Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Submission from Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

The Acronym Institute, established in 1995 in Geneva and London, publishes the quarterly journal Disarmament Diplomacy and has internationally-recognized expertise on a range of multilateral, bilateral and global security treaties and agreements, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1325, the Outer Space Treaty, and many of the still-relevant cold war treaties relating to nuclear weapons, outer space and Conventional Forces in Europe. In 1999-2000 the Acronym Institute initiated the establishment of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Security and Non-Proliferation and provided support staff, funding and eminent speakers for the APPG's first few years before transferring this responsibility to another NGO in order to devote more resources to the Institute's international security work. A long-time consultant for the United Nations and European Parliament, Rebecca Johnson holds a PhD in international relations and multilateral arms control from the London School of Economics and was senior advisor to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix from 2004-2006.

  This submission will focus on contradictions between the security analysis and UK policy and practice with regard to nuclear weapons, the NPT, rules-based multilateralism and the distortion of collective security approaches as a consequence of continued reliance on nuclear weapons and doctrines, including the use of nuclear weapons.


  1.  In our assessment, the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom "Security in an interdependent world", published in March 2008, correctly recognises that UK and international security requires addressing a range of diverse but interconnected threats. It reflects a better understanding that security is not only about military resources and approaches and makes commendable efforts to identify policies that would address these challenges. Nevertheless, the discussions on non-proliferation are hampered by the retention of out-dated defence assumptions about the role of the UK in international relations.

  2.  The UK has much experience in policing, emergency response, forensics and verification and is undoubtedly able to contribute usefully towards collective and global security. Though much of the Strategy emphasises partnerships and cooperation, at times there are still echoes of an out-dated colonialist mentality that treats Britain as having a special or dominant role beyond our actual geostrategic position and resources. Examples include force-projection policies that show Britain attempting to "punch above our weight" by means of the inadequately thought-through UK role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the procurement of new generations of Trident submarines and aircraft carriers.

  3.  The persistence of such out-dated ideologies in some areas has resulted in perpetuation of some inappropriate policies—most notably with regard to nuclear weapons—that are counterproductive or irrelevant for dealing with today's complex threats and challenges, and which in some cases feed the very threats that the Government says it wants to reduce and manage.

  4.  While the rules-based non-proliferation regime has its flaws, the network of treaties and agreements centred on the NPT, CWC, BWC and reinforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency and UN Security Council resolutions, provide most of the principles and tools needed to constrain and prevent the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons. Britain's own nuclear policies, particularly the renewal of Trident, undermine the NPT and our strategic and non-proliferation objectives.

  5.  The NPT rested on the understanding that if the majority of states renounced the option of nuclear weapons and joined the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states, the five defined nuclear weapon states would pursue disarmament. Anything else would perpetuate the privilege of the nuclear "haves" to the perceived detriment of the rest. The UK recognises that non-proliferation is unsustainable without integrated disarmament, but appears to think that public diplomacy can substitute for genuine steps to renounce nuclear weapons and remove them from British security policies.

  6.  While the positive mood music from the UK since Margaret Beckett's presentation to the Carnegie Conference in June 2007 has been widely welcomed, civil society and NPT states are sceptical that the UK's actions do not match the words. The continuation of AWE's verification work, stated aspirations to make Britain into a disarmament laboratory and initiative on holding a P-5 technical conference are warmly welcomed, but they are no substitute for concrete actions to devalue and dismantle UK nuclear weapons.

  7.  Britain would have far more influence in the world if the government took positive and irreversible steps to demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not essential for security. An announcement that Britain does not envisage replacing Trident would boost the NPT in the run-up to the 2010 Review Conference and make a qualitative difference to global security. Though it would not immediately sweep away the ambitions of Iran or North Korea (which have different motivations for pursuing nuclear capabilities), UK renunciation would cut through the perceived incentives and provide greater muscle and integrity to international efforts to contain Iran and others within the NPT. With regard to current Trident deployment, the government should reduce nuclear dangers and boost international confidence by de-alerting and taking Trident of its continuous at-sea patrols.

