The outcome of the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which begins April 24, 2000 at the United Nations in New York, will play a significant role in determining the security of humanity in the 21st century. Your personal commitment to a successful outcome of this Review Conference is essential to strengthening nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, and thus to humanity’s future.
The nuclear perils to humanity are not sufficiently widely recognized nor appreciated. In the words of writer Jonathan Schell, we have been given “the gift of time,” but that gift is running out. For this reason vision and bold action are called for.
General George Lee Butler, a former Commander in Chief of all US strategic nuclear weapons, poses these questions: “By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at the moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestation?”
It is time to heed the warnings of men like General Butler, who know intimately the risks and consequences of nuclear war. The time is overdue for a New Agenda on nuclear disarmament. What is needed is commitment and leadership on behalf of humanity and all life.
The heart of the Non-Proliferation Treaty agreement is the link between non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The non-nuclear weapons states agree in the Treaty not to develop nor acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for the nuclear weapons states agreeing to negotiate in good faith to achieve nuclear disarmament. The Treaty has become nearly universal and the non-nuclear weapons states, with a few notable exceptions, have adhered to the non-proliferation side of the bargain. The progress on nuclear disarmament, however, has been almost entirely unsatisfactory, leading many observers to conclude that the intention of the nuclear weapons states is to preserve indefinitely a two-tier structure of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots.”
At the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference many countries and non-governmental organizations challenged the nuclear disarmament record of the nuclear weapons states. They argued that to extend the Treaty indefinitely without more specific progress from the nuclear weapons states was equivalent to writing a blank check to states that had failed to keep their promises for 25 years. These countries and NGOs urged instead that the extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty be linked to progress on Article VI promises of good faith efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament. Pressure from the nuclear weapons states led to the Treaty being extended indefinitely, but only with agreement to a set of non-binding Principles and Objectives that was put forward by the Republic of South Africa.
These Principles and Objectives provided for:
— completion of a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996;
— early conclusion of negotiations for a non-discriminatory and universally applicable treaty banning production of fissile materials; and
— determined pursuit by the nuclear weapons states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally with the ultimate goal of their elimination.
Progress toward these goals has been unimpressive. A CTBT was adopted in 1996, but has been ratified only by the UK and France among the nuclear weapons states. The US argues that the CTBT necessitates its $4.6 billion per year “Stockpile Stewardship” program, which enables it to design new nuclear weapons and modify existing nuclear weapons in computer-simulated virtual reality tests and “sub-critical” nuclear tests. Despite the existence of this provocative program, ratification of the CTBT by the US Senate was rejected in October 1999. The US and Russia continue to conduct “sub-critical” nuclear weapons tests. Negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty have yet to begin, and the “determined pursuit” promise has been systematically and progressively ignored by the nuclear weapons states.
In its 1997 Presidential Decision Directive 60, the US reaffirmed nuclear weapons as the “cornerstone” of its security policy and opened the door to the use of nuclear weapons against a country using chemical or biological weapons. The US, UK and France have also resisted proposals by other NATO members for a review of NATO nuclear policy. Under urgent prodding by Canada and Germany, they did finally agree to a review of nuclear policy, but this will not be completed until December 2000, after the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
The US seems intent on moving ahead with a National Missile Defense plan, even if it means abrogating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which most analysts view as a bedrock treaty for further nuclear arms reductions. The US is also moving ahead with space militarization programs. In the US Space Command’s “Vision for 2020” document, the US proclaims its intention of “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment.”
Russia has abandoned its policy of No First Use of nuclear weapons in favor of a policy mirroring that of the western nuclear weapons states. The START II agreement is stalled and is still not ratified by the Russian Duma. The date for completion of START II has, in fact, been set back for five years from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2007. Negotiations on START III are stalled.
China is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. India and Pakistan, countries that have consistently criticized the discriminatory nature of the NPT, have both overtly tested nuclear weapons and joined the nuclear weapons club. Israel, another country refusing to join the NPT, will not acknowledge that it has developed nuclear weapons and has imprisoned Mordechai Vanunu for more than 13 years for speaking out on Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
In the face of the intransigence of the nuclear weapons states, the warning bells are sounding louder and louder. These warnings have been put forward by the Canberra Commission, the International Court of Justice, retired generals and admirals, past and present political leaders, the New Agenda Coalition, the Tokyo Forum, and many other distinguished individuals and non-governmental organizations working for peace and disarmament.
The future of humanity is being held hostage to self-serving policies of the nuclear weapons states. This is an intolerable situation, not only for the myopic vision it represents and the disrespect for the rest of the world that is implicit in these policies, but, more important, for the squandering of the precious opportunity to eliminate the nuclear weapons threat to our common future.
The more nuclear weapons in the world, the greater the danger to humanity. At present we lack even an effective accounting of the numbers and locations of these weapons and the nuclear materials to construct them. The possibilities of these weapons or the materials to make them falling into the hands of terrorists, criminals or potential new nuclear weapons states has increased since the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
What is to be done? Will the 2000 NPT Review Conference again be bullied by strong-armed negotiating techniques and false promises of the nuclear weapons states? Or will the non-nuclear weapons states, the vast majority of the world’s nations, unite in common purpose to demand that the nuclear weapons states fulfill their long-standing promises and obligations in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Ridding the world of nuclear weapons is the greatest challenge of our time. We ask you to step forward and meet this challenge by demanding in a unified voice that the nuclear weapons states fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As we stand on the threshold of a new century and millennium, we ask that you call upon the nuclear weapons states to take the following steps to preserve the Non-Proliferation Treaty and end the threat that nuclear weapons arsenals pose to all humanity:
President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
cc: Leaders of United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel