Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?
The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to “modernize” the US nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of US nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This plan, which has received almost no attention by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00—or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.
Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re . . . wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.
Of course, this nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the US government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on Earth more rapidly.
This trillion dollar nuclear weapons buildup has yet to inspire any questions about it by the moderators during the numerous presidential debates. Even so, in the course of the campaign, the presidential candidates have begun to reveal their attitudes toward it.
On the Republican side, the candidates—despite their professed distaste for federal expenditures and “big government”—have been enthusiastic supporters of this great leap forward in the nuclear arms race. Donald Trump, the frontrunner, contended in his presidential announcement speech that “our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work,” insisting that it is out of date. Although he didn’t mention the $1 trillion price tag for “modernization,” the program is clearly something he favors, especially given his campaign’s focus on building a US military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.”
His Republican rivals have adopted a similar approach. Marco Rubio, asked while campaigning in Iowa about whether he supported the trillion dollar investment in new nuclear weapons, replied that “we have to have them. No country in the world faces the threats America faces.” When a peace activist questioned Ted Cruz on the campaign trail about whether he agreed with Ronald Reagan on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the Texas senator replied: “I think we’re a long way from that and, in the meantime, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The best way to avoid war is to be strong enough that no one wants to mess with the United States.” Apparently, Republican candidates are particularly worried about being “messed with.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has been more ambiguous about her stance toward a dramatic expansion of the US nuclear arsenal. Asked by a peace activist about the trillion dollar nuclear plan, she replied that she would “look into that,” adding: “It doesn’t make sense to me.” Even so, like other issues that the former Secretary of State has promised to “look into,” this one remains unresolved. Moreover, the “National Security” section of her campaign website promises that she will maintain the “strongest military the world has ever known”—not a propitious sign for critics of nuclear weapons.
Only Bernie Sanders has adopted a position of outright rejection. In May 2015, shortly after declaring his candidacy, Sanders was asked at a public meeting about the trillion dollar nuclear weapons program. He replied: “What all of this is about is our national priorities. Who are we as a people? Does Congress listen to the military-industrial complex” that “has never seen a war that they didn’t like? Or do we listen to the people of this country who are hurting?” In fact, Sanders is one of only three US Senators who support the SANE Act, legislation that would significantly reduce US government spending on nuclear weapons. In addition, on the campaign trail, Sanders has not only called for cuts in spending on nuclear weapons, but has affirmed his support for their total abolition.
Nevertheless, given the failure of the presidential debate moderators to raise the issue of nuclear weapons “modernization,” the American people have been left largely uninformed about the candidates’ opinions on this subject. So, if Americans would like more light shed on their future president’s response to this enormously expensive surge in the nuclear arms race, it looks like they are the ones who are going to have to ask the candidates the trillion dollar question.
[Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). He is a regular contributor to the Peace and Health Blog.]
In 2016 Russia is set to disarm the missile system of the Typhoon-class Arkhangelsk submarine, the largest in the world. The disarmament will be carried out in accordance with the New START agreement between Moscow and Washington.
Working in accordance with the New START treaty between Russia and US, the country’s leading Zvezdochka shipyard in the northern Russian city of Severodvinsk will disarm the missile system of the Arkhangelsk submarine, the shipyard’s press service told TASS news agency on Friday.
“We will remove the covers of the submarine’s missile launchers and seal them, thus making it impossible to use the vessel’s missile weapons,” the press service said. “We are not talking yet about dismantling the submarine itself. The tender for this procedure has not yet been announced.”
According to the data published by the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, the sub’s disarmament is estimated to cost some 28 million rubles (about US$ 400,000).
The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Arkhangelsk TK-17 was designed in 1987 under the Project 941 ‘Shark’ (or ‘Typhoon’ according to NATO classification). The project was aimed to equip the Soviet Navy with nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and resulted in the creation of the largest class of submarines ever built – large enough to accommodate decent living facilities for the crew of 179 when submerged for months on end, and to stock an arsenal of 20 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Three of the six Typhoon-class submarines built in the 1980s have already been dismantled at the shipyards in Severodvinsk. Of the three that remain, Arkhangelsk and Severstal are set to be dismantled. Dmitri Donskoi just recently underwent a modernization procedure and is now equipped to test the latest sea-based missile system Bulava.
