adopting a constructive approach towards disarmament.
The attainment of a nuclear weapons free world, however, calls for a large number of measures, all of which must progressively devalue nuclear weapons and eventually delegitimize them. It is human nature to cling to anything that is perceived to be valuable. It is only if the nuclear weapons are made worthless, by rendering them unusable, would nations be willing to discard them. This is possible through a mix of normative, political and legal instruments.
Devaluation of nuclear weapons is needed at two levels -- attitudinal which targets nuclear belief systems, and encourages redrafting nuclear doctrines to restrict the role of nuclear weapons; and instrument based (whether in the form of a political commitment or legal treaty) which promotes acceptance of universal no first use and a ban on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Therefore, in answer to the question on what is the best way forward - legally or politically, I would suggest that devaluation measures will have to be taken along multiple axes. I endorse John Borrie's rather graphic analogy of the gear box that none of these steps need to be in competition with the other. It is akin to building a giant mosaic with different pieces being crafted as and when and where they can. Therefore, movement towards an NWFW must follow a "mop-where-you-can" approach.
Many thanks for all the insightful and stimulating contributions that have already been posted.
In the second week, there will be further contributions and responses from panellists to the discussion as it has already developed, as well as the opportunity for members of the wider public to contribute comments and responses.
Panel contributions so far have reflected a broad degree of commonality on the disturbing inadequacy of governmental responses, particularly nuclear-possessor state responses, to substantive efforts towards nuclear elimination in the face of what is now increasingly being appreciated as a transboundary humanitarian threat to the whole of humanity, and, one, which, given the split second possibilities for accidental or miscalculated initiation of nuclear war, might easily rearrange our global climate far more quickly than global warming. Most responses have acknowledged the new momentum that has built up for nuclear abolition through the three humanitarian conferences, including Vienna 2014, and the new Austrian pledge to actively work to fill the legal gap, now joined by some 52 UN member states.
Reviewing some of the responses so far on the original questions proposed in the moderator’s introduction:
Q. What is the best way forward, legally and politically, for filling the gap? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a framework convention, compared to a nuclear ban treaty, or a mix of separately negotiated measures?
Few of the responses so far give much credence to the “step-by-step” approach favoured by the major nuclear-possessor states, seeing little evidence that the “steps” are actually being taken, or at least taken in timely way, rather than being used as a kind of alibi for what Alva Myrdal used to refer to as “the game of disarmament” played by the nuclear powers. The just released Reaching Critical Will The NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report March 2015 documents just how few of the “steps” have actually been taken since earlier NPT Review decisions.
Beyond this, however, there are varying views about “filling the gap”.
Some, including Ambassador Duarte, favour the concept of a convention or (as proposed by UN-SG Ban Ki-Moon) “a framework of mutually reinforcing instruments”.
Others have argued strongly for the negotiation of a ban treaty as soon as possible by like-minded countries. Their arguments are underpinned by frustration at the lack of movement on nuclear elimination at either the Conference on Disarmament or through the NPT.
Still other responses envisage that the idea of a convention and a nuclear ban treaty are not mutually exclusively but could proceed in tandem or sequentially. In John Borries’ striking metaphor, an initial ban treaty might serve as the “low gear” that helps move the international community, including nuclear possessor states, into the higher gear of a nuclear weapons convention and actual nuclear weapons elimination.
Other responses have tended to highlight the need for gaining wider international understanding of the critical humanitarian risks in order to create the political will to undertake any of the legal mechanisms for nuclear abolition.
And still other responses have noted the crucial importance of changing attitudes, policies and structures within domestic national constituencies and polities, particularly in the nuclear possessor states.
Q. How important is it for the nuclear weapon states, both the NPT-recognized ones and the other four, to be involved in negotiations right from the start?
Some contributors, as for example, Randy Rydell, have argued strongly that a ban treaty without the nuclear weapon states would not necessarily achieve global nuclear disarmament, and that “the nuclear-weapon States must be engaged directly at all levels: domestic, regional and international. The alternative is not global zero, but zero disarmament”.
Others, however, have argued that the normative impact of a ban treaty would in turn help pressure nuclear-possessor states into agreeing to a framework convention, and that legal prohibition can and may precede actual elimination rather than be concurrent (as, indeed, happened with the Chemical Weapons Convention).
Still others, as for example Bruce Kent, Alyn Ware. Kimaki Kawai, Sadia Tasleem and Jenny Nielsen, have variously drawn attention to the vital importance of working within nuclear weapon states amongst grass roots constituencies, faith communities, epistemic groups, and, most importantly engaging with policy and decision-makers in those countries, including parliamentary representatives.
Q. What is the best forum for negotiating legal instruments for the elimination of nuclear weapons?
Patricia Lewis has noted the failure of the CD “to achieve a sustained negotiation in nearly 20 years” and the new difficulties in bilateral progress between the US and Russia following the Ukraine conflict, and argued for the need for “creative” ways forward, including ways of improving awareness amongst governments and younger generations about the new evidence on catastrophic humanitarian impacts and ever-increasing risks of nuclear use. Ambassador Duarte, while noting that the existing deadlocks are not necessarily the result of problems in existing structures and procedures, argues the importance of seeking a new UN Special Session on Disarmament, something the nuclear powers have so far resisted.
Q. How best might we continue to galvanize the great majority of countries behind a common approach? What mobilizing and engaging strategies are needed at civil society, governmental and intergovernmental levels?
The importance of civil society organizations in galvanizing government movement on the issue was evident in many of the postings, with particular emphasis on such initiatives as ICAN campaigns, the Global Wave actions, international cooperation amongst parliamentarians, interfaith dialogues (Kimaki Kawai), working with political parties, awareness raising of the humanitarian issues at upcoming forums, particularly the 2015 NPT Review, working with epistemic communities in possessor states (Sadia Tasleem, and overcoming the “enclave mentality” of various constituencies involved in nuclear policy (Jenny Nielsen), especially through Track 2 dialogue processes.
Can regional organizations and groupings, for example, existing regional NWFZ members and regional civil society networks, play significant advocacy roles in mobilizing support for global measures?
Relatively little attention has so far been given to the regional role, although Ambassador Duarte refers to the success of the Latin American states on regional initiatives such as the Tlatelolco Treaty. John Borrie notes the possibility of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones being a step or “gear” in between a ban treaty and the top gear of a nuclear weapon convention.
Areas that might be explored further in the second week of our dialogue?
In November 2012 the opening session of the Athens Dialogue on a Middle East WMD-free Zone that I co-convened with Joseph A. Camilleri, Michael Hamel-Green and others had participants “imagine the future” 5, 10 and even 20 years from now.
As we noted in our final report: “The twenty-year period was chosen as a way of enabling participants to think beyond the powerful constraints currently limiting the room for manoeuvre available to the key protagonists.[…] It is fair to say that many found this an extremely difficult exercise, with most unwilling or unable to let their imaginations run free.”
Having followed the proceeding discussion closely, perhaps there is a warning in there for addressing the larger question about "eliminating" nuclear weapons altogether too. Let us not fall to the same temptation of forgetting what has been achieved over recent decades in variously banning and stigmatising landmines, cluster munitions and chemical weapons. Though the “nuclear threat” may well be different-in-kind to all others, arguably the political and legal rocks-in-the-road can be pushed aside just the same, if only we open our minds to the very possibility of it.
This limited message focuses on one question and one country.
The one question is : How important is it for the nuclear weapon states, both the NPT-recognized ones and the other four, to be involved in negotiations right from the start?
The one country I choose is France. In nuclear security matters (unlike others), France is scarcely more of a team player than Israel or North Korea. The refusal to send an official delegation to Vienna seems to indicate that.
So does the recent official speech about nuclear deterrence from President Hollande (Istres, Feb. 19) This flag-waving discourse - available in my unofficial translation on www.acdn.net - states that “France’s international commitments will always be honoured”, but makes no mention of Article VI of the NPT. France will attend the New York conference, of course, but will try to focus the agenda on non-proliferation (those naughty Iranians!) and on stopping fissile materials production. France will probably try to claim credit for having fewer than 300 warheads and may even promise to eliminate them “when the strategic situation makes it possible” (a coded message meaning Never). Alas, today’s French deterrence thinking remains very similar to that of the 1970s.
If we read this speech as Hollande’s reply to the question of what Security means, the answer is a narrow nationalist one: freedom and independence for France and her “vital interests”, plus a nod towards the UK and other European neighbours. There is no admission that France’s ongoing investment in strike-force and simulations might be an incitement for others to obtain nuclear weapons, and no suggestion that France’s military stance might be part of today’s worrying strategic situation.
I conclude that in 2015 it is not important for France (and most of the other NWS) to be involved in moves leading to a specific legal instrument to prohibit and stigmatize nuclear weapons. Since dozens of non-nuclear states consider this matter to be urgent, they should now start negotiating a ban among themselves, to be based on existing international law (treaty law, IHL, etc). To include France at the start would surely be a recipe for failure.
Let me echo Richard Lennane’s challenge issued at Vienna to the non-nuclear states: “How long will you continue to accept the procrastination, empty promises, and endless excuses of the nuclear-armed states?”
