Letter to the Lawrence Canon, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
6 March 2009
The Honourable Lawrence Canon, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Re: NATO Nuclear Doctrine and Policy
Dear Minister Canon:
On the occasion of your forthcoming participation in the 60th-Anniversary Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, I am writing to encourage you to call for a Summit decision to mandate a full review of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept, including a revision of NATO nuclear doctrine and policy.
A central claim of NATO’s current Strategic Concept (last updated in 1999) is that the nuclear arsenals of the United States in particular, but also of the United Kingdom and France, are “essential to preserve peace.” As a result, “the Alliance will maintain for the foreseeable future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces in Europe” (para 46).
This claim is at odds with both the nuclear disarmament requirements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and an extraordinary series of recent public statements by current and past senior security leaders, including Henry Kissinger, Gordon Brown, and Barak Obama, urging specific, timely, and verifiable measures toward a world without nuclear weapons.
The renewed emphasis on nuclear abolition is rooted in two linked concerns. First, the 20,000-plus nuclear warheads remaining in current arsenals, several thousand of them poised on missiles ready for firing at a moment’s notice, represent an ongoing threat of mass indiscriminate destruction to the point of global annihilation. Second, that threat is heightened by the growing risk that nuclear weapons, as well as weapons-friendly technologies and nuclear materials, will spread to more states and even to non-state groups.
In their 2008 joint statement, Mr. Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn insisted that “without the vision of moving toward zero [nuclear weapons], we will not find the essential cooperation required to stop our downward spiral.”
United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a call “to accelerate disarmament amongst possessor states, to prevent proliferation to new states and to ultimately achieve a world that is free from nuclear weapons.”
President Barack Obama has similarly committed to the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” and to “pursue it.”
A full review of NATO’s nuclear policy offers the opportunity to bring it into line with the growing recognition that a world in which some states insist that nuclear weapons are essential for their security, while all others are called to forgo them, is a world of perpetual insecurity.
NATO now can reposition its nuclear policy so that it contributes to the growing global understanding that nuclear weapons represent an unacceptable threat to humanity and our fragile planet. NATO should take full advantage of the political momentum to allow states to get serious about doing something to address that threat.
On behalf of Project Ploughshares, I urge Canada to work energetically for a new NATO Strategic Concept that includes three essential elements on nuclear policy:
a) A declaration that the Alliance embraces the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and thus confirms that nuclear disarmament is essential to preserve peace;
b) Affirmation of the importance of acting on the priority disarmament measures agreed to in the statement of “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” (Decision 2) of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, and on the “practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI” of the NPT agreed to in the 2000 NPT Review Conference; and
c) Agreement to remove all nuclear weapons from the territories of NATO states that are non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT.
Acceptance and implementation of the third step will provide an important confidence-building measure as you continue to work with your NATO counterparts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.