Submission from Peter Nicholls,
Chair, Abolition 2000 UK
Abolition 2000 UK is part of the wider
Abolition 2000a global coalition working for the abolition
of nuclear weapons. Abolition 2000 internationally was founded
in the wake of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's Review Conference
in 1995, which made that treaty permanent. We welcomed the 13-point
programme for nuclear disarmament contained in paragraph 15 of
the gloss on NPT article VI in the final report of the 2000 Review
Conference. We advocate negotiations to bring about a nuclear
weapons convention (designed along the lines of the chemical and
biological weapons conventions) and we distribute the published
model convention text together with an analysis of the problems
to be overcome.
Abolition 2000 UK was founded in October
1996 and is a coordinating body for over 100 groups
in Scotland, Wales and England that have signed the Abolition
2000 statement. Abolition 2000 UK exchanges information,
organizes cooperative actions, produces discussion papers on the
problems of nuclear weaponry, and lobbies for nuclear disarmament
at the national and international levels.
Referring to: National Security Strategy
(Cabinet Office paper Cm. 7291, March 2008).
A. General comments on Cm. 7291.
1. We found the general style and approach
of Cm. 7291 rather simplistic. It fails to answer or sometimes
even analyse key problems in attaining "security" for
the U.K. and elsewhere in the world. We believe that true security
for the U.K. will depend upon security for other nations, states
and cultures, including those that are substantially socially
and politically different from our own.
2. Cm. 7291 conflates a number of very
different security issues, including nuclear weapons, other WMD,
terrorism, global warming, threats of pandemics, flooding, and
economic problems. We do not believe that all these issues, although
some are linked, can be addressed in similar ways. Each is unique
and demands specific and detailed focussed attention.
3. Cm. 7291 also treats as similar
or analogous some different geopolitical problem areas, most obviously
including Iraq and Afghanistan. The recent history of these two
states, and the historical roles of the peoples of the two states,
their own governments, the UN, NATO, the "coalition of the
willing" (in Iraq), and other military agencies that have
intervened in their administration and governance, requires a
detailed analysis and conclusions that are specific to each case.
4. Cm. 7291 also does not distinguish
clearly the roles of the different alliances of which UK is a
member, especially the primarily military alliance NATO and the
primarily economic and political alliance represented by the EU.
B. Specific comments on security aspects of
U.K. nuclear weapons policy.
1. We have welcomed the UK's government's
support for progress under the NPT (including the 13 points
agreed in 2000), for the ratification of the CTBT by all the named
states, and for negotiations leading to an FMCT. But we note that
each of these treaties and potential treaties is only a partial
step in the direction of nuclear weapons abolition. We would therefore
urge that government acknowledge the eventual need for an over-arching
treaty or convention that would ban the possession, use or threat
of use of nuclear weapons in the same way that the Chemical Weapons
and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions ban those WMD.
Such a treaty would represent the logical culmination of all the
relevant partial treaties such as the NPT and not conflict with
2. The UK's commendable support for a cluster
weapons ban shows that we can promote measures of disarmament
involving weapons otherwise seen as of substantial value by the
military. The moral arguments against cluster bombs are equally
cogent when applied to nuclear weapons (NW). Banning the latter
would therefore seem to be a logical further step in the progress
towards a world in conformity with both morality and the relevant
Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.
3. Securing the non-proliferation of NW
is essential to preserve a safe world. But nuclear non-proliferation
is inevitably linked with nuclear disarmament. The contrast between
the "50 more years" of UK NW anticipated both by
Cm. 7291 and by the governmental white paper last year on
the question of Trident renewal, and the official support for
disarmament initiatives, is a stark one. H.M. Government must
acknowledge the need to put UK NW on a disarmament negotiating
table. The decision to continue in possession of the U.K.'s nuclear
weapons must be seen as tentative, potentially reversible, and
certainly dependent upon progress with disarmament involving all
the nuclear weapons states, both those acknowledged by the NPT
4. NATO is primarily a military alliance.
Although it has a modest political dimension, as illustrated by
the Partnership for Peace, it is clearly distinct in style and
governance from a moderately democratic alliance such as the European
Union. The role of NATO in the post cold war world and its involvement
in "out of area" actions such as that in Afghanistan
needs to be carefully examined and if necessary deconstructed.
All such alliances have problems which need to be addressed; indefinite
extension of NATO membership, even involving democratic states,
is not a necessary "good". NATO's nuclear doctrine,
including its continued acceptance and sometime advocacy of a
possible "first strike" role for nuclear weapons, is
a cold war legacy which requires discussion and revision. The
political role of NATO needs to be emphasized over the military
role. Its military role, if actively used at all, must be consistent
with the U.N. charter and conducted with continuous oversight
by the Security Council.
5. We wish to emphasize the need to find
non-military solutions to security problems, including especially
the problems of terrorism. The government must acknowledge the
different security problems represented by the existence of different
militant groups and the different forms taken by such groupsas
in the modest Cm. 7291 statement distinguishing Hamas and
Hizbullah from other groups creating security concerns.
6. We point out that deterrence theory,
both nuclear and non-nuclear, is intrinsically problematic. But
in particular deterrence of any kind is unlikely to work against
non-state actors, and nuclear deterrence cannot be effective against
such groups; its use only encourages small states to think of
NW as an insurance option and hence weakens the effectiveness
of the NPT.
7. Any discussion of security needs must
acknowledge the political and economic roots of conflict. It is
arguable that some UK policies may exacerbate or have exacerbated
such conflict roots rather than ameliorated them and that government
has been slow to acknowledge the possibility of policy mistakes.
8. We wish to point out the possibility
of various disarmament actions that fall short of complete nuclear
disarmament but which can represent gradual steps toward a world
without nuclear weapons. These include: decreasing the numbers
of NW; de-alerting; abandoning continuous NW patrols; separating
missiles and warheads; formally abandoning the "first use"
option (both for NATO and UK); and transparency re the location
and existence of NW in the UK (thus we should acknowledge the
removal of US NW from Lakenheath). The UK should also support
all treaty structures that limit any role for NW, including the
recognition of all the currently agreed Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
and agreeing formally to provide negative security assurances
(NSAs) both by the UK individually and by NATO as an alliance
currently depending on nuclear weapons. It should press for similar
actions by the other NWS. The success of the 2010 review
conference of the NPT will depend upon such unilateral or multilateral
actions as well as upon progress within the Conference on Disarmament
in negotiations for an FMCT and for PAROS.
9. We believe that it should be but perhaps
is not unnecessary to point out that a "rules based"
world means that no actions prohibited by the UN charter or not
specifically authorised by the Security Council should be undertaken.
It is hard to see how any use or threat of use of NW would be
consistent with the charter or ever authorized by the Security
Council. Continued possession of NW, and all that implies, may
thus be inherently inconsistent with the establishment of a "rules
10. The security of the UK, and of other
states, is thus linked with the need for progress in nuclear disarmament.
Failure to secure concrete proposals either within the CD beforehand
or at the 2010 NPT Review Conference itself will mean a reversion
to a less secure world.
26 September 2008