The New START treaty (on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms), which was designed to reduce American and Russian nuclear stockpiles, came into force in 2011. It replaced the previous 1991 agreement, introducing lower ceilings for the numbers of warheads and delivery systems deployed.
Commenting on the progress made on the treaty’s fifth anniversary in February, US Secretary of State John Kerry complimented both sides on successful cooperation in the field.
“[New START treaty] continues to be an area of cooperation and continued dialogue between the United States and Russia. I share President Obama’s strong belief that our two countries, which ushered in the era of nuclear arms, have a special responsibility to lead the world beyond it,” he said in a statement.
However, the latest moves by the US – such as plans to upgrade 180 B61s strategic bombs stocked in European air bases to a modernized B61-12 version – have raised doubts whether the US adheres to the nuclear arms non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
Opponents of the program have argued that instead of scaling down atomic weapons stockpiles in accordance with the NPT, the overhaul is actually creating more states hosting modern nuclear weapons – a provocation that theoretically weakens Russia’s deterrent.
Moscow keeps the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe in mind when shaping its own military policies as reflected in Russia’s newest military doctrine published in 2014, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told German television last year.
“The comprehensive analysis of the situation points to the threat posed by the increasing military capability of NATO and its endowment with global functions, which it performs in violation of the international law, as well as the encroachment of the military infrastructure of NATO members on the borders of the Russian Federation,” she said.
The Russian military will have to “adequately” respond to Washington’s plan to upgrade its nuclear bombs in Europe in apparent violation of a nuclear arms non-proliferation treaty (NPT), a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat said in a media interview.
The renovation of the US’ nuclear arsenals in Europe masked as a “regular modernization” is in contradiction with the terms of the NPT, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said in an interview with Kommersant daily.
Washington’s plan to upgrade the 180 B61s strategic bombs stocked in European air bases to a modernized B61-12 version has been implemented as part of the US/NATO nuclear modernization program. The B61s were designed back in the 1960s to counter a possible Soviet threat and have since been kept at NATO air bases in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, and the Netherlands for about five decades.
The US Defense Department had long sought to improve its existing stockpile, arguing that maintaining the aging electronic parts in the 50-year-old bombs has made their upkeep “unpredictable and irregular.” In the end, it didn’t come cheap for the NATO allies in Europe: the cost of replacing obsolete components is estimated at $28 million per bomb. The program is scheduled to be completed in mid-2020s.
“Thus, NATO has set a course for a long-term violation of its responsibilities under the NPT,” Ulyanov argued.
Opponents of the program have argued that instead of scaling down atomic weapons stockpiles in accordance with the NPT, the overhaul is actually creating more states hosting modern nuclear power – a provocation that theoretically weakens Russia’s deterrent.
“Concerns in this regard, expressed not only by us, but also by the Non-Aligned Movement [NAM] member states, are basically ignored by NATO members,” stressed Ulyanov.
The official stressed that Russia will take all necessary steps to provide an adequate response to US plans to expand its nuclear potential.
“In the military sphere, as a general rule, any action forces a counter-reaction. I am certain that the Russian response to the deployment of new US bombs will be adequate, and its parameters will be determined by a thorough analysis of all circumstances,” the diplomat added.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force in 1970. The signatories recognize only five states – the permanent members of the UN Security Council – as eligible to possess nuclear weapons. Since it was opened for signature in 1969, a total of 191 states have joined the agreement. Its ultimate goal is to reduce the possibility of a nuclear conflict by preventing the dissemination of nuclear weapons and promoting peaceful application of nuclear technology.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was founded in 1961. Its members’ original goal was to preserve neutral status during the Cold War. Two-thirds of its 120 members are the signatories to the NPT, which makes it the largest group of states engaged in nuclear disarmament.
Nations Meet to Discuss International Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
With the debate going on about whether the UK should renew the Trident missile programme or get rid of it, hardly anything is said about what is happening internationally to rid the world of nuclear weapons – which shows how inward-looking Britain can be, despite claiming a prime position on the world stage.