  8.  As NATO develops a new Security Concept for the 21st century, consideration should be given to removing the anachronistic role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance and reassuring Russia that NATO's expansion poses no security threat.

  9.  Instead of risking stability through ballistic missile defences (BMD) and programmes to use weapons in and from outer space, a more sensible approach—and one consistent with the Security Strategy and the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)—would combine arms control efforts with the technical hardening and shielding of as many satellites as possible, plus space situation awareness, redundancy and other "passive" defence means. Progress in nuclear disarmament, strengthening the NPT, negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, further efforts to restrict missile proliferation, building on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) would also contribute to security and reduce the chances of space becoming a battleground—which would be in nobody's interests.

  10.  The chief purpose of defence should be to enhance security. In seeking to eliminate nuclear threats, we must make sure that deterrence theory is not proved right. In other words, we neither want to see nuclear weapons provoke wars, nor does anyone want more bloody, conventional wars to take the place of nuclear weapons. Therefore, in advocating that nuclear weapons must be progressively abolished, it is important to recognise the need to reduce the arsenals of other weapons too. As implied in the Security Strategy, that means we have to move defence strategies away from old patterns of aggressive, military-dependent national security reactivity towards multifaceted, preventive human security approaches.

  11.  It will be important to work for a successful review conference in 2010, but it would be counterproductive if "success" were conceived to be an agreed lowest common denominator document. While most of the elements of the 1995 and 2000 programmes of action are still relevant, some will be more critical to a constructive 2010 review conference than others. The continued credibility of the NPT is likely to rest on: the viability of CTBT entry into force under a new American president; whether the nuclear weapon states continue to insist on rights to use, renew and modernise their nuclear weapons; and how well (or badly) the regime deals with the nuclear aspirations of potential proliferators such as Iran.

  12.  While welcoming the government's verification initiatives the Committee should question where it is all intended to lead. At present much energy is being expended on demonstrating how complex and difficult verification of disarmament would be. While true, there is a difference between projects designed to convince the public that verification would be too difficult for disarmament to be practicable, and projects intended to work out practical solutions to provide confidence that disarmament is feasible. As the 2006 Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Dr Hans Blix stated:

    "Weapons of mass destruction cannot be uninvented. But they can be outlawed, as biological and chemical weapons have been, and their use made unthinkable. Compliance, verification and enforcement rules can, with the requisite will, be effectively applied. And with that will, even the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is not beyond the world's reach."[174]

  It is more practical to design and implement a regime that would successfully ban and contain sophisticated nuclear technologies than to try to prevent terrorist acquisition or "break-out" under the confused mixed messages of the current nonproliferation regime.

  13.  Efforts to achieve a global nuclear weapon convention would be more successful at constraining states outside the NPT (India, Israel and Pakistan) and potential proliferators than the current regime, based on differential obligations. A nuclear weapon convention, misleadingly portrayed by some government officials as competing with or detracting from the NPT, is the logical rules-based objective for states seeking the full implementation of the NPT. Efforts to achieve a nuclear weapon convention will reinforce rather than undermine the existing NPT-based regime, and are consistent with the goals enshrined in the Treaty's preamble and articles.

  14.  The practical steps of verified disablement, dismantlement and irreversible denuclearization will take time, and those countries still possessing nuclear weapons will need to keep them safe pending total elimination. Pending negotiations on a prohibition convention and to undercut the present attractiveness of nuclear weapons as an instrument of policy or threat, a first step that the UK could initiate or support is to declare that the use of nuclear weapons by anyone for any purpose would be deemed a crime against humanity. Such a move would support both our non-proliferation and counter-terrorism objectives and strategies and be very popular with the majority of NPT states parties, armed forces and civil society.


  15.  The Security Strategy rightly recognises that transnational threats and climate change are relevant security challenges and that traditional military and state threats have declined. It perceptively analyses the links and interactions between individual, collective and global security and responsibility. We applaud that this significant step to provide joined-up policy analysis on security has gone further than previous government documents in recognizing that the challenges and opportunities of the human security paradigm are more relevant than the national security paradigm that has dominated thinking since Westphalia.

