Presentation on NATO Nuclear Policy and the Status of the NATO Review

Tasneem Jamal

Author
Paul Meyer

Paul Meyer is Director General, International Security Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

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?

I am pleased to be able to address this gathering on a subject that occupies a lot of my time but which generally has not received the extent of elite or public attention that it merits. Before providing you with a status report on the NATO review of Aoptions for confidence and security building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament@ to use its full, majestic title, I want to take you back a couple of years to explain the historical antecedents of the review and to situate it properly in the overall direction of Canada=s international security policy.

So please recall the spring of 1998 in Ottawa, amidst the tulips, members of SCFAIT were busy working on their study of Canada=s nuclear policy that had been initiated by general concerns over the state of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Several events occurred that had an impact on Government thinking. Two of these were not particularly dramatic: the second PrepCom for the 2000 NPT RevCon ended in failure in New York without agreeing on any result, and NATO had taken a decision to revise its Strategic Concept, its principal policy statement which dated back to 1991, prior to the demise of the Soviet Union. The third event was decidedly dramatic, a series of nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, in flagrant disregard for the non-proliferation norm that had been a feature of the international scene for over a quarter of a century.

In assessing and the responding to these events, DFAIT in conjunction with other government department=s formulated a strategy, a sort of diplomatic Atriad@ comprised of the following elements: 1. Combatting proliferation via a strong line against South Asian proliferation while simultaneously reinforcing the bulwarks against proliferation such as the CTBT and the NPT;

2. Re-energizing multilateral disarmament efforts, via a push at the CD for initiating FMCT negotiations, and establishing committees to examine Outer space arms control and nuclear disarmament; and 3. Within NATO, pressing for a revision of declaratory policy that would reflect the diminished significance of nuclear weapons for the Alliance security aims, while at the same time stressing the contribution that arms control and disarmament made to the achievement of these security aims.

While I will concentrate on the third element, that relates to NATO, I want to emphasize that these policy initiatives were conceived from the start as being inter-related and mutually supportive. To cite but one example, concern about rebutting new justifications for acquiring nuclear weapons (such as advanced by India and Pakistan) supported our push within NATO for more prudent language with which to characterize the purposes of its nuclear forces.

These initial policy directions were given a new impetus with the tabling of the SCFAIT report: Canada and the Nuclear Challenge: Reducing the Political Value of Nuclear Weapons for the Twenty-first Century, and the preparation of the subsequent Government response which was released in April 1999.

The Government=s reply which took the form of a AWhite Paper@- like policy statement, entitled Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation: Advancing Canadian Objectives was especially significant as it laid-out the Canadian Government=s game plan in this realm for the years ahead.

Within it are articulated the basic objectives Canada would be seeking in the context of NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit (Washington April 1999) and its review of nuclear policy. It should be borne in mind, of course, that while the statement was issued in April, Canadian officials had already been espousing its approach within NATO councils in the lead-up to the Washington Summit. The aims relevant to NATO enumerated in the April 1999 statement represent a concise list of the Government=s chief objectives and have guided our subsequent action both in the pre- Washington Summit and in the post-Washington Summit phase. While I would refer you to the statement for exact text, there were basically six objectives set out with respect to NATO:

1. To reduce the Apolitical value@ of nuclear weapons

2. To diminish the role of nuclear weapons in Alliance strategy and to restrict their function to solely that of deterring the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by others.

3. To update Alliance Arms Control and Disarmament Policy and to publicize this (the last comprehensive statement of the subject dating back to 1989).

4. To promote confidence building measures and to take steps to facilitate the reduction of sub-strategic nuclear arsenals in Europe

5. To encourage enhanced Alliance consultation on non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament issue with a view to concerted efforts in other fora.

6. To keep Alliance policy on WMD issues, including nuclear ones, under continuing political review.

Now I will turn to what my friends in the military refer to as AAfter Action Reports@, ie how we fared in our efforts to gain acceptance within NATO of the above aims. As in any engagement, people may have differing perceptions of how the battle went, so this is very much my own assessment of the negotiating dynamic and the decisive factors leading to the results, others will have their own take on events.

In the lead-up to the Washington summit, Canadian efforts were focussed on the revision of the Alliance=s Strategic Concept in which Canada was arguing for substantial changes to the text to take into account the radically different security environment at the end of the 90s compared to the beginning of the decade. We were met with stiff resistance, especially from the nuclear allies who believed that NATO=s nuclear doctrine as set out in the 1991 Concept was just fine and that altering its language would open up a APandora=s Box@ and initiate a Adivisive debate@ on nuclear policy within the Alliance. Several of the non-nuclear allies were more sympathetic to Canadian positions and supportive in principle, but frequently passive in practice. It emerged that in many of our Alliance partners there was a reluctance to expend political capital on this issue as well as concern about a negative US reaction, especially one that might endanger the continued presence in Europe of American forces. Some of this reticence may have been overcome in time, but, as is so often the case in diplomacy, external events intervened. Throughout the winter of 1998/99 NATO was becoming increasingly engaged in the crisis over Kosovo leading to the launch of air operations in late March of 1999. These operations were soon monopolizing the attentions of NATO governments and there was little time or energy to spare for consideration of nuclear doctrine. The high stakes for NATO, represented by the Kosovo campaign also put a premium on demonstrating Alliance >solidarity= at its 50th anniversary and Canada was urged not Ato spoil the party@ by insisting on the nuclear doctrine debate. The result was a compromise, in which Canada agreed to go along with language in the Strategic Concept that fell short of our wishes, in return for a commitment by NATO to undertake a substantial review of its non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament options Ain the light of overall strategic developments and the reduced salience of nuclear weapons..@. The so-called para 32 process (drawn from the relevant paragraph of the Washington Summit Communique) has been underway every since.

Like many a bargain, diplomatic or otherwise, some parties often prefer not to recall its provisions or maintain differing interpretations of what was agreed to. This tended to be our experience with the para 32 process once the military operations against Serbia had terminated and the Alliance got back to considering Summit follow-up in the fall of last year. Mr. Axworthy wrote to several of his counterparts in November seeking their support for a commitment at the December Ministerial to the development of a forward-looking comprehensive statement on Alliance policy. He emphasized that this would be the last opportunity prior to the April/May 2000 NPT Review Conference for the NATO ministers to demonstrate their commitment to furthering arms control and disarmament, including through a review of the Alliance=s own policies. A lot of hard diplomatic work paid off, with the December Foreign Ministers= communique providing crucial direction on how the para 32 process was to be carried out. For the first time, a senior level body (the SPC (R)) was designated to oversee and integrate the work of the responsible NATO bodies and a deadline was established for the resulting report (December 2000).

The effort needed to move forward was constant, however, and a combination of inertia, disinterest and compartmentalization, has made it difficult to translate the ministerial mandate into action. Minister Axworthy engaged his German, Dutch and Norwegian colleagues and both he and Amb. Wright have communicated with Secretary General Robertson on the need to advance the work.

Earlier this year, Canada circulated its own outline for the final report, as a means of focussing attention on the structure. At the May Ministerial meeting, Mr Axworthy underscored the leadership role NATO, as the world=s pre-eminent security alliance, could play in realizing the commitments made at the NPT Review Conference. He stressed the need to make NATO=s nuclear posture coherent with the allies= non-proliferation and disarmament posture in Geneva and New York. He also outlined some of the practical steps the Alliance could take to demonstrate its contribution to regional and global security.

We are now in September, and the SPC (R) has at last had its initial consideration of a draft report prepared by the International Secretariat over the summer and distributed earlier this month. There are many questions still open, such as whether the report should be made public, what new measures could be put forward, what will be the inputs from specialized NATO bodies like the HLG and the HLTF. There is even the fundamental question of whether this report in December marks the end of the para 32 process, or whether it should address how to provide for a continuing review of Alliance strategic policy. Well not presuming to forecast the outcome in December, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that a lot has already been accomplished in moving this process forward over the last two years which merits recognition. To return to the six Canadian objectives for NATO enumerated earlier, I offer the following accounting as to results achieved to date:

1. Reducing the political value of nuclear weapons: While many in the Alliance still cling to the description of the role of Alliance nuclear forces set out in the Strategic Concept, I believe there is growing appreciation for our argument that ascribing these broad political benefits to NATO nuclear weapons provides an unnecessary and easy justification for proliferators and would-be proliferators.