While national media reported on the Stop Trident demonstration in London, it ignored the discussions taking place in Geneva, or their background including:
- three international, government-level conferences, the last in Vienna, on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, which produced
- the signing and endorsing of the Humanitarian Pledge by a majority of nations
- a vote in the UN General Assembly (voted against by nuclear-armed states which called the Resolution ‘divisive’) but passed by 135 states, to establish an Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations
- the first meeting of which took place in Geneva in February
You’d think that deserved a headline or two, the attention of more than some MPs and loud trumpeting from anti-nuclear campaigners, but no. At the London demonstration, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Labour’s Leader Jeremy Corbyn did speak about the Vienna conference and the humanitarian issues.
And the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas mentioned the OEWG talks in Geneva. In a New Statesman article she also urged the UK government to take part in those meetings. Take part? They are boycotting them.
But no one mentions that.
Yet the wit, wisdom and yes, the whingeing, displayed in statements from Ambassadors and delegates, the depth of the debates, were in many ways far more worthy of our attention than another march to Trafalgar Square.
The aim was to identify the legal gaps in the nuclear weapons treaties and agreements that prevented genuine progress towards disarmament. Naturally some states insisted that there were no legal gaps and the old ‘step-by-step’ process was working even though the world is no nearer to disarmament.
Delegates from 90 nations were there, as was civil society. In a statement delivered by Beatrice Fihn on behalf of ICAN and its 440 partner organisations, she listed all the legal gaps needing to be filled. And she reminded all those there that “Non-nuclear-weapon states are not merely encouraged to take positive steps towards nuclear disarmament; they are required to do so – regardless of the continued failure of nuclear-weapon states to act.”
From the start, a treaty banning nuclear weapons was mentioned more than any other legal instrument as a path towards disarmament, even by nuclear-alliance states begging for ‘caution’ and ‘we can’t do this without the input of nuclear states’. They can; and a ban treaty seems the best way forward.
“States that ‘rely on nuclear weapons in their security doctrines remain reluctant to consider moving ahead without the nuclear-armed states” reported the daily updates from Reaching Critical Will.
So what are the nuclear-alliance states? They are those states (such as NATO members) which, although they have no nuclear weapons of their own, claim that they base their ‘security’ on those that do. To quote Reaching Critical Will:
“While many states called for urgent action, others, including Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Canada speaking on behalf of a group of states, and Finland, cautioned that security considerations of states must be taken into account… Bangladesh asked what could be a bigger security concern than being the victim of a nuclear attack.” Good question.
Does this second-hand security mean that these states are depending on someone else to blow up the world? Would they not be equally guilty under international humanitarian law?
Still, give these states their due. They are at least taking part. The nuclear-armed states are determinedly boycotting the OEWG. Not being able to control what’s happening, they are relying on their alliance to fling a few spanners into the works for them.
The Netherlands tried. It argued that the nuclear-armed states should take part in the discussions. The majority of the world somehow cannot move forward without their willingness to take part. The OEWG should use its time thinking of ways to tempt the armed states into giving up their toys. And how was this for a circular argument:
… the Netherlands is not against a ‘ban’. We see it as a final element towards a world without nuclear weapons, when nuclear weapons no longer fulfil a function in the security of states. It is clear that we have not reached this stage yet and that starting negotiations on a ‘ban’ would therefore be premature.
So we should only have a ban when nuclear weapons are deemed useless anyway.
But as the Irish Ambassador said, in a very quotable speech:
This is a small planet, getting smaller every day… In such a world, questions of security impact us all… And in such a world there is no place for nuclear weapons… In any area of life, work or governance, if something wasn’t working for 20 years, or indeed for over 70, we would try to fix it.
As all those taking part in the OEWG wanted a world free of nuclear weapons; that, having signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), they seemed to know how to get there; that they were even more aware now of the terrible humanitarian consequences of using such weapons and the inability of any nation to cope with such an event; despite all that, said Ireland:
… the problem is that we are no nearer multilateral nuclear disarmament now than we were 20 years ago, when the NPT was indefinitely extended.
Ah, but look at how the non-proliferation part of the NPT has succeeded, was the reply. South Africa, among those nations that got rid of their nuclear arsenals, made a telling point: “nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes — the disregard of one has a direct impact on the advancement of the other.”
