Responses to the 3 questions

Tasneem Jamal

Douglas A. Ross

Douglas A. Ross is from the Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University

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? 


1. ‘Realistic’ changes in NATO policy ‘to move towards fuller compliance with nuclear disarmament/non-proliferation obligations and imperatives’:

a) Adoption of No First Use policy by the alliance as an instrument of reassurance towards Russia has been appropriate and “realistic” since 1995 at least – once the U.S. became fully committed to NATO expansion.

The Canadian government in conjunction with other allied governments in NATO should continue to press for adoption of such a posture. American and allied strategic interests would be furthered not damaged by such an approach – both in Europe and globally as well.

As Paul Nitze and other leading American strategists have pointed out, the U.S. enjoys conventional force superiority over any conceivable military challenger and a NFU nuclear posture would certainly widen the margin of probable American and NATO military advantage by successfully promoting nuclear disarmament or major steps towards collective nuclear weapons self-restraint and ultimately self-abnegation. In the 21st century nuclear weapons and other WMDs are the ‘weapons of the weak’ who believe they need the threat of asymmetric response to combat superior Western firepower and ‘dominant battlespace knowledge’.

Not only would the U.S. and NATO gain the moral high ground in future conflicts by championing a rejection of nuclear use for all contingencies except direct nuclear attack on NATO soil, much of world opinion would rally behind American leadership in deepening a collective regime of reciprocal self-restraint. It would be far easier for American leaders to persuade their allies to engage in strategic burden sharing if the nuclear threat were kept as far in the background as possible, and if residual nuclear arsenals were made as survivable and suitable for deliberate delayed retaliation as possible.

The benefits in terms of dampening arms race instability would be considerable. Without American restraint Russia will likely insist on maintaining high alert deployment (or some version of a ‘doomsday’ Dead Hand retaliatory launch system) and will eventually renew and expand its currently eroded and mechanically precarious forces – when the state budget

so permits. Chinese leaders will feel the pressure to eventually match Russian nuclear deployment levels (or to neutralize perceived American defensive capabilities) and deploy a survivable force of long-range ICBMs that is closer to American levels of counterforce targeting redundancy. MIRV testing would probably occur sooner or later, and the considerable gains made in START I and II would be lost.

The indirect impact on India and then Pakistan would be considerable, expensive and highly destabilizing as they too acted to expand their forces and counter their adversaries’ perceived C3I targeting (and ‘surprise attack’) capacity.

A climate of nuclear self-assertion would lead to global ‘promiscuity’ in nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear threat articulation – a condition that would lead to dire peril and most likely a catastrophic conflict in which many millions would ultimately be killed in future bilateral or even multilateral nuclear conflicts.

The optimism of ‘more may be better’ offered by Kenneth Waltz is profoundly misguided. Experience with nuclear planning and deployments by all the nuclear weapon states since 1945 has consistently demonstrated a depressingly consistent inability to provide effective, survivable command and control of nuclear forces – or even to raise adequate budgets sufficient to ensure credibly survivable retaliatory platforms for nuclear arsenals. Proliferation of nuclear capability to new nuclear states with even more limited budgets and adversaries in closes geographical proximity (as in the Middle East or South Asia) than experienced by the Americans and Russians in the Cold War will only make these problems worse.

b) In the foreseeable future there is no practical threat scenario warranting nuclear first use threats. Biological and chemical warfare threats would be better far more appropriately handled by the threat of conventional warfare retaliatory attack and direct occupation of any state that resorted to such barbarities (see for example the argument offered by Sagan in International Security, spring 2000).

c) To secure American concurrence in giving up the short-term deterrent benefits of nuclear threats, NATO allies will have to make serious new defence commitments to an expanded regime of ‘cooperative security’ under which the burdens of conventional warfare retaliation and punishment against WMD aggressors can be fully and equitably shared.