The legal gap has been well described in this forum. The humanitarian approach has seized on it, putting moral and legal arguments at the center of the debate. These arguments challenge the doctrines of nuclear deterrence: the inhumane effects are such that no sane leader should ever use them. If we do not extricate ourselves from the deterrence mode of thinking, a nuclear weapon-free world might be a world of virtual deterrence based on rapid reconstitution capabilities, and that would hardly be a stable non-nuclear world.
The humanitarian message is simple and straightforward and therefore lends itself to potent campaigns. Moral arguments go beyond elitist calculations and resonate across borders, while legal instruments are essential to give them binding form. Another distinct advantage is that it broadens the set of stakeholders and injects fresh momentum into the disarmament debate. In this respect, the humanitarian approach has already scored a substantial success. The range of stakeholders may be further enlarged by promoting links between disarmament savings and development objectives. To make the connection more palatable to decision-makers who are not used to think in disarmament-development terms, the savings might be used to provide education and jobs for young people who might otherwise resort to violence in despair or be recruited to terrorist movements.
Any approach needs critical examination, however, and the humanitarian one is no exception. A ban on use is problematical, to say the least, for states that are under a nuclear umbrella. NATO countries are committed to possible first use, so how can they credibly join a treaty that bans any use? If a ban on use is contemplated in a fashion analogous to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 on chemical and biological weapons, it would in practice mean no-first use (NFU) - which is closer at hand, but for the moment out of reach. However, Obama’s nuclear posture review says the US will work to establish the objective conditions for a transition to NFU, and if the US and China agrees on a NFU clause in their relations, more of the same would follow in other NWS dyads. NFU – reducing the functions of nuclear weapons to one and one only, deterring others from using theirs, has an intriguing disarmament corollary: nobody would need them if nobody had them.
What about a ban on possession? Unlike, say, the land mines convention, where some disarmament was obtained from the beginning and more followed, a ban on possession of nuclear weapons would amount to no more than disarming the disarmed. Hence Randy Rydell’s question: would an NPT II minus the NWSs bring us closer to disarmament? The humanitarian approach does not address the problems that occupy the minds of weapons establishments: BMDs; long-range, accurate conventional systems; conventional imbalances; political order obstacles etc. Can it succeed by ignoring them, leaving it to the NWS to get them out of the way?
Jenny Nielsen rightly observes that constituencies involved in nuclear weapons policy remain disparate and “enclaved”. More so today, I believe, than in the past. On the disarmament side, the disconnect has evolved out of frustration with the stalemate of disarmament fora and what has been called “anti-nuclear nuclearism”: in a tactical adaptation to the “four horsemen” and Barrack Obama’s initial call, the United States and others have gone for slimmer and more versatile arsenals, building new weapon systems across the board that may enter service in 15 years and last for 40-50, projecting nuclear arsenals to 2070-2080. Hence John Borrie’s reminder, that the challenge is to get disarmament re-started.
In its Common Security report of 1981, the Palme Commission said that in the nuclear age, security is something we have to build together with our adversaries. It is not something we can build through unilateral action. The fallacy of the last step - believing that the latest military acquisition will bring lasting advantage - was obvious then and equally so today. For the NWS to substitute common security for unilateral action they have to come together, at the same table, in pursuit of disarmament. Nuclear disarmament has to be seen as a win-win proposition.
A necessary condition for that to happen is that the US and Russia reduce their arsenals to three-digit numbers. The formula advocated by the US Academy of Sciences in the 1990s – no more than 1000 deployed weapons on either side, non-deployed ones being a fraction of that – comes close. If the US and Russia go a bit below that, China, France and the UK may reconsider previous statements to the effect that the two big ones have to come down to their level before sitting down together. All nuclear weapon states should participate - save, I believe, Israel and North Korea, for their arsenals may best be addressed in their respective regional settings.
But this is not a sufficient requirement, however. Neither is it the most difficult one to attain. The harder part of it has to do with the political and military order – how to make the major powers exercise restraint and demonstrate respect for each other’s vital interests, enough to forge a common perspective on nuclear disarmament as a win-win proposition. As long as it is considered in terms of unilateral advantage and national sacrifice it will go nowhere. Non-nuclear weapon states and civil society can make a difference, but can never press the nuclear weapon states to see things this way. They have to be convinced that it is in their self-interest.
So, back to where I began: How can the humanitarians and others best use their influence to score a concrete success? Trading their leverage for what results? Disarmament campaigns always had their ups and downs, so how can one chart a continuation that keeps new stakeholders active and, ideally, adds more to the effort? I believe good answers to these questions are pressing.
A reminder (to some of the humanitarians): when facing difficult problems, single approaches seldom do the trick. Usually, one has to get at them from many angles and in different ways. Arms reductions, disarmament dividends for education and development, doctrinal changes, humanitarian approaches transcending deterrence, arms control, norms of cooperation, restraint and respect for others and for international law – all these have important roles to play. We must recognize them, not as alternatives, but as mutually reinforcing paths to disarmament.
Since the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, disarmament-oriented analysts and NGOs, as well as UNIDIR and UNODA, have done a pretty good job (at least in the West) of highlighting the incompatibility of ongoing reliance on nuclear weapons with NPT and UN obligations and commitments, the law of armed conflict, prudence, and morality. And since 2010 the unacceptability of such reliance has been quite effectively highlighted with reference to the consequences of explosions. But all of this is at real risk of being indefinitely derailed by developments in Russia/Europe, and also in South Asia, Northeast Asia, and Asia. One can’t do everything. But still I wonder whether more attention to alliances, military postures, power relations, geopolitics, was and is warranted, as well as making connections with state and non-state actors in non-Western nuclear powers (see Sadia Tasleem’s post).
It’s not as if there was no warning. In 1998, George Kennan said regarding NATO expansion: ''I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies…. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong.'' Most of us knew this but it was not necessarily a central theme of advocacy and analysis. I remember seeing Rose Gottemoeller and Anatoly Antonov, the New START negotiators, give a joint presentation at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Gottemoeller’s attitude was business-like: we’ve accomplished this modest agreement, let’s go forward to something much more ambitious. Antonov’s attitude was definitely, not so fast, and also one of anachronistically inviting congratulations as if we were still in the days when “superpowers” were implored not to destroy the world.
The trajectory of the next few years was already clear. Despite the aims of Gottemoeller and others in the Obama administration for a follow-on bilateral agreement that would address all nuclear weapons (including non-strategic, non-deployed) and providing for the first time for verification of warhead dismantlement, nothing significant was done on the US side with respect to factors shaping the Russian posture (US-Europe-Russia political/economic relations; nuclear infrastructure development; non-nuclear strategic capabilities including missile defenses, long-range non-nuclear systems).
Putting aside questions of political will and geopolitics, it is fair to say that with the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the model Nuclear Weapons Convention, the Global Zero plan, a Stimson Center book, discussions in the Open-Ended Working Group, the New Agenda working paper, proposals for a ban treaty, and more, in recent years there has been some useful examination of the legal and institutional framework for a nuclear weapons-free world. This Middle Powers Initiative paper discusses the options (at pp. 5-7): http://middlepowers.org/pubs/Beacon-of-Hope.pdf.
Regarding a convention, it is sometimes said that this a toxic word, to be avoided because it prevents discussion. I think this basically reflects the fact that the P4 at least are not prepared to discuss a timebound program for abolition; it’s not about the word. But I would add that perhaps talking about a convention, on the model of the Chemical Weapons Convention, conveys too much the impression that it’s a terribly daunting task. In the nuclear arena, though, we are not starting from scratch. There is the safeguards system, the IAEA, the NPT obligation of non-acquisition applying to most states; the CTBT and CTBTO; the US-Russian/Soviet arms control history; and more. In some ways a nuclear disarmament instrument could just be added to the existing architecture. Optimally this would be a global multilateral treaty, but note that there could be an agreement among possessor states with some representation from other states and international organizations. If necessary, basic obligations prohibiting use and setting a time period for the completion of elimination could be agreed, with other aspects subject to further negotiation.
Regarding processes, the 1985 NPT Review Conference urged the Conference on Disarmament to start multilateral negotiations on the basis of paragraph 50 of the consensus 1978 Special Session on Disarmament Final Document, which provided for 1) cessation of qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons; 2) cessation of production of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for weapons; and 3) a phased program with time-frames for reduction of arsenals leading to their elimination. No such negotiations ensued, and nothing so ambitious has been agreed in NPT outcomes since then. This history is discouraging, to be sure, but it is also good to know there is precedent for seeking a comprehensive approach.
If there is no 2015 NPT outcome, or if it is weak, one possibility would be for the General Assembly to reestablish the Open-Ended Working Group, which could then feed into the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament to be held by 2018. It is hard at the present moment to see decisive positive results of this approach, but it would keep the pressure up and promote development of ideas. Also to be kept in view are the P5 consultations on verification etc. – could they be broadened and deepened?
Outside of the UN and the NPT, one could hope for greater coordination and joint action from the regional nuclear weapon free zones. However, so far as I know only the Latin American zone has an administrative body, OPANAL, and the zones have seemed to struggle just to hold one-day meetings on the eve of NPT meetings. As to a possible process of negotiations initiated and if necessary concluded by non-nuclear weapon states, would it be just Act III of disarming the disarmed, following Act I, the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco and subsequent NWFZs, and Act II, the 1968 NPT (the charge was levelled at the time)? If perceived as such, it’s not likely to happen. Or could it be a transformative exercise in global consciousness raising, reinforce the practice and the developing norm of non-use, deepen commitment to non-cooperation with nuclear weapons, perhaps even provide or stimulate mechanisms for disarmament, and create an alliance of states to counterbalance the nuclear powers? I don’t know but I am keeping an open mind.
