Project Ploughshares Urges Prime Minister to Press NATO to Change its Nuclear Policy

Tasneem Jamal

Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

December 3, 1999

Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister,

I write on behalf of the board of Project Ploughshares to urge you and your government to forcefully press the forthcoming NATO review of disarmament policies and options to produce substantive and thoroughgoing changes in NATO’s nuclear policies.

As we noted in our letter to you of 4 November 1999, recent adverse developments – including the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the US Senate, the growing US-Russian dispute over the future of the ABM Treaty, and the emergence of a nuclear arms race in South Asia – have placed the entire foundation of nuclear arms control and non-proliferation under threat. It is essential that all countries, including especially Canada in the context of NATO, act forcefully to protect the disarmament achievements to date and to foster the conditions for future progress in nuclear disarmament.

We regret that Canada chose not to vote in favour of United Nations resolution A/54/563-G (the New Agenda Coalition resolution), but we note that Canada’s abstention was accompanied by a statement of support for the substance of the resolution and an acknowledgment that the NATO review should address “the critical issues raised by the New Agenda resolution.” Ambassador Christopher Westdal went on to say that “the New Agenda resolution remains a very timely and pointed reminder of the urgent need for further progress on [nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation].”

We remind you that the new nuclear disarmament agenda set out in the resolution is summarized in Operative Paragraph 1, which “calls upon the Nuclear-Weapon States to make an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the speedy and total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and to engage without delay in an accelerated process of negotiations, thus achieving nuclear disarmament, to which they are committed under Article VI of the NPT.”

The resolution goes on to identify key initiatives that have particular relevance for the NATO disarmament review:

– implementation of START II and initiation of a START III round of talks between Russia and the United States;

– reduction of tactical nuclear weapons with a view to their elimination as an integral part of nuclear arms reductions;

– de-alerting and removal of nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles;

– examination of nuclear weapons policies and postures (with a view, we must add, to committing NATO to a no-first-use policy); and

– ratification of the CTBT.

We understand the government’s decision not to change its vote from abstention to yes on the New Agenda Coalition resolution to reflect a decision to closely link Canada’s nuclear arms control and disarmament efforts to the level of consensus available among NATO states. That in turn means that a continuing Canadian commitment to nuclear disarmament objectives depends substantially on the degree to which NATO is willing to adopt changes in nuclear policies such as those listed above.

The first test of this approach will come later this month when the Alliance determines the shape of the nuclear policy review that it promised during the Washington Summit; its crucial test will be the outcome of that review. Should NATO fail to make the changes that are required and that we understand Canada to support, your government will be forced to choose between the commitment to its stated nuclear arms control and disarmament objectives and the commitment to Alliance solidarity. We trust that the choice will be in favour of nuclear disarmament.

We again urge you, therefore, to commit the full resources of the government of Canada to press forcefully for substantive changes in NATO’s nuclear policies during the coming review.


Walter Pitman, O.C., O.Ont., PhD
Chair, Board of Directors

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