Delegates were coming to realise that working for a ban treaty does not exclude other legal processes towards disarmament. They can work together, but the big gap is the lack of a ban treaty. By the second day they were agreeing that, given the refusal of nuclear-armed states to take part in the discussions, a ban treaty was perhaps the most sensible way forward.
Malaysia explained that as most legal measures proposed are currently blocked by the nuclear-armed states, three not mutually exclusive options remain: a treaty banning nuclear weapons, a framework convention, and increasing verification capacity. They also pointed out that a ban treaty could be negotiated now and be part of a wider framework later, something the nuclear alliance has difficulty accepting, perhaps because they know their ‘security blanket’ will not approve.
New Zealand’s delegate was quite clear:
I have heard some recent suggestion that while a legally-binding prohibition may be necessary for maintaining a nuclear weapon-free world, it is not in fact necessary in order to attain one. However, no clear explanation for why, as a matter of international law, this might be the case has yet to be put forward.
This is surely part of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ game played by nuclear-armed states.
We see no reason why the pathway adopted for the elimination of other weapon systems, including the elimination of both other types of WMD – that of a legally binding prohibition – should not equally be applicable as a pathway for the elimination of nuclear weapons… There is no need to reinvent the wheel…
Indeed no. But we can make it very, very ornate. Australia delivered a fascinating working paper on behalf of itself and 17 other countries – fascinating because nowhere does it mention a ban treaty. Instead it talks of ‘no quick fixes’, ‘addressing the legitimate security concerns’ of nuclear-armed states and ‘incremental but necessary steps that will enhance security for all’.
It is all about ‘means and sequencing’ and identifying “concrete and practical building blocks”. The NPT is brought into play, as is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. There are lists of all the tiny steps we might take, or consider taking, along with a), b), c) and so on to m). There absolutely must be transparency and… well, think of it all as a trust-building exercise.
Mexico took up the challenge of the ‘legitimate security concerns’. This concept was not elaborated enough, Mexico argued, as it is not clear whose security these concerns focus on and if states are for or against collective security. As Austria pointed out, collective security is a very different thing to the security of individual nations.
As for the lack of trust, Austria argued this is due to the failures of states to implement various agreements and commitments that had been agreed to by consensus. The onus is on those countries that have nuclear weapons or rely on them as part of nuclear alliances to diminish that mistrust.
Unable to resist a tiny dig at the pro-nuclear states Mexico pointed out that nuclear-armed states boycotting the meeting would not increase trust. Rather the reverse, one would think.
Austria, a leading light in these discussions, reminded delegates that in the Humanitarian (Pledge now adopted by the UN) it says:
We call on all states parties to the NPT to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons…
A large number of states share the belief that such a legal gap exists, something pro-nuclear states try to deny. Austria’s working paper on this issue is masterly, laying out all the arguments and exposing the legal gaps. The very structure of the NPT requires additional legal (and non-legal) measures for its full implementation. This applies to Article VI just as much as it applies to the non-proliferation obligations.
(Article VI commits the nuclear armed states 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,” (emphasis added).
All approaches to implementing Article VI should be followed. The ‘step-by-step’ method can sit alongside a comprehensive ban treaty. They are, argues Austria, complementary, and the humanitarian issue is now so serious that all available steps should be taken. Brazil reminded delegates that provisions under the NPT allowed the Nuclear Weapon States only to hold those weapons temporarily, something constantly ignored.
Austria also ripped up the ‘security’ and ‘deterrence’ arguments used by the USA et al. Deterrence rests on the threat of readiness to inflict mass destruction on a global scale, and on the awareness this would be suicidal. Thus, explains Austria:
Ultimately, it is difficult to reconcile this with the underlying foundation of nuclear deterrence that it leads to rational behaviour of all actors involved. The threat is either credible, which requires – in light of the new evidence – readiness to act entirely irrationally. Alternatively, the threat is non-credible since rational analysis cannot lead to the conclusion of risking the use of nuclear weapons.
Not for nothing was Mutually-Assured-Destruction considered MAD.
During 5 days of presentations and debate, many states called for a ban treaty. And key supporters of the Humanitarian Pledge – Mexico, Austria, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia – stressed the time has now come to start the negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons.
The OEWG reconvenes in May for another session. Dare we hope that we will see them start negotiating and putting together the text for a treaty that bans these weapons? It’s beginning to look that way.
• (With grateful thanks to Reaching Critical Will)
• See here for an overview of civil society’s campaign which led, finally, to the disarmament talks in Geneva
Lesley Docksey is the former editor of Abolish War.
© atomcentral / YouTube
The Marshall Islands launch a legal campaign against the UK, India and Pakistan this week in a David versus Goliath battle to achieve the goal of a “nuclear free universe”.
The islands accuse the nuclear states of failing to halt the nuclear arms race, and are urging the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to pursue a lawsuit against all three.
The Pacific Ocean territory, used as a US nuclear testing site for 12 years, filed applications with the ICJ in April 2014 accusing the world’s nine nuclear-armed states of not respecting their nuclear disarmament obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law.
The nine nations possessing nuclear arsenals are the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel – though Israel is the only one which never acknowledged holding nuclear weapons.
The court admitted the cases brought against the UK, India and Pakistan because the three states have already recognised the ICJ’s authority.
The islands’ former Minister of Foreign Affairs Tony de Brum said they commenced “this lawsuit with the greatest respect and the greatest admiration for the big countries of the world, but we think it must be done”.
Hearings will take place in The Hague Monday to examine whether the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is competent to hear the lawsuits against India and Pakistan. Another hearing will take place on Wednesday to examine “preliminary objections” raised by London in the case against Britain, according to AFP.
De Brum has said the people of the Marshalls suffer quietly but they take this suit in “the cause of a nuclear free universe”.
“We are fighting for what we believe is the only solution in terms of peace and prosperity in the world.”
Olivier Ribbelink, senior researcher at the TMC Asser Institute in The Hague says “the case is in a very preliminary stage at this point”, but added: “Either way the outcome, the case has certainly sharply refocused attention on the dangers of nuclear proliferation.”
De Brum and the Marshall Islands legal team have been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
US nuclear test ground
De Brum was nine years old when the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb was dropped by the US on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954 during the Cold War nuclear arms race.
The 15-megatonne bomb was the largest US nuclear test on record at 1000-times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The resulting characteristic mushroom cloud reached a diameter of 7km (4.5 miles) and a height of almost 40,000 meters (130,000ft) within six minutes of detonation.
The US carried out 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.
Bikini Islanders lived in exile since they were moved for the first US weapons test, though some returned in the early 1970s after government scientists declared Bikini safe for resettlement.
However, residents were removed again in 1978 after ingesting high levels of radiation from eating local foods grown on the former nuclear testing site.
The Marshall Islands is appealing to the US Supreme Court after its case against the country was dismissed by a US federal court last year.
A senior UN official says Israel is now left without an excuse to evade ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) after a nuclear deal between Iran and the West.
Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the CTBT Organization, said with the implementation of the nuclear deal, Israel’s biggest pretext for refraining from ratifying the CTBT has been taken away.
He made the remarks to a week-long conference marking the 20th anniversary of the treaty being opened for signing in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has 196 members but the treaty has not entered into force because it still needs ratification by nuclear-armed signatories such as the US, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
Zerbo said Israel is “the closest” of the signatories to ratifying the treaty and assuring the world it will never conduct a nuclear test explosion.
That is because “the biggest threat for Israel is gone and over” after Iran reached a nuclear agreement with the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany in July, he said.
An open secret for decades, the Israeli atomic stockpile is estimated at some 200-400 warheads, though Israel refuses to confirm or deny its existence under a policy of deliberate ambiguity.
Israel is also refusing to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and denying international access to its atomic arsenal.
Zerbo said he is hoping to visit Israel and talk to its leaders although he doesn’t expect immediate results on ratification.
“I think that they’re the ones who can unlock what is stopping the CTBT from moving,” he said.
Zerbo is also hoping to visit Iran, which signed CTBT in 1996, to convince the country to ratify the treaty.
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. The country is an NPT signatory and its nuclear facilities are open to regular UN inspections which have not found any diversion.
Zerbo, however, said if both Iran and Israel signed CTBT, it would “provide momentum — first for Egypt to ratify the CTBT and then to start negotiations for a nuclear test-free zone in the Middle East.”
“You can’t jump and get a weapon-free zone in the Middle East if the CTBT isn’t ratified,” he said.