Thank you for inviting me to make a comment on this panel, Joe and Michael.
I find the 'humanitarian initiative' particularly interesting because it threatens to take the debate well and truly away from the nuclear weapon states, and the P5 in particular. Until now, the various proponents of disarmament - and especially what I call the 'advocacy states' - have sought to work with the NWS. Presumably the idea that we need always to engage the NWS has been a driving factor here. And one can understand how this has arisen, given our instinctive sense that we need to involve from the outset those states which are fundamentally tied to the problem.
But, 20 years after the NPT was indefinitely extended, and with little substantial progress made by the NWS, it is perhaps inevitable that a significant number of states are now willing to strike out on their own by creating a nuclear weapons ban treaty - something which I believe will take place, and sooner rather than later.
The implications of this are interesting: on one level, it seems quite natural to go about creating legal norms without the consent of those who are seen to be the ones violating that norm. Perhaps the following is not the best example, but it does strike me that we wouldn't consult with a criminal when we are creating laws against that criminal activity. All our energies in the past have been directed at the nuclear weapon possessor states, and this follows the logic that, in international relations, creating an effective global prohibition regime requires the consent and active involvement of the great powers.
But this has been changing over the years, and we can see plenty of examples of where legal prohibitions have been achieved, even without the consent or participation of some of the major states. The usual objection is that unless the states concerned comply with the norm, these arrangements are weak and not durable. But if we believed this, we would never had created the landmines treaty, the cluster munitions treaty, or for that matter the Geneva Conventions. More and more global prohibition regimes are being drawn up without at least some of the major states.
What is new in this current instance is that this is happening at the very highest level of high politics - national security and the role of nuclear weapons in national security. The debate has until now been kept very closely managed by the NWS, at least at the level of inter-state discussions and diplomacy (NGOs have of course pushed for prohibition norms for decades). It is not surprising that the P5 have been largely dismissive of the humanitarian initiative.
But it seems likely to me that we have passed an important step, almost imperceptibly. Processes and activities over the past three years indicate that the NWS have indeed lost control of the nuclear disarmament debate. This might not mean much in the short-term, and certainly it doesn't mean that they will comply with any ban treaty that might be in the offing. But what Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna show is that time has moved on, and with it, so too has the sense that these decisions should be left to the nuclear weapon states.
Ironically, the system of 'nuclear apartheid' present in the NPT and lamented for so long by many non-nuclear weapon states is set to continue, but this time, it will be a case of the have-nots ostracizing the haves, and the haves - regardless of the fact that they are an ill-assorted bunch and that some of them remain adversaries against each other - being left to sort things out among themselves.
Perhaps I am being too light and frivolous here. I realise of course that a ban treaty in and of itself will not bring disarmament. Nor is it likely to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. We will still live in an extremely dangerous nuclear armed world.
But a ban treaty would represent an important achievement: a clear sense of 'separate development' self-consciously created in opposition to the status quo, the nuclear world in which we live.
This forum has developed into a very stimulating and useful exchange, and I would like to thank all of the participants for their many insightful contributions.
I support what appears to be an emerging consensus here that the task of bringing into being a world without nuclear weapons is one that must be taken on from multitude of different angles. These different approaches are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would even say that uncovering and maintaining awareness of complementarity is a key and ongoing challenge for all of us.
This time, I would like to offer some thoughts regarding the challenges of communication and constituency building as I feel that these are areas in which faith-based organizations and civil society organizations generally can make an effective contribution.
Time and again, we've heard the biggest obstacle to nuclear weapons free world is “lack of political will.” I would like to parse that phrase somewhat. While different governments exhibit different degrees of responsiveness, today no government can continue indefinitely to ignore a large, mobilized and vocal constituency within its political system.
In actuality, this constituency does not have to be that large. But there must be an underlying intensity in its motivation and commitment. We see this in the reverse case, where policies that have broad but only generic support are not implemented because of opposition by small but intensely motivated pressure groups. Nuclear weapons are not popular, not even in the nuclear weapons states. Most people would prefer to live in a world without them. But for a majority in most countries, they are not an issue of defining salience. In contrast to this, in all the NWS, there are entrenched constituencies in which are concentrated enormous material, technological and intellectual resources dedicated to the development of these weapons and the doctrines guiding their possible use. (Entering into the worldview of these technocrats and policymakers in order to challenges its internal logic requires the mobilization of different epistemic communities, as has been noted.)
The question for the segments of civil society in which I am in most contact is how to build broader, more intensely committed constituencies for nuclear weapons abolition. This was a central concern when we were developing the newest iteration of our nuclear abolition exhibition in collaboration with ICAN. It shaped a strategy of presenting nuclear weapons in light of their impact in areas where we know people sustain strong feelings: climate and the environment, economic justice, human rights, gender equity, etc. By linking nuclear disarmament to these issues, we have sought to tap into existing reservoirs of intensity, to build the kind of large, robustly mobilized constituencies that are necessary to generating the necessary “political will.”
Antinuclear Exhibition: “Everything You Treasure – For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons”
Another important factor in communication and constituency building is the value of narratives. We humans are storytelling animals; it is how we organize our lives and maintain an understanding of our place in larger, even cosmic, contexts. This is why the voices—the actual experiences—of the hibakusha are so important, and why it is valuable that the use of the term hibakusha has expanded to include all those who have suffered the effects of nuclear weapons use, including in manufacturing and testing. These wrenching narratives bring home, in a way that statistics cannot, the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. We consider the work of recording, preserving and transmitting these stories to the future to be a literally sacred undertaking.
If more people are to commit themselves to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, it is vital that they are guided by a hopeful vision or narrative. Here also, there is an important, if less dramatic, body of real life experiences that needs to be shared. Having grown up in Japan, I was in a sense numb to the real implications of extended deterrence, of living under a nuclear umbrella and within the framework potential nuclear confrontation. I became sensitized to these realities and to a world of different possibilities through traveling to countries outside of the extended deterrence regimes, in particular to countries that have made the choice to form and be part of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZs).
Within the nuclear weapons states and their extended deterrence allies, the prospect of nuclear annihilation forms a kind of background noise that people become strangely accustomed to. The experience of life in the NWFZs is, on this one point, radically different. The actual, lived experiences of entire societies prove the falseness of the claim that nuclear weapons are essential to the achievement of security. I hope that we will be able to find creative ways of sharing these life experiences––in much the way we share the experiences nuclear victims––as a means of building new, grassroots awareness within the nuclear weapons states.
One of the most striking slogans of recent years has been that “another world is possible.” The NWFZs are another, safer world that already exists. The existence of this world and the possibilities for a different world that it presents, needs to be widely understood by everyone living under the shadow of nuclear weapons.
Unless the nuclear weapons states actually give up their weapons, we are not going to have a nuclear weapons-free world. I am all for a ban treaty and I strongly support the initiative to secure one, but I don't think that the British establishment will give up nuclear weapons because of what it will see as moralising pressure from less powerful states. It can be one element in our range of arguments but the forthcoming decision (expected early 2016) on whether or not to replace Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system will not be swung by the pressure for a ban treaty.
That will be determined primarily by British factors, notably shifting opinion on whether or not Britain needs nuclear weapons for its security, and their opportunity cost, whether in terms of conventional weaponry or essential government spending on health, education and so on.
You may not be aware, beyond Britain, of just how central the Trident issue is in mainstream political debates, so I am outlining some of the crucial detail, so you can see the situation we are in.
In December 2006, the Blair government introduced a White Paper, committing to support the replacement of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system. In March 2007, despite significant backbench opposition, parliament voted to begin that process with the first phase being concept and design for replacing the four nuclear weapons-carrying submarines.
We’ve been in that phase since 2007, knowing that eventually a further decision will take place – whether or not to actually start building the subs. During these years the world has been turned almost upside down. We’ve had the global financial crisis of 2008 and although Britain has by no means been the hardest hit, we continue to experience a period of very sharp austerity policies. Unpleasant though this has been, it has certainly sharpened public awareness of what our government spends money on – and this has put Trident replacement (total lifetime cost in excess of £100 billion) under scrutiny from a cost point of view.
These years since 2007 have also made many people think about what threatens our safety and security. The main challenges are understood to be terrorism and climate change. Neither have been adequately addressed over this period and people increasingly see nuclear weapons as something from the past, which do not address the problems that face us today. Not even the pro-nuclear lobby jumping on the bandwagon of the ‘Russia threat’ cuts much ice because it is obvious that it’s actually aggressive NATO expansion that is the root of the tensions with that country.
So we now have a situation where public opinion against Trident is the strongest it has ever been, at the moment when the final decision on replacement is coming up fast. With March 2016 the date that is being trailed, the MPs that are elected this May will comprise the parliament that decides on the future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system. CND members and supporters are pulling out the stops to lobby our candidates in advance of the election so they know that Trident is an issue in our voting choices. Of course individual candidates may oppose Trident but their party leaderships and policy may be in favour. Here's where the parties are at:
Currently, the Conservative Party supports a full ‘like-for-like’ replacement of the Trident system but it’s worth noting that some dissenting voices are appearing – most notably Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate. He opposes Trident on the basis that it damages conventional military spending and no doubt that is a view that will be supported elsewhere too.
The Labour Party wants to retain an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ but is also committed to including Trident in a Strategic Defence Review after the election. In the last few days, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said that Labour might reduce the number of subs from 4 to 3. So Labour is beginning to move at the leadership level.
The Lib Dems are well-known for wanting an end to the current system but are looking for something cheaper – maybe fewer subs and an end to continuous at-sea patrol.
The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are all opposed to Trident and its replacement. In the past this might have been dismissed as what you might expect from fringe parties, but as they have received a surge in support in recent months, it’s possible that these parties might hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. So their policies are actually very significant.
So in terms of post-election outcomes, there are some combinations which could spell a change on nuclear weapons. As it stands currently, only the Conservative Party stands definitively for ‘like-for-like’ replacement. With Labour and Lib Dems looking at fewer subs that could mean a further delay to starting to build any more – and a further opportunity for us to ensure that the building never starts. With three parliamentary parties outright opposed, it is profoundly to be hoped that if they find themselves supporting a minority government they will never pass a budget which includes any Trident spending. That is the very minimum we should expect from them.
So you can see that Trident is a central question in a shifting political narrative and there is all to play for.
But it's not just a matter for us here in Britain. We need your support too. In February, when the P5 was meeting in London, a number of anti-nuclear organisations internationally handed in letters of protest against Trident at British Embassies in their own countries. We need more of this support, so that our government realises there is international pressure for Britain to disarm as well as majority opposition to Trident domestically.
If you can organise a letter hand in or other event in your own country, either before our election or after, that would be hugely valuable. Britain is the weakest link when it comes to nuclear weapons possession, so please help us scrap Trident!
My compliments to Dr Michael-Hamel Green and Professor Joseph Camilleri for initiating and moderating this online forum on a very relevant matter.
The prospects for eliminating nuclear weapons still remain a grim prospect. The recent decision by Japan not to uphold the Austrian pledge is yet another dampener to prospects of nuclear disarmament. After having hosted the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014 in Vienna, Austria reiterates its pledge for eliminating nuclear weapons by calling upon all all states parties to the NPT to renew their commitment to the existing obligations under Article VI. Austria also call upon all nuclear weapons possessor states to take concrete interim measures to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in their strategic calculations. Japan however has refused to accede any cooperation on this call. Being the only country having suffered nuclear bombings, Japan has every year consistently called on states to take action toward the elimination of nuclear weapons at the UNGA. However, Japan’s refusal to support the the Austrian pledge is premised on the ground that the treaty calls for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons something which the Japanese government finds it paradoxical given Tokyo’s consistent reliance on the US nuclear umbrella. Japan’s reliance and confidence on the extended deterrence provided by the US not only reinforces the salience of nuclear weapons but also impairs the process of nuclear disarmament. Japan can hardly be convinced to relinquish its dependability of American extended deterrence. Washington also can no more be persuaded to withdraw its nuclear protection to Japan. Any such step might endanger a domino effect with several countries in North-East Asia to cross the nuclear threshold. Given the nuclear challenges and threats already posed by North Korea in the region, there might be mushrooming of new nuclear weapon possessors in North-East Asia.
So what is the way out? The most relevant solution would be a change in the perception towards nuclear weapons. As mentioned by Manpreet Sethi an attitudinal transformation towards nuclear belief systems and deterrence rationales is critical for the nuclear disarmament process to move forward. Japan’s refusal to support the Austrian pledge does not imply that it has aborted its endeavor for eliminating nuclear weapons. Tokyo’s intention for striving towards the path of nuclear disarmament still remains clear. However, mere declaration of intention is not adequate to realize the goal of global zero. There has to be a conviction in the belief that a world free of nuclear weapons in not only in the interest of any particular state or region but that of the entire world.
Unfortunately, the existing line of thinking in Japan is prevalent in other parts of the world as well. The salience upon nuclear weapons is no less than in Japan. Within South Asia, nuclear deterrence rationales significantly influence the strategic goals of India, Pakistan and China. China’s rapid military modernization multiplies the formidability of its weapon-system and enhances its strategic primacy. This itself poses strategic challenges for India compelling it to keep its nuclear option intact. The China-India equation this leaves little room for Pakistan to remain behind. What is more difficult in this region is unlike the other two P-5 countries (US and Russia) China has not pursued any strategic reduction – a step towards nuclear disarmament. Pakistan’s continued blockade of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty severely impairs an important instrumental initiative towards the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, existing geopolitical and strategic complexities among the three regional powers constrains prospects for gradual reductions of nuclear weapons.
It thus appears that apart from an attitudinal change, it is important that there is a realization that there are more pressing requirements than nuclear weapons. For Pakistan, its poor economic growth needs for financial assistance to nurse it back to health. Pakistan must realized its priorities and invest in the economic development of the country instead of seeking any nuclear parity with India. This cannot be done at the governmental level alone given the complexities in the political and military fabric of the state. The lead has thus to be taken by regional groups both governmental and non-governmental like the South Asian Voices to raise awareness in the state and region. India gave fresh impetus to the goal of nuclear disarmament with a high level informal advisory group established by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010. In its report the group asserted, "India can and must play an effective and credible role as the leader of a campaign for the goal of universal nuclear disarmament."
The goal of nuclear disarmament can no longer be constrained to intangible factors like mere intentions. It requires real efforts and effective actions to move beyond pipedreams and become a reality.
The dialogue has already involved excellent contributions that analyse many of the pros and cons of various approaches and strategies with much insight and cogency, not only in addressing the original questions but also in raising new considerations.
As mentioned in my moderator's review at the end of the second week, there are a number of areas that might be worth exploring further, including:
Professor Camilleri and I would very much like to encourage further discussion, inputs and responses, not only from panel members but also from members of the wider public, policy makers, and civil society advocates, on some of the above.
The dialogue was originally to conclude today but to facilitate further discussion and debate amongst both panellists and others who are interested in exploring possibilities, we have decided to extend the dialogue for a further two weeks until Tuesday, April 7th, just after Easter.
We would welcome your posting of further comments, queries and contributions on the best ways of moving forward on these crucial dilemmas for the future of humanity.
Thank you for organizing such an excellent exchange of views and of affording me the opportunity to participate.
As for the first section of your moderators review discussing the merits of a nuclear ban treaty and a nuclear weapon convention I would say the following. If by a nuclear ban treaty a non-use agreement is intended, this might be worth exploring. It will be extremely difficult to achieve-as will any progress on nuclear disarmament as long as President Putin is in office given his stated views-but over time progress might be made here. The NPT nuclear weapon states-as I can say from personal experience-have always been strongly resistant to no first use arrangements, although the Obama administration came close to such a policy position in its nuclear posture review of about five years ago. But as I say, progress might be possible and it would be worth doing. And I should also mention,in my view, the most important objective to pursue is the comprehensive test ban treaty, ratified by 160 nations with largely only the lack of US ratification preventing it from entering into force. It is my strongly held view that the NPT cannot survive long term without CTBT entry into force as it has long been seen as the essential "quid" for the "quo" , the vital "political cover", for 184 nations undertaking pursuant to the NPT to never acquire nuclear weapons. And if we one day lose the NPT nothing will be possible. As for a nuclear weapon convention I regard it as impossible to achieve and counter productive to pursue as it alienates the very countries that have to be persuaded to surrender their weapons to achieve world wide nuclear disarmament. Countries such as Israel, Pakistan and outlier North Korea are not going to give up their weapons before peace and security are established in their region and their survival assured-a very long way off. For France, India, Great Britain (although perhaps less so recently) and now Russia, nuclear weapons assure/retain/bring great power status. For China nuclear weapons are insurance against international blackmail over issues like Taiwan, North Korea, and the South China Sea primarily by the United States. For the U.S., such weapons are seen as part of the position of world leader. Given these views, given the intense concern over verification, and given President Putin's stance, a nuclear weapon convention-say along the lines of the Chemical Weapons Convention-is simply not possible.
If the 2015 NPT Review turns out badly it would be best to reemphasize the importance of a dialogue in the Middle East on an eventual nuclear weapon free zone in the region. The U.S. promised this to Egypt and others to achieve a successful result at the 2010 Review Conference but was unable to deliver. Perhaps if the proposed agreement with Iran comes into force and over a few years Iran is verifiably seen as scrupulously adhering to it Israel may be persuaded to accept some constraints on its program. This could be a first step.
Mobilizing constituencies to support nuclear disarmament progress might best begin in the US where for many years the public has supported nuclear disarmament-at least in general terms-but has never demanded it of its representatives in the Congress. Change here is essential to progress. Progress with the public in Russia does not seem possible now.
Regional groups can most usefully support nuclear disarmament by supporting the expansion of the nuclear weapon free zone process and trying to accomplish what is possible.
Nuclear deterrence and extended deterrence are intricate and complicated subjects but if the world community can reach agreement on a non-use treaty this could make it perhaps somewhat less relevant.