  16.  We welcome that the government identifies as guiding principles and core values "human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all" [para 2.1]. It is likewise significant that in paragraph 1.9 the objective of protecting UK security and interests and enabling people to live freely and with confidence is placed in the context of "a more secure, stable, just and prosperous world". In perception at least, the government clearly recognises the interdependence between security for people in the UK and conditions in the rest of the world, and that we have a responsibility to tackle the causes as well as the symptoms of insecurity.

  17.  Emphasis is placed on intelligence, policing and the responsibility to protect, recognising links between transnational crime and trafficking in weapons, drugs and women. The UK should expand its tools for investigation, prevention of conflict and human rights abuses and implementation of treaties and agreements beyond the traditionally male-dominated military and police approaches, tools and ways of working. A passing reference is made to UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, but this needs to be mainstreamed into all levels of security policy and practice. The UK should devote far more resources and training to enable women in this country and abroad to contribute their skills so that efforts to address and diminish security threats can benefit fully from gender diversity and women's different experiences and ways of perceiving and resolving potential threats and conflicts.

  18.  Though the Security Strategy discusses the causes of insecurity and preventing incipient threats from becoming big, serious or uncontainable, it does not go far enough in considering how the UK's own policies, practices and projections can feed into the development of future threats. For example, the possible re-emergence of a major state-led threat is canvassed and may even be considered to justify the maintaining of nuclear weapons and large conventional forces. Russia's military intervention in Georgia on the side of South Ossetia and statements by Putin and Medvedev about strengthening Russia's armed forces including nuclear weapons and space defences are perceived by some as the first signs of a newly confident Russia as a re-emerging security threat. They are indeed worrying, but did not come from nowhere. More attention needs to be given to how perceptions and experiences of UK, US and NATO actions may fuel other states' senses of insecurity and impel them to take steps that could become drivers for new arms build-ups and aggressive posturing. Until we have developed a more cooperative security architecture regionally and internationally, it is a sad fact that one state's precautionary military actions (ballistic missile defence, retention or renewal of nuclear weapons etc) feed another's threat assessments and may create or amplify the security challenges they purported to deter.

Trident renewal undermines the UK's strategic and non-proliferation objectives in the run-up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference

  19.  The Security Strategy emphasises rule-based multilateralism, but the UK decision to renew Trident conflicts directly with UK obligations under the NPT and will contribute to the further weakening of the non-proliferation regime and the credibility of international efforts to reduce nuclear dangers and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Criticism of Trident renewal has already been voiced at the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings and if the UK does not reverse this policy it could contribute to another Review Conference failure in 2010.

  20.  The decision to replace Trident gave a strong and unpopular signal to the rest of the world that Britain—a small country on the Western edge of a relatively safe and stable European Union—continues to place great value on having nuclear weapons. Despite Des Browne's rhetoric to the Conference on Disarmament about the "vision of a world free of nuclear weapons"[175] the financial and political commitment to replacing Trident underscores the government's expectation that nuclear weapons will remain a valuable asset for at least the next 50 years. Such contradictory messages undermine the ability of the UK and international community to deal consistently and effectively with potential proliferators. "Do as I say and not as I do" smacks of hypocrisy and alienates those we need to convince, as well as giving ammunition to potential proliferators.

  21.  Despite assurances given at the time of the 14 March 2007 vote on the Nuclear Policy White Paper,[176] the renewal of Trident clearly entails upgrading the warheads as well as the submarines. This is confirmed by media reports and demonstrated by new funding and developments (notably the Orion laser) at AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield. At the NPT PrepComs in 2007 and 2008, a large number of non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT raised concerns about nuclear weapon states (including the UK) going ahead with modernisations, refinements and new procurements. Summarising the second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, held in Geneva this year, paragraph 14 of the Chair stated "Concern and disappointment were voiced about plans of some nuclear weapon States to replace or modernize nuclear weapons and their means of delivery or platforms, and about the development of new types of nuclear weapons."[177]

