A Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Panel Discussion

During the 2004 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee at the United Nations, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation convened a panel discussion entitled “Nuclear Weapons, Non-Proliferation and the Quest for Security,” enabling the opportunity to discuss current proliferation trends and recommendations to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

The panel was moderated by David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and speakers at the event included Canadian Senator and Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative, Douglas Roche OC, Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation, and Justine Wang, Research and Advocacy Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The resulting discussions were constructive as panelists debated the challenges posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the responsibility to offer alternative visions of security for a more peaceful world.

Senator Roche set the tone by addressing the current state of the world today. Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, nuclear weapons states have shown scant inclination to abide by their promise of good faith negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament. Without a serious effort by nuclear weapons states to achieve nuclear disarmament, the NPT will continue to promote double standards that allow some states to continue to expand and improve their nuclear arsenal while denying others of the same rights. In order to meet the challenges of today, the NPT and the non-proliferation regime is in urgent need of reconstruction. In reflecting on the role he played both as a parliamentarian and as a representative of civil society, Senator Roche underlined the importance of the role of civilian grassroots and non-governmental organizations in educating the public and influencing top level policy decisions among different countries.

Kate Hudson spoke on the subject of the “Special Relationship between the US and UK .” Having summarized the background to the relationship based on the UK ‘s historical economic dependence, Hudson spoke of the problems arising from the 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA) between the two countries. This provides the basis for extensive nuclear collaboration, without which it is unlikely that the UK would be able to sustain its possession of nuclear weapons on Trident submarines. According to Hudson , “It is unlikely that the UK could remain a nuclear weapon states without the support of the US .” The MDA is in line for renewal during 2004, which has a strong bearing on the issue of a possible Trident replacement and the potential development of new nuclear weapons.

Hudson also discussed the UK ‘s strong support for the new framework of the 2001 US Nuclear Posture Review. It was noted that many observers feel that political support for US initiatives is part of the “Special Relationship.” The problem in the UK is that the current British government strongly supports the relationship and backs the full range of US policies, including pre-emptive war and nuclear first strike. CND is currently campaigning against the development of new nuclear weapons; for an immediate parliamentary discussion on MDA; for a rejection of pre-emptive war and nuclear first use policies; in opposition to a Trident replacement; for withdrawal of permission for US use of British bases for Missile Defense; and for withdrawal of US weapons from Lakenheath.

Jacqueline Cabasso focused on US nuclear weapons policy and underlined the importance of nuclear disarmament as a core issue on the global peace movement’s agenda. According to Cabasso, while the Bush administration is demanding nuclear disarmament from other nations, it continues to upgrade and expand its nuclear arsenal. Cabasso supports this by referring to several US documents, including:

  • The 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, which calls for:
    • a variety of nuclear attack options to compliment other US military capabilities;
    • contingency plans for use of nuclear weapons against seven named countries (including non-nuclear weapons states) in “immediate, potential, and unexpected contingencies;” and,
    • a revitalized nuclear weapons research, development and production infrastructure to maintain the existing US nuclear arsenal, develop new nuclear warheads in response to new requirements, and maintain readiness to resume full scale underground nuclear testing.
  • The 2002 US National Security Strategy which highlights the administration’s willingness to engage in pre-emptive war, including the possibility of nuclear first strike by “acting against emerging threats before they are fully formed.”
  • The US Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction which reserves to the US the right to respond with overwhelming force – including using nuclear weapons – to the use of weapons of nuclear, chemical or biological against the US or its allies.

According to Cabasso, the legitimization of nuclear weapons by the world’s first nuclear weapons state and super power, the US , poses the gravest threat to international security. The US policy of preventive war and its push to modernize its nuclear arsenal provide arguments for other countries to develop nuclear weapons of their own.

Cabasso challenged that while the security policy of the Bush administration are more extreme than other administrations, they are really a continuation of them. Cabasso continued by pointing out that even if Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry (D-MA) succeeds in winning the election in November 2004, the global community must not assume that current US nuclear weapons policy will take a dramatic turn for the better. Reading excerpts from An American Security Strategy, released in July 2003 by the National Security Advisory Group to the Democratic Party, Cabasso revealed that Democratic national security policies are not necessarily opposed to current US nuclear weapons policy. The policy paper only demonstrates a marginal change from the current US stance and endorses the current level of spending on US nuclear weapons and other military programs.

Current US nuclear policies have made visible the present and very real dangers of nuclear weapon use. Nuclear weapons threaten everyone’s security and Cabasso concluded for the need to redefine security, “throwing out the outdated model completely to replace it with a human security model” based on food, shelter, clean air and water, jobs, healthcare and education for everyone everywhere, without regard to national borders.

Justine Wang ended the panel discussion by addressing recent calls for countering proliferation and suggesting recommendations for improving the NPT and non-proliferation regime. Wang addressed the recent initiatives proposed by US President George Bush on February 11 2004, IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei and the recently passed US-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While these proposals are constructive and necessary to the extent that they don’t enshrine double standards, they fall seriously short of being able to meet the current global proliferation challenge.

Wang called for the stemming of nuclear proliferation under a more strict, equitable and effective multilateral framework and shared recommendations of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to improve the NPT and non-proliferation regime. Recommendations include commencing negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, universal application of the NPT to all states under a strict timetable, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty , universal and equal application of the Additional Protocol , and the phased elimination of nuclear power.

Wang reiterated that the continuation of the current NPT regime that ignores existing double standards is destined to result in both further nuclear proliferation and the use of nuclear weapons. Only by embracing significant changes that end existing double standards and elevate nuclear disarmament obligations can the non-proliferation regime succeed.

Krieger concluded the panel discussion and mentioned that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is launching an online campaign entitled “Turn the Tide: Charting a New Course for US Nuclear Policy” as an example of a grassroots initiative needed to mobilize the public to alert policy makers on the threat of nuclear weapons on the world’s security.

Discussions ended with a question and answer session, where many participants engaged in constructive dialogue on facing the challenge of the increasing threat of nuclear weapons and the future of the NPT and the non-proliferation regime.