Global Security: Non-Proliferation - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

 Submission from Kingston Peace Council, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

  We welcome the amended terms of reference and extended submissions deadline. We feel that there may be a little that can usefully be added to our original submission of September 2008, and we are grateful for this opportunity to offer a few comments addressing points in the extended remit.

1.  Debatable distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons' proliferation.

  Whilst it is accepted that nuclear weapons are intended for the delivery of incomparable global decimation we do not believe it is advisable, when considering proliferation, to isolate them purely because of the technology employed to create the devastation. The bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were seen militarily as a logical extension to the bombing campaign directed at the Japanese mainland, its military capability, infrastructure, and its cities and civilian populations. The nuclear bombing superseded 1,000-bomber raids whose effects were almost as devastating; though less dramatic, "efficient" and absolute. (The cataclysmic nuclear destruction was compounded by the effects of radiation release which burns and destroys humans tortuously, and continues to this day.) Undoubtedly there are differences between conventional and nuclear weapons but the 1945 Japanese campaign teaches us that nuclear weapons are a logical progression in campaigns focused on the total annihilation of an opponent and an opponent's civilisation, ie: should available conventional weapons be found wanting then nuclear weapons are the next logical step. But given sufficient conventional capability it is possible to visit annihilating assaults on opponent's civilisations, so it seems illogical to disregard proliferation of conventional weaponry which feeds the destructive impulses leading to possible nuclear weapons' use. In considering proliferation it is, in our view, essential to consider proliferation of all weapons that enable the accomplishment of the death or destruction of an opponent. Without the means to accomplish an outrageous plan it remains a crazy idea, and conversely the more means are available the more feasible is the possibility of an outrageous plan's fulfillment.

2.  Inducements favour non-observation of rules curbing proliferation.

  There are already a range of regulations and restrictions which, if properly observed, would have the effect of dampening-down inclinations to proliferate. However, flouting these rules is not uncommon, Britain does not enjoy an unblemished record and government continues to devote disproportionate resources to promoting arms manufacturing and export through UKTI DSO, and other government activity. An unfortunate consequence of the exceptional financial gain achievable from arms trading, and of government support for sales and manufacture, is the tendency for ways to be found to subvert the intentions of regulation and of moral and ethical proclamations.

3.  Recent assertion of military might encourages proliferation.

  Example can significantly influence others around the world. The use of military means to achieve an objective, particularly where the objective is widely seen as of doubtful integrity, sets an example to others who may be encouraged to contemplate the use of similar means to meet their own objectives. And any tacit encouragement of military engagement could lead others to consider revising their military capability for defensive purposes. We believe that examples of recent military incursions by western powers promote increased global demand for weapons and accelerated proliferation.

4.  NATO expansions threaten to encourage proliferation.

  Following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has pursued a relentless expansion into the eastern European territory formerly in its embrace. This expansion incorporates an existing commitment to first-strike nuclear use and facilitates an eastward movement of anti-ballistic missile installations effectively able to neutralise reciprocal nuclear attacks. These measures have the effect of provoking further proliferation in response.

5.  Need to consider range of factors favouring proliferation.

  In considering proliferation we believe it unrealistic not to look at a range of contributory factors helping create a climate favourable for proliferation, like the examples above. Proliferation doesn't occur in a vacuum, and all weapons, including nuclear weapons, are potentially the tools for realising perverted ambitions of death, destruction, and ultimately of annihilation. To counter proliferation it is necessary to consider all contributory influences and address them all as appropriate.

6.  The intentions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty dishonoured.

  Signatories to the NNPT plan to update nuclear arsenals and have no proposals to honour the pledge to disarm. Of the eight nuclear states, five are NNPT signatories and the three non-NNPT signatories, India, Israel, and Pakistan are warm allies of the United States. Meanwhile the United States continues to maintain pressure for punitive measures against Iran because of its "nuclear programme", despite the recent National Intelligence Estimate concluding that there is no Iranian nuclear weapon programme. The continuing expansion of nuclear weapons globally, including the unconditional acceptance of proliferation beyond the original five NNPT signatories, does not inspire confidence in the sincerity of claims about supporting non-proliferation and disarmament. The singular treatment of Iran, which has neither weapons nor proposals for nuclear weapons, looks perverse and vindictive and it might incline others to believe it best to take evasive measures lest they be targeted for similar treatment for not having nuclear weapons. International co-operation is essential for agreement on non-proliferation but on the evidence it is hard to put trust in current arrangements to effectively deter proliferation.

7.  Non-Proliferation needs international co-operation and agreement.

  Only by all parties coming together to agree that they will jointly co-operate in reducing weapons will it be possible to implement agreements about weapons limitation. Otherwise any individual nation which agrees to limitation, without a reciprocal agreement, runs the risk of exposing itself to the possibility of attack by those not signed up to weapons limitation or non-proliferation. The continuing expenditure on weapons, nuclear weapons' updates and renewals, the relentless march of NATO eastwards and its commitment to first-strike nuclear weapons' use, the ruthless employment of military might directed against the lightly defended sovereign states of Afghanistan and Iraq, which have suffered untold numbers of dead and suffering, and the installation of an elaborate shield which effectively precludes retaliation for a NATO nuclear strike, doesn't create an atmosphere conducive to trust and negotiation vital to agreement on non-proliferation of any weapons whatever.

8.  Conclusions.

    —  Agreements to limit the spread of weapons, and consequently the potential for harm, do need to start somewhere and we believe it logical to consider Weapons of Mass Destruction and illegal weapons with the greatest destructive power potential first.

    —  Weapons cannot be un-invented and states possessing devices with such destructive potential as modern nuclear weapons are obligated to behave with the utmost restraint, deliberation, ethics and responsibility.

    —  The idea of a club of nuclear grandees, having unassailable rights to ownership, determining who, and who should not, be allowed to join is a very hard sell even when all the circumstances are favourable. The disposition of the responsibilities and roles in the nuclear proliferation debate is an accident of history, owing nothing to consensus in the 21st century and little to merit. Even if the key players had behaved with impeccable integrity, their authority is entirely dependent on the acquiescence of others. This is not a sound basis for international agreement about nuclear weapons or anything else.

    —  The select group of signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is viewed with scepticism and the process is so discredited that overdue alternatives are urgently needed if real progress in non-proliferation is to be made.

    —  Any agreement for restricting the proliferation of weapons, including illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction like chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, is to be welcomed. Recent agreements on the use of mines and cluster munitions will save untold innocent lives (it is reliably reported that in the past five years over 40,000 unintended civilian deaths and injuries were caused by mines and other unexploded munitions), and agreements curtailing reprehensible arms trading are to be welcomed.

    —  We don't doubt that there are sincere individuals of high integrity, at various levels, engaged in the debate about non-proliferation, arms trading and limitation, but it is our observation that this unqualified attribute may not extend to all the key players. Without a proper representative mechanism, unfettered by vested interest, there is no adequate framework for constructing effective workable and enduring agreements.

    —  It is better to have the debate than not but we are not confident that the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference will take note of inconvenient conclusions or recommendations that result.

    —  To advance the cause of non-proliferation significantly we believe it necessary the task be undertaken by a properly convened representative body that enjoys international recognition. It could be the proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention (supported by UN resolution and by a cross party group in the European Parliament) or, with an expanded remit to consider both non-proliferation and disarmament of a range of weapons, including conventional weapons, the United Nations Disarmament Commission.

  We hope the Committee will feel that our contributions have been useful. As British electors we believe we have a responsibility to engage in the debate and share our analysis and observations, and we sincerely hope that you do too.

23 November 2008

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 14 June 2009