  22.  By acknowledging that Britain is not militarily threatened by other states, the Security Strategy reinforces the widely-held understanding that there is no security or defence rationale for deploying or replacing Trident. Having recognised the need to target military and civilian resources carefully to support the Security Strategy's objectives, the decision to replace Trident is indefensible. Likely to be many billions greater than the government's advertised £20 billion price tag,[178] the high cost of Trident renewal will either deprive other, more necessary areas of security and defence of vital resources or else require the Treasury to fund it directly, in keeping with its role as a national status project rather than anything to do with defence. At the same time, Britain's willingness to spend so much on Trident when budgets are stretched thin for other security and military endeavours reinforces the proliferation-promoting message that the UK regards its nuclear forces and status as indispensable.

  23.  When nuclear-armed states continue to prioritise their nuclear weapons (and especially if they claim that their security and deterrence require such weapons of mass destruction, a claim reproduced in the Security Strategy, though with much less conviction than in the 2006 White Paper and other nuclear policy documents), they advertise and provide justifications that weak leaders in other states—especially in volatile regions—can seize on. If these weapons are so potent in security terms, how could the leaders of any self-respecting country explain to their citizens why such magnificent protectors should not be acquired and deployed by everyone. The government's justifications for clinging to Trident undermine the NPT and the goals of its own Security Strategy and make it harder for other leaders and states to resist the lure of nuclear status and power projection.

  24.  The government's determination to renew Trident has also led to potentially dangerous misinterpretations (through intent or ignorance) of the NPT. Tony Blair, for example, told the House of Commons that the NPT "makes it absolutely clear that Britain has the right to possess nuclear weapons".[179] On the contrary, the NPT defines a "nuclear weapon state" (the five that had conducted a nuclear test before 1 January 1967) in order to impose specific obligations, including nuclear disarmament (Article VI) and non transference of weapons and related technologies (Article I). These obligations are necessarily different from the obligations the NPT imposes on the other 184 states parties, which joined as non-nuclear weapon states. But they are obligations nonetheless, and equally binding. They reflected the status quo in 1968 but were not supposed to perpetuate it. Like the counterproductive effects of the Bush neocons' policies based on assertions of US exceptionalism, claiming UK exceptionalism undermines collective rules-based security by implying that there are different rules for some or that we can pick and choose among the tenets of international law that we wish to adhere to.

  25.  On three occasions during 2004-6, eminent British and international lawyers[180] gave authoritative Advice that the consensus decisions and agreements adopted by NPT states parties in 1995 and 2000 have become part of the legal meaning and interpretation of the Treaty. They argued that Article VI contained legal obligations, consistent with Articles I, II and III, and that strict observance with the letter and the spirit of the NPT is required of all its parties including the nuclear weapon states. This, they said, applies to the disarmament obligation no less than the non-transference and non-acquisition obligations. Moreover, the post-1995 NPT, which is now in operation, is not the same as the original NPT that entered into force in 1970. As a result of the decisions taken and cross-referenced with the extension decision on May 11, 1995, the principles, objectives and obligations were made stronger and more specific, especially with regard to disarmament.

  26.  The 2000 NPT Review Conference, the first after the 1995 extension, was considered a great success in part because it adopted by consensus a very substantial final document that contained, among other things, a 13-paragraph plan of action to accomplish nuclear disarmament. As part of this, the NPT states parties endorsed an "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals". Other steps included: entry into force of the CTBT; conclusion of a fissile materials production treaty (fissban); moratoria both on testing and on production of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium (HEU), pending entry into force of those treaties; deeper unilateral and bilateral US-Russian reductions in nuclear forces; transparency (ie the provision of more open information on nuclear capabilities and the implementation of disarmament agreements); reductions in non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons; concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons (diplomatic circumlocution for taking the weapons off alert); diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies (understood to mean abandoning the potential first use of nuclear weapons that underpins NATO and Russian doctrines of deterrence); the principles of irreversibility, transparency and verification; five power disarmament approaches; further initiatives to put fissile materials (declared "excess") permanently under safeguards, and further progress on conventional disarmament.[181]

  27.  Since the 2005 Review Conference was a political disaster, the 2010 Conference is likely to measure progress against the agreements adopted in 2000 and 1995, though it is recognised that some commitments may have been overtaken by events. It will be important to work for a successful review conference in 2010, but "success" needs to be conceived as more relevant to the real world than just getting agreement on a lowest common denominator document. While most of the elements of the 1995 and 2000 programmes of action are still relevant, some will be more critical to a constructive 2010 review conference than others.

