Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Norway builds momentum for nuclear weapons abolition

An historic two-day conference titled Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons: International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament convened today in Oslo, Norway focused on “identifying strategies that promote sustainable solutions for disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” The conference is hosted by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in cooperation with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Hoover Institution and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. New papers on the prospects for and process toward nuclear disarmament by global thought leaders are available online. A broadcast email from the Nuclear Threat Initiative points out that:

“The meeting builds on a recent Hoover/NTI conference “Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” and two articles — “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” and “Toward a Nuclear Free World” — written by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn that were published in The Wall Street Journal. It also builds on activities undertaken by the Norwegian government, which leads the Seven-Nation Initiative on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, including Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Romania, South Africa and the U.K.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lewis is surfacing early news from the conference at http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/.

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre opened the conference (quotes taken from his remarks as prepared for delivery) with a keynote address offering clear direction:

“I hope this gathering will add momentum to a new global effort towards fulfilling the vision of a world without nuclear weapons”
a spirit of inclusion:

“our vision must be a joint enterprise – among states, among scholars, among civil society actors, and among peoples…Achieving our vision will require a powerful coalition, and today we see its outlines. Coming together are realists who comprehend the power of idealism and idealists who understand the force of facts and realities.”
the perspective of history:

“A world free of nuclear weapons has been a longstanding aspiration of my country’s foreign policy, even during the Cold War. Indeed, it has been a core foreign policy priority for many nations for decades.”
awareness of the growing danger of recent years:

“The grim subtext has been a creeping abandonment of our vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Combined with the short-sighted assumption that, because we have been spared nuclear war to date, because no acts of nuclear terrorism have yet been perpetrated, the status quo is somehow secure. That, my friends, is our Achilles heel: the false assumption that status quo is less risky than change.”
and a sober eye to the difficult path forward:

“Let us be clear. Very few, if any, non-nuclear weapon states believe that full nuclear disarmament is possible, or even desirable, overnight. Realists and idealists can agree that nuclear weapon technology cannot be disinvented. International security as we know it is dependent on deterrence postures in which nuclear weapons maintain a pivotal role. But these postures are neither inevitable nor immutable.”

“We cannot consolidate and maintain the non-proliferation regime while neglecting the bold vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. We will delay and undermine nuclear disarmament unless we demand robust and credible non-proliferation. Abolitionists can be realists, and realists, abolitionists.”
So, the Spirit of Oslo emerges over the next two days, we hope that this fusion of perspectives will coalesce into a tangible, ongoing path forward that will include prompt achievement of prudent and verifiable steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ivanov on Globalizing Nuclear Arms Control Law

David Rising of the Associated Press reports that Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on February 10, 2008 that Russia and the United States should replace the bilateral arms control agreements of the Cold War and that the time has come
"to open this framework for all leading states interested in cooperation in order to ensure overall security."
Ivanov’s remarks align with recent British statements about the widening of the nuclear arms control process made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Secretary of State for Defense Des Browne, and former Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket.

Widening the process of negotiated and effectively verified reduction in nuclear weapons to additional states supports compliance with the shared Article VI obligation of all states parties to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to:
“pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
While some non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT have a tradition of taking this obligation seriously, greater engagement and political capital is needed from many states to respond effectively to the increasingly diffuse danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons and related technologies. The new dangers of an increasingly confusing multipolar balance of nuclear weapons capabilities and transnational proliferation rings argue strongly for more international legal constraints agreed among more players. Clear international legal rules are needed in response to these contemporary challenges, Ivanov emphasizes:
"It is imperative to ensure that the provisions of such a regime should be legally binding so that, in due course, it would really become possible to shift to the control over nuclear weapons and the process of their gradual reduction on a multilateral basis.”
While the Bush Administration has preferred its disarmament policy to be unilateral and informal, the fact that both the United Kingdom and Russia have explicitly opened the door to multilateralization of nuclear disarmament negotiations suggests that next steps might be contemplated even while the United States remains disengaged from the process. United States should be preparing now to play a leadership role toward a future regime for the control of nuclear weapons that is legally binding, effectively verified, and multilateral. Watching from the sidelines, we endanger both national and global security by not reflecting our specific perspective, capabilities, and requirements into a process that shows clear signs of both widening and moving forward.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The United Kingdom acts to globalize nuclear disarmament progress