It is important to consider the relationship between conventional conflicts and possible escalation to nuclear confrontation, particularly today in the disputes over Ukraine between Russia and NATO.
First of all many thanks to Professor Joseph Camilleri and Professor Michael Hamel-Green for inviting me to participate in this learned and extremely fascinating forum.
If I look at the entire debate from a country prism, then not only things look easier to comprehend but to reason about as well. First of all, the elimination of nuclear weapons will never happen unless it involves an approach that seeks to secure assurances. Expecting countries with already challenged security profiles, such as Pakistan, whose main rationale for going nuclear was its existential threat perception vis a vis India, to change without such assurances will never bring the desired results for the global community.
The deadlock at the CD and other disarmament fora will remain so long as there is a realization for the need for not only multilateral and regional negotiations but also for country-specific negotiations and measures. In countries such as Pakistan, with the financial resources deemed optimum for a decent survival, nuclear weapons will not only enjoy a centrality in their security framework but are perceived by a large segment of civil society more in terms of their virtues than vices, a view which will get further reinforced as a knee jerk reaction to the non-resolution of core reasons of conflict (rather an outright dismissal). Other non-NPT signatories, especially India, are seen as being in a different category. In a context where protocols such as NSG were brought up primarily in reaction to Buddha smiling radioactively in 1974, and where the NPT was focussed around discrimination and non-transfer or assistance on the nuclear front, then recent changes in South Asia's strategic profile serve to further weaken global disarmament.
Unfortunately, discriminatory measures, and the disregarding of core conflicts which resulted in pursuit of a nuclear path, will be unhelpful unless a step wise country based approach is taken, under which not only nuclear but conflict resolution measures at bilateral levels are pursued. Otherwise, there will be no incentive for countries to positively contribute and make multilateral fora such as the NPT successful. In any case, the NPT most recently is perceived as not only discriminatory but also to a large extent redundant. The main thrust of making any disarmament forum effective should involve not only on the genuine will of member nation states - more of an ideal notion – but also concrete measures and actions that go deeper than mere optics.
This second contribution focuses on one of Michael Hamel-Green's questions:
• To what extent are the options of a nuclear ban treaty initially signed by a group of like-minded states, and the option of a nuclear weapon convention that seeks to have all nuclear weapon states join from the beginning, mutually exclusive, or could they be complementary or sequential steps in the objective of global nuclear elimination? What are the pros and cons of each approach as compared to pursuing the two approaches in an integrated global strategy?
I really liked John Borrie’s metaphor of putting a jeep into bottom gear to get it moving, with the intention of changing up later.
But I propose a different metaphor. In the case of cigarette smoking, law doesn’t change behaviour. At least not at first - a new law banning (say) smoking in cafés does not immediately stop the addicts from lighting up. But the passing of the law does immediately change what people can do legally. And it helps to encourage some smokers to quit. Furthermore it increases the general stigma against this unwise behaviour.
Given the dangerous “addiction” of some nations to nuclear weapons, I favour a nuclear ban treaty initially signed by like-minded states (preferably at least 150 of them). The idea of having all the NWS on board from the start might seem desirable, ideally; but it is so unlikely in practice that it is a recipe for failure. Too often, in multi-lateral fora like the NPT Revision Conferences, the P5 have blocked serious disarmament measures. These five (and some of the other four) are powerful, influential nations, and their delegations are skilful at seeming to support disarmament while actually making it very difficult. Has any one of the five even foreshadowed a preliminary meeting with a view to thinking about implementing Article VI? Surely something can be done despite their dissent!
Perhaps a Ban Treaty signed by the like-minded could resemble an anti-smoking law passed for the common good despite the dissent of the smokers. At first it would eliminate no nuclear warhead. But it might encourage some nation to quit (the UK?). It would certainly increase the stigma against the weapons most deserving to be outlawed.
And it might help to give movement and momentum to the bogged-down jeep of disarmament.
RESPONSES FROM AMBASSADOR SERGIO DUARTE ON FURTHER QUESTIONS RAISED IN MODERATOR'S POST OF 23 MARCH:
1. To what extent are the options of a nuclear ban treaty initially signed by a group of like minded states, and the option of a nuclear weapon convention that seeks to have all nuclear weapon states join from the beginning, mutually exclusive, or could they be complementary or sequential steps in the objective of global nuclear elimination? What are the pros and cons of each approach as compared to pursuing the two approaches in an integrated global strategy?
1 – There is no objective reason to believe that a simple ban on the use of nuclear weapons, a prohibition of manufacture, possession and use and a Convention on the elimination of such weapons should be considered as mutually exclusive. Rather, they might be seen as steps in a realistic and practical “step-by step” process that seeks to put an end to this grave danger to the security of mankind. Obviously, an initial ban on use should be drafted in such a way as not to preclude the possibility of one or more nuclear-weapon State adhering to it at later stages. In other words, it should be attractive to these States. Drafting should be preceded by consultations among advocates of these measures and with all interested States, including those that possess nuclear weapons. Pressure from public opinion resulting from a successful adoption of a legal ban on use could conceivably trigger the remaining steps in the process, culminating on a Convention on abolition. Unfortunately, disquieting attitudes and statements from Governments as well as individuals in nuclear weapon States have been made from time to time, to the effect that nuclear disarmament was never intended as the result of bilateral or multilateral efforts. Indeed, nuclear disarmament is often branded as counterproductive and even more dangerous than the present situation. Reticence, lack of clarity or confusing signals about intentions have generated mistrust. As noted by Randy Rydell, nuclear weapon States have not “internalized” the process of disarmament. There are no known administrative or budgetary structures set up in those States to deal with nuclear disarmament – rather the opposite. Agencies that originally had the word “disarmament” in their names have been reformulated to mean that they aim at arms control” or “non-proliferation” instead. In order to achieve progress to rid the world of nuclear weapons there must be a serious, credible and clear commitment, together with dedicated work from all parties concerned – that is, governments, non-governmental organization and civil society as a whole.
2. In the event of a further failure of substantive disarmament steps at the 2015 NPT Conference, what specific initiatives should be pursued to move towards nuclear abolition?
2 – At this point it seems rather unlikely that the 2015 NPT Review Conference will achieve “substantive” disarmament steps. Commentary and prospects from experts – mainly in nuclear weapon States or their allies – suggest little beyond pursuing the “implementation” of the 64 actions agreed in 2010. During the past five years the five NPT nuclear weapon States have barely started preliminary work on a compendium, or glossary, of technical terms and definitions – a task that does not seem urgent or even necessary. Their latest progress report is mostly a reiteration of past positions and does not elicit enthusiasm. At the pace of the work done so far, achievement of disarmament would of course take forever.
The CD was set up in 1978 as the “sole negotiating body”. Since it is obviously unable to fulfill its primary function – negotiating disarmament agreements – the structure, or “machinery” put together at the I SSOD must be reviewed. Enlargement of this body is hardly a solution. The best forum for such a review is obviously new Special Session of the GA on Disarmament. Opposition to this move betrays a preference for inaction.
3. What, more specifically, is required within nuclear weapon state constituencies to mobilize opinion and policy behind nuclear elimination?
3 – Specifically, a successful mobilization of opinion would require a deliberate, willed change of mindsets in support of nuclear disarmament. There is a longstanding, continuous and insidious process by opinion-makers in nuclear weapon States and their allies to convince the public, both within their own populations and in the world at large, that although disarmament is theoretically a desirable goal, conditions and not “ripe” for serious works toward abolition and that nuclear weapons are a necessary guarantor of their security in an unpredictable world. Even in the most democratic societies, dissenting voices are silenced or ridiculed. It is hard to understand why more States do not avail themselves of such a powerful guarantee for their own security (although some have, or have tried). Given the attachment of nuclear weapon States to their arsenals, one must conclude that there must be some real gain or advantage in possessing such weapons. The overwhelming presence of news and analysis coming from those States disseminates in developing, non-nuclear weapon States the notion that it is all right for the current possessors (or at least most of them) to threaten everyone else’s security, while any move to achieving nuclear self-sufficiency for peaceful purposes by non-nuclear weapon States is decried as a grave risk. Several years ago, at the prodding of its permanent members, the President of the UN Security Council declared formally that the “proliferation” of nuclear weapons is a threat to international peace and security. This is of course true, but the Council never thought of declaring that the “existence” of such weapons is also a threat. After all, contrary to what some would like everyone to believe, nuclear weapons started proliferating in 1945 – and not after the entry into force of the NPT. As a result of the current division of the world into “haves” and “have nots”, the five “haves” recognized in that instrument seem to feel that they are legally entitled to possess nuclear weapons for as long as they see fit.
4. What role can regional groupings at governmental, non-government, and epistemic levels play in efforts to change policies and galvanize wider international support for nuclear elimination?
4 – Regional groups all over the world have systematically tried, sometimes quite earnestly, to change policies and galvanize wider international support. In the early 1980’s, for instance, alarm at the presence of intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe led to a successful popular movement to abolish such arms. Recently, vigorous campaigns, up to now unsuccessful, have taken place at one nuclear-weapon State to review the policy about is nuclear “deterrent”. Those groups, however, lack coordination and funds. They have to compete for the favor of the larger donors, which are usually part of the establishments in the very States that chose to place their security on the possibility of use of nuclear weapons.
5. How, more specifically, can rationales of deterrence and extended deterrence amongst allies of the major powers, be challenged more effectively, particularly in the context of the new evidence of catastrophic humanitarian consequences and the ever-increasing risks of accidental or miscalculated nuclear conflict?
5 – Fortunately, challenges to the notion of “deterrence” and “extended deterrence” through the willingness to use nuclear weapons even against putative non-nuclear aggression or perceived intentions (in the latter case, more ominously, through preemption) have seen a revival, especially after the recent emphasis on catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Even States that are members of military alliances with nuclear- weapon States have not been impervious to pressure from their own internal opinion to work constructively toward increasing the awareness of the dangers intrinsic in the possession and eventual use of nuclear weapons. Several respectable voices have consistently advocated “de-alerting”, “reductions”, “less reliance on atomic weapons” or “sole purpose” and similar measures. These can be constructively used as interim, or half-way steps in a process that from the beginning must be clearly directed toward achieving elimination, but not as ends in themselves.
6. What is the best approach for identifying and addressing the interrelationships between conventional conflicts and the potential use of nuclear weapons or escalation to nuclear war?
6 – Conventional conflicts have been constant in the less developed areas of the world since the times of the Cold War, prompting the argument that nuclear weapons are an important factor to keep the peace among the major powers. That is a perverse interpretation of the doctrine of “deterrence”, commented by Randy Rydell. They have, in fact, been responsible for the number of proxy wars in areas not directly “protected” by nuclear weapons. In nuclear weapon States and their allies, tensions have fortunately not yet escalated to the point of a conventional localized war breaking out between them, although episodes of alarming brinkmanship have happened over time. The danger, however, persists: misperceptions, overblowing of situations of tension, hubris or outright lunacy are unfortunately not a privilege of poor nations.
Only a determined effort to discredit the potential use of nuclear weapons leading to their abolition can prevent escalation of conventional conflict into nuclear war. Since only a handful of States now possess such weapons, they are the only ones in a position either to prevent or to stimulate escalation of current tensions into conventional conflicts and from there into a nuclear war.
I have been following with great interest and fascination the many thoughtful submissions to date. They have provoked me to think along two tracks, which I would like to share with you.
The first idea that comes to mind is the following. We have assembled in this forum, it seems to me, a rich pool of insights from scholars, experts, advocates and practitioners that could serve in due course to construct a strategic roadmap. Such a roadmap could quite usefully and logically embrace a number of different though complementary approaches.
What I have in mind is not anything resembling a detailed action plan or blueprint on which everyone is agreed. This is neither feasible nor desirable – either through this forum or perhaps any other forum. What I envisage is an informal but intellectually rigorous statement of general direction which could be supported and promoted by a wide cross-section of people – not just panellists contributing to this forum, but many others, whether in their personal capacities or as part of their involvement in various networks and organisations. I am keen to hear reactions to this suggestion.
But there is an intellectually more pressing task. If we wish to imagine a pathway that might lead to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, we are necessarily obliged to think of impeding and facilitating factors. At the risk of appearing somewhat crude, we need to identify, far more sharply than we have thus far managed to do, the actual and potential supporters of nuclear abolition on the one hand and its opponents on the other.
Here I wish to focus my remarks on those interests opposed to abolition, for they have proven especially adept at preventing a change of direction. Of course, they have the advantage of bureaucratic and cultural inertia. But this is only one of the many assets at their disposal, which they use to great effect – both singly and collectively.
Most submissions have generally skirted around this issue. Yet, based on more than 45 years of intellectual and active involvement in nuclear/anti-nuclear politics, my strong sense is that this is now the decisive issue. If so, we need a clear mapping exercise which identifies the key interests that constitute the major roadblocks to abolition. Who or what exactly are they? Many of the comments in this forum have been strangely statist in their orientation. They suggest or assume that what counts first and last is ‘states’ – whether it be states that oppose the elimination of nuclear weapons or those that are more favourably inclined. But this is a most unsatisfactory and simplistic way of looking at the socio-political reality we are dealing with.
States are little more than abstractions. The decisions of states are the product of the push and pull of numerous actors and interests. Of course these actors include those institutions internal to the state: foreign ministries (which are often much less weighty actors than many thnk), more importantly defence departments, military establishments, intelligence agencies and political parties that hold sway over the legislative or executive arms of government (although these are often mere conduits for the exercise of influence by more powerful groups).
Seldom do these arms of the state apparatus think or act as one. They are in any case themselves exposed, to different degrees and in different ways, to powerful pressures emanating from the corporate sector, most obviously enterprises directly involved in military production, but also other important financial and commercial interests, which stand to gain from the status quo, and which usually operate both nationally and transnationally. To this should be added the variable though influential role of professional and educational institutions, strategically placed think tanks and institutes, trade unions, and importantly powerful media chains.
So any strategic roadmap for the elimination of nuclear weapons, whether it puts the initial emphasis on the P5 governments or those more sympathetically disposed to nuclear disarmament, has to come to terms with the realities of power – and how the power that obstructs can be feasibly neutralised over a meaningful time frame – whether it be 5, 10 or 20 years.
Simply put, what I am suggesting is that we need a far more incisive look at the multifaceted power (and wealth) dynamic that sustains the nuclear edifice (within and across states), and how any given strategy can decisively shift that dynamic over time. This has to be done in ways that go beyond abstractions, beyond state-centric analyses of current disarmament and arms control agendas. There is more to this than the intellectual brilliance of one’s arguments. The more important task before us is to imagine, as creatively as we can, how agency can be effectively exercised over, let’s say, the next ten years. We need to be able to give detailed answers to the question: What agency – either existing or transformed (or some combination thereof) – will be exercised through which structures – established or emerging (or again some combination of these)? Simply put: Who needs to do what, when and how – locally, nationally and internationally – and what might be useful signposts along the way?
I happen to be one of those who agree with Kate Hudson that stopping Trident is an important target – in an international as much as a UK context. But to have a reasonable prospect of success, we need to do two things. First, we must identify with crystal clarity the levers of power (inside and outside the UK) which support Trident’s replacement. Secondly, we need to be able to answer the question: what will it take for those levers (here political parties may not be quite the decisive levers some make out) to be overcome or set aside?
What is true of the UK context also holds for the United States, Russia, China and France as it does for other actual or aspiring nuclear weapons states. What I’m arguing for is the need for a multifaceted strategy that is simultaneously local, national, international and transnational in its focus, and integrates three key domains: the state, the market and civil society, and the diverse institutional actors which each domain encompasses.
I would greatly appreciate comments on this proposed strategic approach. This would help me flesh out a number of ideas beyond their present embryonic stage.
Thank you for your excellent and thought provoking comments. Fundamentally I see opponents to world wide nuclear disarmament as constituencies in important governments aided by a largely apathetic public. Many NGOs support this objective but have not been able to move the public or change many minds in government. Perhaps more could be done. But ultimately it is the governments of states that must make the decisions necessary to make progress toward the objective of world wide nuclear disarmament. In my comment to Professor Hamel-Green I discussed some of the basic motivations of the states that possess nuclear weapons, these views will be very difficult to change. This is especially true now with the failure of the U.S.-Russia partnership in nuclear arms control and disarmament, so far seen as essential to the process. But more work in this area is certainly possible and should be pursued. In many countries important elements of the religious community are interested and could help.
But the one issue on which over time real progress is possible and which is enormously important is the bringing into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty. If this could happen it will greatly strengthen the NPT and ensure this important treaty regime will be with us for the long road ahead. If the NPT is lost, disarmament is lost with it. If any government begins a new nuclear test program it will be a reverse of historic proportions and perhaps irreversible. Trident is an important subject but in importance it can't come close to CTBT. This latter issue in my view is where our NGO, public relations, governmental lobbying, etc. efforts should be primarily focused until it is achieved.
This is a forum about “nuclear threats”. Though very little of the discussion so far has queried what to be nuclear is (or isn’t) and what precisely those threats are (or not).
The preamble shared by the moderator, Michael Hamel-Green, and host, Joseph A. Camilleri, does allude to “human and planetary catastrophe”, though the notion of “nuclear threats” that is carried through the subsequent discussion is conceived in strictly human-centred terms. What is nuclear about nuclear threats for participants are nuclear weapons and war, and what is threatened by those instruments of terror is humanity’s continued existence.
To proceed according to such a myopic, human-centric approach to nuclear threats has become commonplace. Though arguably, it is neither feasible nor advisable.
Imagine a world already empty of nuclear weapons. Because of our efforts, every last nuclear weapon has been “eliminated”. How can this be? The nuclear waste from the processes of production and “elimination” will themselves produce radioactive waste. This waste, from the disarmed nuclear weapons, will itself need to be safely and securely stored for up to one (1) million years from the possibility of human intervention or biospheric disruptions in the Earth system. We conveniently though incorrectly call this process, “disposal”, though it might more accurately be called deferral since our world empty of nuclear weapons would still leave the door open to other, nuclear, harms. There is no need to adopt a non-anthropocentric worldview in order to realise that these “eliminated” nuclear weapons would still threaten our bodies and our biospheric home.
Of course we do not live in such a world. We remain terrorised by nuclear threats that include not only nuclear weapons and war, but the threat of their continued harm by way of their use, as well as the related problems of accidents and waste.