  28.  The continued credibility of the NPT as an effective mechanism to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is likely to rest on four major planks: the viability of CTBT entry into force under a new American president; whether the nuclear weapon states continue to insist on rights to use, renew and modernise their nuclear weapons; how the regime is strengthened institutionally and politically to deal with nuclear aspirants such as Iran; and finding proliferation resistant solutions for meeting the world's energy demands.

  29.  In light of the 1995 extension of the NPT and the commitments undertaken in 2000, a further legal Advice in 2005 concluded that: (i) the use of the Trident system would breach customary international law, in particular because it would infringe the "intransgressible" requirement that a distinction must be drawn between combatants and non-combatants; (ii) Article VI is a provision "essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty"; the replacement of Trident is likely to constitute a breach of Article VI; and (iv) that such a breach would be a "material" breach of the NPT.[182]

  30.  Insisting on the renewal of Trident flies in the face of the laudable principles and analyses promoted by the Security Strategy. Clinging to nuclear weapons misdirects resources and undermines UK credibility at a time when Britain should be doing its utmost to uphold the NPT and demonstrate that we take the multilateral treaty-based regimes and international law seriously. The fact that the other nuclear-armed states have a worse record than us is no excuse.

  31.  Nuclear weapons undermine our security. As recognized by the government, they cannot possibly deter extreme ideologues or terrorists, whether state or non-state. As Professor Malcolm Chalmers noted, "Far from being deterred by nuclear weapons, terrorists would be delighted to provoke a Trident retaliation, fully aware of the global opprobrium that this would bring on Britain."[183] In other words, a terrorist aggressor would not be deterred by nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction held by their target countries or anyone else. On the contrary, having nuclear weapons could make a country a more attractive target for a mass-destructive terrorist attack, as the extremists' game plan could include provoking a nuclear or similarly disproportionate retaliation.

Devalue nuclear weapons by having their use declared a crime against humanity

  32.  The Security Strategy emphasises the need to act early, work with partners and put UK efforts and assets behind a multilateral rule-based approach (eg para 4.96). With regard to nuclear weapons threats, acting early means not only keeping the materials and weapons out of the hands of those who might use them, but also removing incentives and justifications. While verified reductions in numbers of weapons are undoubtedly important, implementing the NPT and strengthening the regime will require that weapon states like Britain accept and demonstrate that there is no security role for nuclear weapons in their doctrines and policies.

  33.  The practical steps of verified disablement, dismantlement and irreversible denuclearization will take time, and those countries still possessing nuclear weapons will need to keep them safe pending total elimination. However, an essential confidence-building security step is to stigmatise and devalue nuclear weapons in the eyes of everyone. One way, which is attracting growing interest in part due to the support of some of the eminent nuclear policy architects behind the Wall Street Journal op-eds by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn, is for the use of nuclear weapons to be declared a crime against humanity. This would address terrorist and resurgent state threats and be popular with the armed forces as well as the non-nuclear weapon states and civil society around the world. It would reinforce non-proliferation, remove incentives from the nuclear aspirants and accelerate disarmament.

  34.  The NPT does not address use, but the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its landmark advisory opinion of July 1996 found that in almost all situations the use of nuclear weapons would violate international humanitarian law.[184] In the legal and political landscape in 1996, a minority of ICJ justices left open a possible loophole if a state's very survival was at risk. Though the Security Strategy regards terrorist acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a significant threat, only two kinds of nuclear threat could put Britain's survival at risk: all out nuclear war; or an exchange of nuclear weapons in another region that caused environmental and climate effects that threatened our ability to grow sufficient food. A single use by a terrorist or despotic leader of a failed state would be locally devastating and cause widespread horror and shock, but recovery would be possible, especially with international support. Hanging on to nuclear weapons ourselves does nothing to deter or mitigate such threats and could exacerbate them. Renouncing our reliance on nuclear weapons would, by contrast, strengthen other tools to prevent such threats and give impetus to global efforts to eliminate these WMD.

  35.  In its post cold war doctrines, the United States reintroduced the possibility of nuclear weapons being used for pre-emption as well as retaliation. While the UK has tried to distance itself from some aspects of US nuclear policy that is difficult in view of the UK's dependence on US missiles and guidance systems and the role of US nuclear weapons in NATO. Though the details of UK deterrent policies and operations are opaque, they appear still to entail the option (and threatened) first use of nuclear weapons and a permanently deployed capability to fire, epitomised by the retention of continuous patrols with at least one nuclear-armed submarine always at sea. Those clinging to nuclear deterrence need to wake up to the 21st century. Post cold war deterrence does not require deployed, operational readiness to fire nuclear weapons. If you want to deter terrorists or states from acquiring or using nuclear weapons (or blackmailing with threats to use them), as advocates of nuclear deterrence claim, one of the most effective ways, reflecting post-Nuremburg accountability and the remit of the international criminal court, would be to make the use of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity.

  36.  Unlike a fissile materials ban or nuclear weapon convention, which have to be negotiated multilaterally and would be complex and time-consuming, with many political, technical, verification and implementation challenges to be worked out, the process of stigmatising and outlawing the use of nuclear weapons offers opportunities for courageous leaders to take unilateral steps that build towards creating a multilateral norm. Declaring the use of nuclear weapons a crime against humanity would not eliminate nuclear dangers overnight, but would have major impact in taking nuclear weapons off the lustrous list of objects of political status and desire. Nuclear weapons may be used against us, whether or not we have some of our own. But which is worse: a single use that prompts united international assistance to the victim and a concerted worldwide effort to bring the perpetrators to justice; or multiple use, which would almost certainly be triggered by pre-emptive or retaliatory nuclear strikes? Recovery would be possible from the first scenario, but much more difficult from the second. For our national as well as international security, it is now time for the option of using nuclear weapons to be outlawed. We need to reinforce the taboo and, like the WMD Commission, treat all nuclear threats as weapons of terror that no sane or civilized person would want or be able to use. A potent aspect of making non-use a component of our deterrence is that even despots and terrorists fear being held personally accountable and subjected to public trial and punishment.

Protecting against nuclear weapon threats at home

  37.  In addition to the international threats posed by the deployment of nuclear weapons and promotional doctrines, Trident poses a current threat to UK health, safety and the environment, especially in the areas near AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, the Faslane and Coulport nuclear bases in Scotland and along the warhead convoy routes. The Security Strategy talks of working with partners to protect and plan against external threats but fails to address how the manufacture and deployment of Trident nuclear warheads, the transporting of live warheads by road between England and Scotland and the storage of over a hundred warheads at Coulport pose unnecessary and very significant potential threats. According to recent reports, all these sites have suffered accidents and severe safety lapses. The warhead convoys have got lost and are regularly monitored, followed and sometimes stopped by protesters. Local councils, fire and emergency services are kept out of the loop when the warhead convoys pass through their jurisdiction, but they would be expected to respond to any emergency with alacrity. We recommend that as part of steps to fulfil the NPT, the MoD should mothball the warheads and reduce nuclear transports to the minimum necessary to return the warheads and related materials to Berkshire for safe dismantlement.

Time to denuclearize NATO's security concept and increase resources for its peace-supporting roles.