American unwillingness to move towards nuclear abolition is generated in no small measure by the fundamentally irresponsible and strategically illogical attitude of many anti-nuclear governments (most notably Canada and Germany) who have cut conventional forces and refused to build the long-range force projection capability that is needed to be able to contribute meaningfully and fairly to a future anti-WMD coalition working through a strengthened NPT/CTB treaty regime.

A NFU regime must be underpinned by credible threats to retaliate overwhelmingly with conventional forces should any NATO member state be attacked with WMDs. This conventional capability and interventionary burden must be fairly distributed multilaterally.

2. Alternative policies to address the strategic concerns that underlie American interest in national missile defence (NMD):

a) Encourage American continued development of Theatre Missile Defences (TMD), and continued observation of the terms of the 1972 ABM treaty. TMD is more technologically promising, and in conjunction with forward-deployed stealth aircraft, might usefully deter attempted use of WMDs on various SRBMs and IRBMs now available to governments in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya.

NMD systems have been distinctly poor in test performance over the past five years. Software problems seem extremely unlikely to be overcome anytime soon. NMD is inherently vulnerable to saturation (or attack via covertly introduced weapons) even if the decoy identification problem is ever solved.

b) Promote an anti-WMD treaty defined regime that would commit all major Western states to punishing any government that resorted to first use of WMDs to the fullest extent possible – including where feasible regime elimination.

Middle power states would have to expand defence budgets so as to be able to create credible force projection capabilities such that they could participate effectively in the overthrow of ‘rogue state regimes’ and the occupation of such countries so as to facilitate the multilateral rehabilitation of their political systems.

c) Explore the Russian proposal for erecting a global international system of missile attack early warning and limited active defence. An authentically global/international missile defence system against limited strikes may ultimately prove necessary for making the transition to a fully denuclearized world – as a ‘hedge’ against cheating/defections from the regime.

d) Explore the possibilities of ‘buying off’ defection from the NPT, CWC and BWC frameworks through enhanced aid or transfer of other much needed but non-military technology (the North Korean example) – but only on condition that such states accept far greater internal transparency in their weapons research programmes and all dual-capable civilian industrial and scientific activities.

e) Encourage early expansion of the activities of the International Space Station and develop plans for a permanently staffed international observatory and asteroid emergency response capability. Both Chinese and Russian scientists have expressed interest for almost a decade in developing global protection against asteroid strikes.

Canada can and should take a leading role in trying to catalyze cooperative action on this urgent issue.

f) Highlight the continued inability of the U.S. to control its own borders. With tons of illicit drugs and several hundred thousand illegal immigrants entering the U.S. each year, it is clearly quite feasible for WMDs to be smuggled into North America and prepositioned for decapitating surprise attacks.

Such inherent vulnerability could only be addressed by creating a virtual police state and surrounding American territory with several thousand miles of ‘Berlin Wall’ structures. Such repugnant police state measures are the logical adjunct to a full-scale American commitment to active strategic defences.
3. Promoting the delegitimation of nuclear weapons and early steps towards NWs abolition:

a) Enhance conventional war capabilities on a multilateral basis. Negotiate a treaty making the first use of BWs or NWs illegal and subject to a coordinated international punitive response.

b) Continue to try to persuade both Chinese and Russian authorities that the human future requires serious movement towards WMD abolition – and fully verifiable systems of no notice challenge inspection. Promoting an effective Security Council role in meeting the threat of WMD attack is clearly desirable, but may not be politically feasible for many years unless effective measures of reassurance are developed sufficient to persuade both Beijing and Moscow to support an expanded regime of full transparency and prompt and effective sanctions against violators.

c) Promote cooperative planetary defence through megaton-range NWs permanently deployed on internationally staffed observation/tracking laboratories that are fully equipped and permanently ready to defend the earth against asteroid strikes.

d) Develop a fully cooperative P5 approach to eliminating all WMDs in Iraq as soon as possible under reestablished international inspection and verification – perhaps at the price (for Russia and China) of foregoing other future acts of humanitarian intervention without constant full P5 support. Following through on the Iraqi ‘end game’ is of considerable importance for the future credibility of a global anti-WMD regime.

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