On February 5, 2008, the British Secretary of Defence Des Browne addressed the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on “Laying the Foundations for Multilateral Disarmament.” He made a bold statement of the United Kingdom’s commitment to its nuclear disarmament obligations:
“The UK has a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and, in partnership with everyone who shares that ambition, we intend to make further progress towards this vision in the coming years.”
Browne continues, emphasizing the need for progress nuclear disarmament to be verifiable, not only to the nuclear weapons “haves,” but also to the non-nuclear weapons states:
“Our chances of eliminating nuclear weapons will be enhanced immeasurably if the Non-Nuclear Weapon States can see forward planning, commitment and action toward multilateral nuclear disarmament by Nuclear Weapon States. Without this, we risk generating the perception that the Nuclear Weapon States are failing to fulfil their disarmament obligations and this will be used by some states as an excuse for their nuclear intransigence.”
Browne reminds us that nuclear armament and disarmament are global issues, just as the obligation in Article VI of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) apply to all states parties to the Treaty. The Government of the United Kingdom has again made clear that it will not abdicate its responsibility for nuclear disarmament nor will it exclude its NPT partners, particularly with regard to its new initiative to develop new technologies for verifying nuclear disarmament.
“Developing such techniques will take time but it is very important it is not undertaken in ‘splendid isolation’. It must be built on the requirements of Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapon States alike. We need to consider not only what information we are willing to divulge but also what information a Non-Nuclear Weapon State will want to receive.”
Finally, Browne made a strong new proposal to host a conference to actively involve technical specialists from the national laboratories of the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, France, and China:

“the UK is willing to host a technical conference of P5 nuclear laboratories on
the verification of nuclear disarmament before the next NPT Review Conference in
2010. We hope such a conference will enable the five recognised nuclear
weapons states to reinforce a process of mutual confidence building: working
together to solve some of these difficult technical issues."

Friday, February 1, 2008

If you want disarmament, globalize ACDA

AFP reports that the new Australian Foreign Minister is promising a more assertive role in support of nuclear disarmament. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told a Tokyo news conference that:
"The current Australian Government came to office with a new commitment to seek
to be much more active... as a nation on nuclear non-proliferation and
disarmament matters."
We welcome this important step forward. But as former Prime Minister John Howard’s August 2007 deal to sell uranium to India – which has since been reversed by the new Australian Government – makes clear, nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament are not always Australia’s top foreign policy priorities. This is easy to understand, of course, bilateral relationships always loom large in comparison to global imperatives in international politics.

One way to strengthen efforts to promote nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament and to insulate them from political vaguaries may be to strengthen their institutional advocate. The Australian Safeguards and Nonproliferation Office (ASNO), consolidated under a single Director General in 2003 legislation, supports an impressive tradition of Australian arms control and disarmament leadership. ASNO is also subordinate to Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT):
“The Director General reports directly to the responsible Minister. Since 1994
this has been the Minister for Foreign Affairs. ASNO is staffed through DFAT on
the basis that it is a division within the Department. The Director General is a
statutory officer, while all other staff were employed under the Public Service
Act 1999, on a full-time basis.”
By pulling ASNO out from under DFAT, and giving arms control and disarmament an independent voice, Australian Members of Parliament could ensure that these concerns always reach their Head of Government unfiltered by “clientitis” – the tendency of officials responsible for bilateral relationships to sacrifice other priorities for the sake of those relationships – or by officials who are not daily steeped in the technical, legal, and strategic complexities of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Until the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was ploughed under ten years ago and the earth below it twice salted by John Bolton, it may have been the most institutionally successful advocate for arms control in any government, ever. In how many countries does a dedicated advocate of nuclear disarmament with authority and staff report directly to the Head of Government? Establishing an independent ASNO may not be a sufficient or even prudent step toward effective Australian nuclear disarmament advocacy, but since nothing else has worked, it may be time to consider giving nuclear disarmament the bureaucratic priority that trade and development assistance enjoy in many goverments through a greater measure of institutional independence and persistance. If nothing else, it would surely get more serious people talking more seriously about the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and give lie to the faulty assumption that nuclear weapons are not the common business of humanity.