The purposes of this brief intervention is to call for a greater attunement to the impact of nuclear harms on the beings and things that comprise the non-human world. We all no doubt already know this, though we must not be complacent by neglecting to acknowledge that nuclear harms violate not only the human body, but also the global biosphere on which all life depends. Surely it is this above all else which threatens us all.
Let me start by joining other contributors in thanking Professors Hamel Green and Camilleri for this important and timely initiative.
All commentators are agreed on the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, and there is agreement too on the various reasons why that goal is desirable – in the ascendancy at the moment is humanitarianism: the idea that any deployment of nuclear weapons would unleash a humanitarian catastrophe. While this is an important part of the discussion as to why nuclear disarmament should happen, it does not necessarily provide a complete answer as to how we might achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
It is true that considering nuclear weapons through the lens of “humanitarian disarmament” would seem to lend itself to advocating on a principled, not politically pragmatic, basis – and that, in turn, would seem to lead to an immediate, comprehensive ban. That makes sense as well in view of the fact that a more comprehensive ban is more clearly differentiated from the (discredited) incremental or step-by-step approach. The humanitarian campaign is also a break from trying to pander to, or engage with the NWS as the advocacy states have been trying to do for decades. The growing despair of this type of outreach engagement is nowhere more evident than by the decision of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to “leave the tent” of the Conference on Disarmament recently.
While the humanitarian claim does seem to lean towards a comprehensive strategy, I would caution against taking such a fixed approach. I think it is possible to take a principled, rather than pragmatic position on nuclear disarmament, but still leave open the means by which we achieve the desired end. Indeed, many commentators in this forum have made the important point that a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Different metaphors have been called in aid – gearboxes (John Borrie), mosaics and mops (Manpreeth Seth), but the point is still the same and, I think, is expressed well by Jenny Nielsen: Single approaches to complex problems seldom do the trick.
At this point in time, a range of strategies seem to be on the table – a variety of suggestions in terms of appropriate negotiating contexts, the nature of the next step(s), and who needs to participate in negotiations. Working Paper 18 presented by the New Agenda Coalition, the work of Reaching Critical Will with Article 36 on possible legal frameworks, and the work of the Middle Powers Initiative – all of these efforts provide food for thought and ideas to explore.
Momentum is building. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming NPT RevCon, in my mind there is no doubt but we will see that momentum continue in that forum, and elsewhere.
However, I believe that it is important not to dissipate agreement about desired outcomes (the end of nuclear weapons) by squabbling about which of the possible means is the best way to approach the problem. We should be wary of “divide and rule” strategies. While debate and exchange of views is important within what we might call the humanitarian disarmament community, it is important also not to compromise the momentum at this point. We are all on the same side.
My view on the best strategy or next best step forward is that we should be continuing to examine, especially from a legal point of view, the different options on the table. Much good work has been completed but there is much more careful and detailed work to be done. I identified some of the legal complexities involved with the NAC pathways (a Ban treaty; a Comprehensive treaty; a framework of instruments approach) in a recent paper. But that discussion is really the start of a “to do list” – there is much more to be said and considered.
Advocating further discussion, further research, and further analysis seems to run counter to the urgency of the humanitarian claim with its underlying message that the time to act is now. However, the reality is that more discussion is needed for two reasons: First, we have only just started to seriously explore the legal and political ramifications of the various “pathways” or approaches. Further genuine engaged discussion, not as a stalling technique, but in the genuine commitment towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons, is essential. Nuclear disarmament is back on the agenda but we need to keep it on the agenda – keep the momentum going and the discussion can be, as John Burroughs says “a transformative exercise”. We may in the process be able to imagine outcomes and strategies that are as yet invisible to us.
The second reason to continue to develop the discussions, as has been pointed out earlier in this forum, is that there are many different constituencies and more work needs to be done in engaging the churches, the civil societies, youth, and so on. We need all the diverse voices – the scientists, the moral philosophers, those engaged in geo-politics, the diplomats and the lawyers, inside and outside government. Complex problems require complex solutions.
This on-line forum has already served a useful role in facilitating thoughtful engagement with each other. I would welcome the initiative to continue through the RevCon, as a forum for engagement, to complement the already excellent information-providing blogs and other reports.
My thanks again to the convenors and to all those who have contributed.
We need popular accounts in the press, in schools, in pulpits, and at union meetings, of the numerous near disastrous accidents and misunderstandings, of the times when nuclear armed states have been taken on and even defeated by non nuclear weapon ones.
If we are to have new political direction we have to change popular assumptions in the nuclear weapon states about nuclear weapons., They produce insecurity for all not individual security. That has to be the key message.The list of accidents and misunderstandings which could have led to catastrophe is a long one. McNamara says we were saved only by 'good luck'.
The process of making them is incredibly expensive ( £100 billion to replace and run Trident here). That's a price paid by the world's poor.
We have got rid of various other horrors - chemical -bacteriological and can do so again with nukes if we want to. IF!
Dear fellow contributors,
Thank you for your reflections and insights on the complexity and intractability of eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons—in all their dimensions. The range of options from truly global, state-based legal conventions to the deepening of non-nuclear state commitments, to expanding the role of markets and civil society based organizations, to educating and activating well-informed individuals, suggest that a multi-layered, multidimensional, and multi-generational effort will be required to achieve this goal without prompting by a catastrophic nuclear war along the way.
There are the obvious gaps in international law pointed to in the discussion, to which might be added the need for a framework conventional to make it illegal for non-state actors to trade in dual-use technology needed to make nuclear weapons (another gap between the slew of recent nuclear weapons and counter-terrorism conventions). Although laws generally follow shifts in great power, in the case of nuclear weapons, early propagation of norms and customary practice can limit, then channel how great powers use nuclear weapons and slowly increase their accountability. In the long run, there is no substitute for consistent, global and regional, multilateral frameworks. The earlier these are initiated, the faster the constraints will come into play on nuclear weapons state, and all those that depend on their nuclear weapons.
There is the obvious contradiction created by dependence on nuclear weapons to substitute for conventional deterrence by relatively weak states in conflict with states that pose a threat, or are allied to a nuclear weapons state, and the goal of eliminating nuclear threat and nuclear weapons. The interplay of conventional and nuclear weapons has always been intimate. Today, it has become one of the central driving dynamics of nuclear armament and proliferation, as well as a defining attribute of how nuclear war may break out. There are no short cuts in dealing with this interplay. Rather, the uncontrolled development, diffusion, and deployment of advanced conventional weapons must be addressed directly as one of the critical driving forces leading to nuclear armament and proliferation. Correspondingly, this dynamic must be addressed by the key parties on a conflict-by-conflict basis wherever nuclear weapons play a direct or indirect role—which is in most of the major regional conflicts in the world. There are many tools and options to do so, which must be tailored to these specific conflicts and the need for comprehensive security settlements that reduce tensions and threat levels over time.
There is another “multi” that needs to be added to the mix: multi-linguality. The vast majority of analysis and political discussion on this topic is conducted in English, French, or Spanish, with important linguistic domains in the smaller nuclear weapons states or in significant non-nuclear states, such as Japan or the two Koreas. However, the world is shifting rapidly to one in which other languages are rising at incredible speeds—for example, Chinese users of the Internet is now above 500 million individuals—in which there is almost no linkage to the nuclear disarmament discourse. Achieving a truly multi-lingual, global reach by civil society is an essential long-run capacity to be realized by the nuclear disarmament movement if it hopes to mobilize public sentiment on a global scale, in ways that resonate with local values, interests, and perceptions of security.
As many of the discussants noted, the nuclear disarmament wagon needs to hook itself to many different trains. Here in the United States where I work much of the time, allying with the Hispanic political communities to address cross-border mobility from Mexico and further south seems a natural political alliance to explore, given the leading role of Mexico in global nuclear disarmament initiatives.
At a fundamental level, the rate of in-situ urbanization in many countries including China, the two Koreas, and Japan, suggest that giga-cities (billion person urban corridors) will exist in the next twenty or thirty years. In East Asia, for example, a giga-city is emerging that will stretch continuously from Shanghai to Beijing to Shenyang to Dalian to Pyongyang to Seoul to Tokyo, so called BESHOTO by urban geographers). Trans-border giga-cities will present many new linear and networked high velocity security problems to be managed at the city and state level. Given the probability that a giga-city will also lead to much higher levels of cross-border labor mobility than occurs today, a giga-city will make nuclear targeting absurd because states would have to target large numbers of their own citizens across the border but in a giga-city. (The existence of 100,000 Chinese migrant laborers in northern Seoul today already constrains a North Korean attack on South Korea with conventional or nuclear weapons, and prefigures this situation writ large in an urbanized planet circa 2040).
Finally, it has taken ten nuclear weapons states (nine minus the one disarmer, South Africa) to get us into this situation over seven decades. To me, it seems likely that it will take us just as long to eliminate nuclear weapons from the strategic landscape, and we should be planning and positioning accordingly. To do so is to celebrate the achievements of the nuclear disarmament movement to date; to be cautiously optimistic about the potential to build the social foundations for an expanded movement within the nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states; to recognize the tasks that need to be handed off to a new generation of global leaders and to prepare the training and education programs needed to prepare them for the tasks they face; and to understand better the multi-faceted strategic opportunities to move forward that are too diverse and numerous for us to grasp in a world in which everything is changing faster than we can grasp.
This is another way of saying that nothing is impossible and we are limited only by our ability to visualize the pathways and to be fearless, as were the giants in whose footsteps we follow.
I wanted to briefly reply to Joseph Camilleri's thoughtful post, A Sharper Strategic Focus Is Needed. One of his important points was, disaggregate the state. A very helpful resource in this regard is the 2013 Reaching Critical Will book, Assuring Destruction Forever: Nuclear Weapon Modernization Around the World - http://www.reaching2riticalwill.org/images/documents/Publications/modern...
It has sections on each of the nuclear-armed states except the DPRK. The editor, Ms. Ray Acheson, asked the contributors to examine, among other things, the political economy of the nuclear enterprise in the country being discussed. And there is rich material on nuclear complexes, contractors, economics, in some cases quite extensive, as in the section on the US by Andrew Lichterman and the one on the UK by John Ainslie.
Potential actors in this field include academics. Political scientists have devoted themselves to in-depth study of proliferation situations and why governments do and do not acquire nuclear weapons (a veritable cottage industry), along with examining arms control measures, particularly in the US-Russia/USSR context. They and other academics should be encouraged to analyze disarmament: history, dynamics, obstacles, ways and means.
I did not say in my last post but will say now: thanks to Michael Hamel-Green and Joseph Camilleri for launching and moderating this useful forum.
Thanks very much to all involved for initiating this project and for all the excellent posts. I am not sure that I can add much to the above but would just like to emphasise a few points.
There have already been very good contributions from Bruce Kent and Kate Hudson outlining the situation here in the UK – a general election is just around the corner and public spending cuts (especially in the national health service) are a huge issue. The two big parties (Labour and Conservative) do not want to talk about scrapping nuclear weapons as a way of saving billions of pounds but many of the smaller parties (Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, the Greens) mention it at every opportunity – indeed it has become an important debating point – especially when the issue of what kind of coalition might form the next government is raised.
After the election in early May it is not unthinkable that the UK could once again decide to put off the expected vote on Trident renewal - if not deciding to scrap it altogether. If we could show through national and international pressure that this is not only an acceptable way to proceed but an important and courageous step towards global sanity then perhaps we could be heading towards a very historic moment.
Of course, there are huge obstacles to overcome – nuclear weapon states believe they have a special status in international affairs; many people (including a number of professional politicians) are not aware of the dangers and the risks involved; Cold War prejudices and ideas of deterrence persist; the influence of the military industrial complex continues to grow; the reliance on the use of military force to settle conflicts, etc. Although there are many national and international groups working on building campaigns around these issues, informing the public and applying pressure on politicians, they are not usually coordinated. We would do much better if we worked more closely together. There are signs that this is happening much more and social media makes it easier than ever to share information and ideas and spread out to bring together different groups working on related issues of welfare and social justice - of human security rather than state security. But much more is needed.
I am sure that together we can see the end of nuclear weapons – but it probably can only be done by working together.
In concluding this dialogue as moderator, I would like to express my appreciation for your carefully considered contributions, and for your entering into the dialogic spirit of listening to and understanding each other’s perspectives.
The forum contributions have provided much insight into the positives and negatives of the various ways forward on nuclear weapon elimination, one of the most fateful issues for the whole future of the planet and all those who inhabit it.
There seems no doubt that all members of our very diverse international panel (including ambassadors, UN experts, academics, activists and disarmament advocates, based variously in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and the Pacific) share deep and urgent concerns about the inadequacy of current government responses to the ever present and increasing risk posed by nuclear weapons. Almost all the contributors acknowledged the new impetus associated with the recent three international conferences (Oslo, Narayat and Vienna) highlighting the catastrophic humanitarian impacts of even a limited use of nuclear weapons and the rising risks of accidental, miscalculated or deliberate use of nuclear weapons.
In seeking to address some of the major questions raised in the moderator’s introduction, there was obviously no consensus in relation to mechanisms for filling the legal gap, and specifically whether there should be moves to establish a nuclear ban treaty with or without the current nuclear-possessor states.
Those in favour of seeking an immediate ban treaty negotiated by like-minded states argue for the normative pressure that this will exert on the nuclear-possessor states. Those who favour other approaches, such as a nuclear framework convention, or multiple concurrent measures for moving towards nuclear disarmament, emphasise the danger that negotiating a ban treaty without having the nuclear possessor states at the table will mean that disarmament-pursuing countries will merely end up talking to themselves with little achieved by way of disarming the nine nuclear-possessor states, and that it is vital to engage with the domestic politics and constituencies within each of the nuclear states.
Yet, in the course of the discussion, it seems that the posing of these two “alternatives”, a ban treaty vs a nuclear weapon convention, may in itself be an unnecessary dichotomy. In John Borrie’s analogy of low gear shifting to higher gear, both approaches may be relevant and necessary. Certainly, from the viewpoint of grassroots communication and organizing, the notion of a ban treaty is easier to grasp than more complex negotiations, yet the latter may well be needed to engage and reassure the more conservative interests currently espousing traditional rationales for nuclear weapon retention.
Beyond the initial questions raised at the start of the dialogue, there were other important issues or aspects raised in the discussion that are undoubtedly part of the wider way forward. These included: Ambassador Duarte’s identification of the need for a further UN Special Session on Disarmament; Ambassador Graham’s emphasis on the pivotal role of the CTBT treaty, particularly in the US domestic context; Kate Hudson’s highlighting of the role of domestic disarmament campaigning within the UK in the current review of the Trident program; and Patricia Lewis’s noting that the humanitarian emphasis has “stripped nuclear weapons of their mystery and empowered people - particularly young people – to question the wisdom of such weapons remaining in the hands of mortals”. The importance of regional initiatives, such as regional nuclear-free-zones and forums, was also emphasised by some as a way of moving towards denuclearization within some areas and as a lobbying force in global contexts.
In one of the few contributions to deal with the interplay between conventional conflicts and nuclear war, Peter Hayes drew attention to the role of dual-use and advanced conventional weapons as a driving force leading to nuclear armament and proliferation, as well as to language issues in antinuclear campaigning, such as the rise in Chinese users of the internet (now over 500 million) with little availability of nuclear disarmament information in Chinese. A further issue still, raised by N.A.J. Taylor and not often considered, is the longer term ecological impact of radioactive active materials even after abolition of nuclear weapons given the deficiencies of nuclear waste disposal methods to date.
Despite various expressed differences, Treasa Dunworth reminds us that “while debate and exchange of views is important, it is important also not to compromise the momentum at this point. We are all on the same side…We need all the diverse voices – the scientists, the moral philosophers, those engaged in geo-politics, the diplomats and the lawyers, inside and outside government. Complex problems require complex solutions”.
In similar vein, Jenny Nielsen has emphasized the importance of overcoming “enclave” forms of discourse within particular constituencies through Track 2 forums and discussions; and Kimiaki Kawai has stressed the importance of avoiding mutual mistrust and “us-versus-them” world views, and utilizing the kind of less specialized humanitarian discourses that can build broader constituencies (with a special role for faith communities in doing this).
Many contributors have expressed appreciation for the value of this dialogue as a forum for understanding and clarifying our thinking about ways forward in the global campaign for nuclear elimination.
In the course of the discussion, further areas have been proposed for consideration. Joseph Camilleri’s post of 28/3 notes that much of the analysis has been oriented to states as decision-makers when in fact state policies are the result of the “push and pull of numerous actors and interests” and that there is a need for a “multifaceted strategy that is simultaneously local, national, international and transnational”, and integrates the various institutional actors and sources of power within the state, economy and civil society”.
Other contributors have noted the need to assess the outcomes of the upcoming April-May 2015 NPT Review Conference in relation to future strategies. As Gro Nystuen notes, the 2015 Review “will be the acid test” for whether the nuclear-weapon-states are prepared to undertake a serious commitment to disarm: “if this does not happen, I disagree that they should be allowed to keep the rest of the world hostage to the perils of their nuclear weapons…patience is growing thin”.
Professor Camilleri and I are giving close consideration to re-opening this online dialogue later in the year, both to take account of the NPT Review outcomes, and to address further areas for discussion raised in the dialogue so far. We would welcome feedback from all panellists about a re-opening of the dialogue later in the year, and whether you would be prepared to participate again. A further possibility, given all the thought that has been put into the various contributions, is whether it would be useful to publish an edited version of the dialogue in either online or hard copy form, with opportunities for panellists to revise their contributions before any publication. Again, feedback on this (and possible avenues for publication) would be very welcome.
In conclusion, I would like to pass on Professor Camilleri’s, and my own, sincere thanks and appreciation to all contributors for your various insights and preparedness to be part of the dialogue, often under great personal time pressures associated with your ongoing disarmament work and commitments.
As Peter Hayes notes, in a recent forum post, the nuclear disarmament movement is a long-term project and we should be “cautiously optimistic about the potential to build the social foundations for an expanded movement within the nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states…nothing is impossible…we are limited only by our ability to visualize the pathways and to be fearless, as were the giants in whose footsteps we follow.”
Michael Hamel-Green (Moderator)
Emeritus Professor, Victoria University Melbourne