  38.  In several places (inc. para 3.31), when discussing the importance of international institutions, the Security Strategy refers to NATO and the European Union without distinguishing the different roles that these organisations play in conception, intention and the perceptions of others. The UK needs to recognize how NATO's expansion and actions such as the push to deploy US missiles in Poland and sophisticated radar and tracking facilities in the Czech Republic are perceived as aggressive by others, most notably Russia.

  39.  NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has put the development of a new Strategic Concept for the 21st century onto NATO's agenda. It is anticipated that debates on this will be formally kick-started at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009 and continue for at least a year, with adoption of a new strategic concept likely to be in 2010. Rather than expanding the NATO nuclear alliance to Russia's borders, consideration should be given to removing the anachronistic role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance and increasing ways to build cooperative security approaches with Russia and other neighbours.

  40.  NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept states that war prevention requires "widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements." As a consequence, several participating countries host US nuclear bases and tactical weapons on their soil, some of their aircraft are equipped to carry nuclear weapons and their pilots are trained to fly nuclear missions. Since Britain deploys its own nuclear weapon system, which is assigned to NATO, it does not participate in nuclear sharing per se. The UK has long hosted over 100 US nuclear free-fall bombs at the Lakenheath airbase in East Anglia, but analysts with the Federation of American Scientists recently revealed information that pointed to the withdrawal of these.[185] If US nuclear weapons have now been withdrawn from Britain, this should be explained and confirmed by the US or UK governments. If not, it is time that they were.

  41.  As part of any review of its Strategic Concept, NATO ought to withdraw all US nuclear weapons from Europe. The need to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons has been repeatedly raised at NPT Conferences because they are portable, vulnerable and readily usable. They are potentially destabilizing and create additional risks and insecurities. NATO should use its decision in a leverage strategy to persuade Russia to eliminate its tactical nuclear forces from Europe as well.

  42.  NATO members hold that their nuclear sharing is in compliance with Articles I and II of the NPT, arguing that the arrangements predated the NPT and that "general war" would end the validity of the NPT. Both interpretations have been challenged by other NPT Parties. Looking forward to the 2010 Review Conference, NPT states should strengthen the Treaty by declaring that it is binding on all State Parties "under any circumstances".

  43.  To enhance stability and security in Europe, it will be important to withdraw the ballistic missile defence (BMD) bases from Russia's borders and rethink the threat assessments, purpose and parameters of programmes to protect against possible missile threats and developments in the Middle East. The Security Strategy talks of strongly supporting efforts to include Russia through a joint regional missile defence architecture (para 4.68). In view of US reluctance, is this realistic or is it just a PR gesture towards Russia? The objective is constructive, but the Committee should find out what in practice is the government doing to pursue this objective and persuade the United States not to increase insecurity in Europe by putting unnecessary and inflammatory pressures onto Russia. The UK should promote a greater role for NATO in arms control and reduce its capacity for harm as a military expansionist alliance, as that will have unintended consequences that could undermine British and international security.

The weaponization of space would pose unacceptable dangers to security on Earth

  44.  In para 4.99 the Security Strategy made a passing reference to space assets. It is a major weakness of the Strategy that the government fails to address how the uses and abuses of space for civilian and military applications could have fundamental ramifications for our security. The commercial, economic, strategic and security importance of outer space has come to the fore worldwide. Interest in space exploration, observation, communications and other uses of space is growing. Space assets can provide unparalleled resources for supporting our security in relation to humanitarian and environmental crises and diverse natural, criminal and military threats.[186] At the same time, it is important to recognise that potential misuses of space assets could turn outer space into a battlefield.

  45.  US programmes for BMD have promoted the argument that whoever controls space will obtain an unassailable military and commercial dominance on Earth.[187] Any country that seeks to establish space superiority and dominance will jeopardise the peaceful uses of space, with a serious risk that the weaponisation of space could harm terrestrial security and might even—as occurred in US wargame scenarios based on an exchange of anti-satellite attacks—lead to nuclear war. If allowed to continue, the further militarisation of space could threaten global security as well as compromising a range of civilian and security applications on which our daily lives now rely.