Israel’s arsenal is the only obstacle to a Middle East free of nuclear weapons because no country possesses a nuclear arsenal in the region other than the Tel Aviv regime.
Zerbo also said China won’t ratify the CTBT before the US, India won’t ratify before China, and Pakistan won’t ratify before India. He also emphasized that US action is crucial in this regard.
He said North Korea is the least likely country to ratify the CTBT.
The UN official said the international community needs to change the way it engages with North Korea.
“What they need at this point in time is… maybe a bit of respect and dignity in the dialogue we have with them.”
Russia has censured the United States and its NATO allies for “violating” the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by conducting nuclear planning and missions.
“The so-called joint nuclear missions practiced by the United States and their NATO allies are a serious violation of the said treaty,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Thursday.
The statement also called for the return of all US nuclear weapons to the country, a ban on nuclear warheads abroad and the dismantling of the technology that facilitates the use of nuclear weapons as well as abstaining from nuclear exercises.
Back in April, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington is breaching the NPT by deploying its nuclear weapons in Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.
Also in March, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich urged the US, as a NATO member, to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe, highlighting that their deployment on the continent violates the NPT.
“We have repeatedly drawn NATO’s attention to the fact that such practices directly run counter to the spirit and the letter of NPT,” he said on March 24.
The remarks came days after the US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, claimed that “the deployment of US nuclear weapons on the territories of our NATO allies is consistent with the NPT.”
Under the article 1 of NPT, no country is allowed to transfer its nuclear weapons to other parties while article 2 of the treaty prohibits those countries lacking nuclear know-how from having access to nuclear weapons, Lukashevich stated, adding that the US deployment of nuclear arms in Europe infringes upon the terms of the agreement.
Washington-Moscow relations have become markedly tense in recent months. The US and NATO accuse the Kremlin of supporting pro-Russia forces in east Ukraine. Russia categorically denies the allegation, saying NATO’s presence near the Russian borders is responsible for the flare-up in the restive region.
The United States is perhaps the principle nuclear weapons proliferator in the world today, openly flouting binding provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Article I of the treaty forbids signers from transferring nuclear weapons to other states, and Article II prohibits signers from receiving nuclear weapons from other states.
As the UN Review Conference of the NPT was finishing its month-long deliberations in New York last week, the US delegation distracted attention from its own violations using its standard Red Herring warnings about Iran and North Korea — the former without a single nuclear weapon, and the latter with 8-to-10 (according to those reliable weapons spotters at the CIA) but with no means of delivering them.
The NPT’s prohibitions and obligations were re-affirmed and clarified by the world’s highest judicial body in its July 1996 Advisory Opinion on the legal status of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The International Court of Justice said in this famous decision that the NPT’s binding promises not to transfer or receive nuclear weapons are unqualified, unequivocal, unambiguous and absolute. For these reasons, US violations are easy to illustrate.
Nuclear Missiles “Leased” to British Navy
The US “leases” submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to Britain for use on its four giant Trident submarines. We’ve done this for two decades. The British subs travel across the Atlantic to pick up the US-made missiles at Kings Bay Naval base in Georgia.
Helping to ensure that US proliferation involves only of the most verifiably terrible nuclear weapons, a senior staff engineer at Lockheed Martin in California is currently responsible for planning, coordinating and carrying out development and production of the “UK Trident Mk4A [warhead] Reentry Systems as part of the UK Trident Weapons System ‘Life Extension program.’” This, according to John Ainslie of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which closely watchdogs the British Tridents — all of which are based in Scotland, much to the chagrin of the Scots.
Even the W76 warheads that arm the US-owned missiles leased to England have parts made in United States. The warheads use a Gas Transfer System (GTS) which stores tritium — the radioactive form of hydrogen that puts the “H” in H-bomb — and the GTS injects tritium into the plutonium warhead or “pit.” All the GTS devices used in Britain’s Trident warheads are manufactured in the United States. They are then either sold to the Royals or given away in exchange for an undisclosed quid pro quo.