2. Diminished role for nuclear weapons: NATO at Washington did acknowledge the Areduced salience of nuclear weapons@ and in the NPT context member states committed themselves to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies. Canada has yet to convince allies to embrace its restricted understanding of nuclear deterrence, which sees the only function of nuclear weapons as deterring the use of nuclear weapons by others, notwithstanding that nuclear weapons may have a deterrent effect in the mind of a potential aggressor. We will continue to advocate our national position in Alliance councils and stress the dangers, from both a non-proliferation and legal perspective, of any move to extend the role of nuclear deterrence to other forms of attack.

3. Modernization of the Alliance=s ACD policy: Although we have yet to obtain agreement for the publication of an updated statement of ACD policy to replace the 1989 Comprehensive Concept, I think there is a good probability that such an updated statement will emerge. We have succeeded in raising the profile of arms control and disarmament issues within NATO and in its official pronouncements. A significant victory was the expanded reference to arms control and disarmament as a means to achieve the Alliance=s security aims contained in para 40 of the Strategic Concept and flowing from that there has been increasing prominence given to these questions in Ministerial communiques. I would cite in example the May Foreign Minister=s communique with its endorsement of the NPT Review Conference results and the allied commitment to carry forward its conclusions. If, as we hope and expect, a substantive public statement is issued in December, NATO will be taking a further step towards engagement with interested NGOs, academics and journalists. A strategic dialogue with civil society will help ensure that future NATO policy decisions are taken with the broad non-proliferation and ACD environment in mind.

4. CBMs and Reductions of Sub-strategic weapons: This is one of the key elements of the para 32 process and extensive consideration of the subject has been underway in the HLG. There appears to be scope for some significant measures to emerge, but there are many differing views amongst allies as to how best to proceed and a growing recognition by allies that transparency is a reciprocal undertaking that cannot only be practised by one side. While reductions of sub-strategic nuclear weapons figure in the START III framework discussed by Russia and the US, this bilateral process has bogged down once again over differing parameters and linkages being established with the continuing dispute over possible NMD deployments and amendment of the ABM Treaty. One area where NATO can and is moving forward, is in its engagement with Russia, through the mechanism of the Permanent Joint Council in addressing arms control and disarmament issues. Exchanges on nuclear doctrine can also occur, which would be helpful given that it is more difficult to reform NATO=s nuclear doctrine when Russia=s seems to be going in the opposite direction, ie. greater reliance on nuclear weapons in security concepts.

5. Enhanced NATO consultation on ACD matters: Here we can already claim to have effected real changes in how the Alliance treats these issues. We have succeeded in establishing more substantial and relevant NATO consultation on ACD questions (in part by scheduling them prior to major ACD events rather than long after them) and in expanding the terms of reference of the SGP to include discussion of ACD as part of its existing focus on non-proliferation. This in turn will make the work of the newly created WMD Centre (headed by a Canadian) more relevant and help bridges the divide that exists at NATO between committees that are narrowly focussed.

6. Continuing Political Review: One of our successful rear guard actions, related to the Strategic Concept was the inclusion in its concluding paragraph of the requirement for it to Abe kept under review in the light of the evolving security environment@ . Canada will continue to champion the need for Alliance strategy and its non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament policy to be kept under regular political scrutiny to ensure that it continues to correspond with the realities of the security environment and the goals of its member states. While non-proliferation and ACD issues are already an item on every NATO ministerial agenda, the para 32 exercise has highlighted their importance for the Alliance. We believe that the measures which are likely to result from this process, along with the evolution of the broader security environment, will demonstrate to Allies the need for an on-going evaluation of the role non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament can play in furthering the Alliance=s security goals.

This is my evaluation of the progress made to date and the nature of the challenges before us as we head into the final stretch of the race: to give a more dynamic metaphor to what is often a very turgid procedure conducted in airless committee rooms at NATO HQ. One thing I can say with certainty is that without Canada there would not have been a para 32 process, but likewise, it will take more than just Canada to make that process yield the results we all want to see from it.

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