Moving NATO Towards Compliance With Global Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation Obligations

Tasneem Jamal

Douglas Roche

Senator Douglas Roche, O.C., is Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative

Each of the panelists at the Consultation on NATO Nuclear Policy, National Missile Defence & Alternative Security Arrangement, held in Ottawa on September 28-31, 2001, was asked to submit a short paper relating to the topic of their presentation. The other Consultation participants were asked to submit brief papers responding to one or more of the following questions:

1. What changes to its nuclear policies should NATO be realistically asked to make, in the context of the current review, to move it towards fuller compliance with global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation obligations and imperatives?

2. Are there realistic and credible alternative means of addressing the security concerns that underlie current U.S. interest in missile defense?

3. What are the most realistic short-term or interim measures that should be taken by nuclear weapon states and nuclear alliances to demonstrate a commitment to significantly reducing the political legitimacy and value of nuclear weapons in order to contribute to the goal of elimination?

The 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations took a big step forward toward world peace through securing from the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) “an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” With this consensus the NWS have now accepted the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The obstacles to nuclear abolition put up by the NWS can no longer be considered overwhelming, because active work leading to the goal has now been politically validated. This achievement was termed by the New Agenda “an important landmark on which to build a nuclear weapons free world.”

The nuances of change, real but cloaked, in the NPT Review document invigorates further progress in nuclear disarmament. The final document is worth far more that a grudging acknowledgment from the NWS. It gives the nuclear weapons abolition movement the strongest political base it has ever had. If total elimination, not merely reductions, is lifted off the pages of the final document to become the operative policy, then no other national policy can remain as a permanent justification for the retention of nuclear weapons. Whether the NWS fully accept it or not, the principle of “total” elimination is institutionally formalized and the doctrine of nuclear deterrence puts them in direct opposition with their NPT obligations.

NATO is significantly impacted by these obligations.

The consensus in the final document gives the greatest justification yet to press NATO governments to bring the Alliance’s nuclear weapons policies in step with the NPT consensus. In maintaining that nuclear weapons are “essential,” NATO’s Strategic Concept remains one of the strongest impediments to genuine nuclear disarmament.

NATO must be forced to accept that the heart of their doctrine is absolutely incompatible with the pledge of the three western NWS at the 2000 NPT where they made a total commitment to nuclear disarmament, and agreed for the first time to separate nuclear disarmament from general and complete disarmament. Thus the plain truth that nuclear deterrence cannot co-exist with the pledge to total nuclear disarmament must be driven home. NATO’s credibility in securing “a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe” depends on how it responds to the challenge of the NPT final document.

The key to achieving this shift of harmonizing NATO’s Strategic Doctrine with NPT obligations involves reconsidering the merits of its nuclear deterrence doctrine. NATO, to begin with, should replace its nuclear deterrent with conventional weapons that are discriminate and proportionate, and carry less risk of escalation.

This would also involve the withdrawal of NATO’s nuclear arsenal from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. While the U.S. has argued that NATO nuclear sharing arrangements do not violate the NPT, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy argues that there is a prima facie case that NATO nuclear sharing violates Articles I and II of the NPT.

Nuclear sharing provides a wider range of options for NATO nuclear use, and serves as a provocation to other NWS. At the worst, this enhances the danger of nuclear war; at the least, it reinforces the political value of nuclear weapons, thereby promoting proliferation. The best way to resolve the thorny legal issues would be for the U.S. to withdraw its nuclear weapons from European countries and to terminate nuclear sharing arrangements.

Congruently, the withdrawal of NATO’s tactical arsenal would constitute NATO’s side of a major confidence-building process, and would be a powerful move to encourage Russia to negotiate a Tactical Nuclear Weapon Treaty through which a plan could be pursued for their complete elimination.

While there is little political will among new and hopeful NATO members at the moment, negotiations to initiate a nuclear weapon free zone in Central/East Europe would be yet another major confidence-building measure in this entire endeavour.

It is vital to reinforce the NPT Review final document as a buttress to the 1996 World Court Advisory Opinion, providing a new, internationally authorised obligation to undertake total disarmament that the Nuclear Weapon States and their allies can no longer ignore.

It must be emphasized here that calling for these steps to be taken in the immediate future does not alleviate the fact that we ought not to give NATO an indefinite period of time for achieving a revised Strategic Doctrine. Of course, it must be recognized that the development of a non-nuclear NATO strategy will take time, but we must not wait patiently while NATO ministers discuss whether or not they will indeed formulate a substantive and comprehensive review of NATO strategy. Rather, we must push the Senior Political Committee tasked with advising NATO Ministers in December 2000 to make the essential point that a new non-nuclear NATO policy must be worked out.

What have been outlined above are simply the steps to be taken immediately, while the development of a new strategy is going on. If NATO can be moved along the lines of the NPT obligations to which the NWS are committed throughout its strategic review leading up to December, a tremendous force for change will have been achieved.

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