  46.  Instead of turning to the sledgehammer of space weaponisation to deal with the potential vulnerabilities of space assets, a more sensible approach—and one consistent with the Security Strategy and the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)—would combine arms control efforts with the technical hardening and shielding of as many satellites as possible, plus space situation awareness, redundancy and other "passive" defence means. Progress in nuclear disarmament, strengthening the NPT, negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, further efforts to restrict missile proliferation, building on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) would also contribute to security and reduce the chances of space becoming a battleground—which would be in nobody's interests.

29 September 2008

174   Weapons of Terror: Freeing the world of nuclear, biological and chemical arms, Report of the WMD Commission, Stockholm, June 2006, p 17. Back

175   Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, Speech to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, February 5, 2008. Back

176   White Paper on The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, December 4, 2006. See the Acronym Institute's Critique on the White Paper, submitted to the Defence Select Committee and subsequently revised and published as Rebecca Johnson, "The UK White Paper on Renewing Trident: the wrong decision at the wrong time", Disarmament Diplomacy 83, pp 3-14. Back

177   The factual summary of the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, prepared by the Chair, Volodymyr Yelchenko of Ukraine, was opposed by Iran and Syria and was therefore issued as a Chair's working paper on May 9, 2008. NPT/CONF.2010/PC.II/WP.43 Back

178   The MoD's record of cost over-runs on many procurement projects suggests that the overall cost to taxpayers is likely to be even larger than the £76 billion figure calculated by the Liberal Democrat Party analysts. Back

179   Tony Blair, Prime Minister's Questions, February 21, 2007. See also and "Blair wins Trident vote after telling UK Parliament that the NPT gives Britain the right to have nuclear weapons", Disarmament Diplomacy 84, pp 60-70. Back

180   Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin (Matrix Chambers and London School of Economics) and Philippe Sands QC were consulted by different clients and gave different but consistent Advice regarding the NPT and the British government's proposed renewal of its nuclear cooperation pact with the United States (the Mutual Defence Agreement, originally signed in 1958 and renewed several times thereafter) and procurement of a further nuclear weapon system as a follow-on to Trident. See Back

181   2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, adopted May 20, 2000, New York, NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Part I). For a detailed examination of the political context and choices before the Sixth Review Conference, see Rebecca Johnson, Non-Proliferation Treaty: Challenging Times, ACRONYM 13, The Acronym Institute, London, February 2000. Back

182   Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin, The Maintenance and Possible Replacement of the Trident Nuclear Missile System, Joint Opinion, Matrix Chambers, published by Peacerights, December 19, 2005. Back

183   Malcolm Chalmers, "Long Live Trident?" Physics World, August 2005. Back

184   International Court of Justice Reports 1996, p 225. [Reported for July 8, 1996, General List No. 95]. The full decision, documentation and dissenting decisions also formed the Annex to "Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons", Note by the Secretary-General, United Nations General Assembly A/51/218, October 15, 1996 pp 36-37. Back

185   Hans M. Kristensen, US Nuclear Weapons Withdrawn from the UK, at Back

186   Rebecca Johnson, "Europe's Space Policies and their Relevance to ESDP", published by the European Parliament (External Policies), October 2006. Back

187    The drive towards developing weapons for use in or from space is related to missile defence and its proponents use two principal justifications: firstly, that space weapons are essential to protect space assets from a pre-emptive attack, dramatically called a "Space Pearl Harbor" by the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization (known as the 2001 Space Commission); and secondly, that who controls space will obtain an unassailable military and commercial dominance on Earth (and that this space superiority and dominance is the destiny of the United States). In addition to the assumptions of vulnerability, control and space power projection, some argue from historical analogy that space weaponization is inevitable, and that whoever gets there first will enjoy an overwhelming advantage. From the mid-1990s on, all three types of argument could be found in US policy documents. See the 1996 National Space Policy; the 1999 Department of Defense Space Policy; US Space Command's Vision for 2020 (1997) and Long Range Plan (1998); The US Air Force Strategic Master Plan for FY02 and Beyond; the Defense Department's 2001 Transformation Study Report; and the 2001 and 2006 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Back

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