Debbie Grisdale is Executive Director, Physicians for Global Survival, Canada
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. The gap is now wider than ever between the nuclear dependency of NATO and the recent commitment to “an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenal” made by the nuclear weapons states at the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT. The out-dated reliance of NATO on nuclear weapons needs to be exposed to fresh air and thinking that is in step with reality. It is difficult to explain in any rational manner why the world community is forced to live under the shadow of this threat. Military leaders renounce the use of nuclear weapons as “militarily unjustifiable” and “in today’s environment the threat of use has been exposed as neither credible nor of any military utility.” There is a core of countries in the international community and a growing proportion of civil society who want peace built in a world free of nuclear weapons. The challenge is to actively seek opportunities for civil society and like-minded countries to engage in constructive dialogue, in a continuous fashion, with NATO member countries (nuclear and non-nuclear) and NATO officials to press for change in nuclear policy, starting with an end to a policy of first use.
2. I am not convinced that there are legitimate security concerns underlying the US’s interest in missile defense but rather a strong thread of financial self-interest on the part of the military-industrial complex running through this initiative. We have seen how George W. Bush stated recently he intended to stimulate Canadian interest in NMD by offering contracts to Canadian defence companies.
3. The continuous reduction in numbers of nuclear weapons with a stated commitment to reaching zero would indicate a serious commitment to reducing the political value of nuclear weapons. It is difficult to accept an argument that there is legitimacy, of any kind, to nuclear weapons.