David Webb, the current Chair of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reported during the NPT Review Conference, and later confirmed in an email to Nukewatch, that the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico announced, in March 2011, that it had conducted “the first W76 United Kingdom trials test” at its Weapons Evaluation and Test Laboratory (WETL) in New Mexico, and that this had “provided qualification data critical to the UK [United Kingdom] implementation of the W76-1.” The W76 is a 100 kiloton H-bomb designed for the so-called D-4 and D-5 Trident missiles. One of the centrifuges at Sandia’s WETL simulates the ballistic trajectory of the W76 “reentry-vehicle” or warhead. This deep and complex collusion between the US and the UK could be called Proliferation Plus.
The majority of the Royal Navy’s Trident warheads are manufactured at England’s Aldermaston nuclear weapons complex, allowing both the Washington and London to claim they are in compliance with the NPT.
US H-bombs Deployed in Five NATO Countries
An even clearer violation of the NPT is the US deployment of between 184 and 200 thermonuclear gravity bombs, called B61, in five European countries — Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Turkey and Germany. “Nuclear sharing agreements” with these equal partners in the NPT — all of whom declare that they are “non-nuclear states” — openly defy both Article I and Article II of the treaty.
The US is the only country in the world that deploys nuclear weapons to other countries, and in the case of the five nuclear sharing partners, the US Air Force even trains Italian, German, Belgian, Turkish and Dutch pilots in the use of the B61s in their own warplanes — should the President ever order such a thing. Still, the US government regularly lectures other states about their international law violations, boundary pushing and destabilizing actions.
With so much a stake, it is intriguing that diplomats at the UN are too polite to confront US defiance of the NPT, even when the extension and enforcement of it is on the table. As Henry Thoreau said, “The broadest and most prevalent error requires the most disinterested virtue to sustain it.”
Every moment of every day, all of humanity is held hostage by the nuclear nine. The nine nuclear nations are made up of the P5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and their illegitimate nuclear wannabes Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan, spawned by the mythological theory of deterrence. This theory has fueled the nuclear arms race since its inception wherein if one nation has one nuclear weapon, its adversary needs two and so on to the point that the world now has 15,700 nuclear weapons wired for immediate use and planetary destruction with no end in sight. This inaction continues despite the 45-year legal commitment of the nuclear nations to work toward complete nuclear abolition. In fact just the opposite is happening with the U.S. proposing to spend $1 Trillion on nuclear weapons “modernization” over the next 30 years, fueling the “deterrent” response of every other nuclear state to do likewise.
This critical state of affairs comes as the 189 signatory nations to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded the month long Review Conference at the U.N. in New York. The conference was officially a failure due to the refusal of the nuclear weapons states to present or even support real steps toward disarmament. The nuclear gang demonstrates an unwillingness to recognize the peril that the planet faces at the end of their nuclear gun; they continue to gamble on the future of humanity. Presenting a charade of concern, they blamed each other and bogged down in discussions over a glossary of terms while the hand of the nuclear Armageddon clock continues to move ever forward.
The nuclear weapons states have chosen to live in a vacuum, one void of leadership. They hoard suicidal nuclear weapons stockpiles and ignore recent scientific evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons that we now realize makes these weapons even more dangerous than we thought before. They fail to recognize that this evidence must be the basis for prohibiting and eliminating them.
Fortunately there is one powerful and positive response coming out of the NPT Review Conference. The Non-Nuclear Weapons States, representing a majority of people living on the planet, frustrated and threatened by the nuclear nations, have come together and demanded a legal ban on nuclear weapons like the ban on every other weapon of mass destruction from chemical to biologic and landmines. Their voices are rising up. Following a pledge by Austria in December 2014 to fill the legal gap necessary to ban these weapons, 107 nations have joined them at the U.N. this month. That commitment means finding a legal instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Such a ban will make these weapons illegal and will stigmatize any nation that continues to have these weapons as being outside of international law.
Costa Rica’s closing NPT remarks noted, ”Democracy has not come to the NPT but Democracy has come to nuclear weapons disarmament.” The nuclear weapons states have failed to demonstrate any leadership toward total disarmament and in fact have no intention of doing so. They must now step aside and allow the majority of the nations to come together and work collectively for their future and the future of humanity. John Loretz of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said, “The nuclear-armed states are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of the future. The ban treaty is coming, and then they will be indisputably on the wrong side of the law. And they have no one to blame but themselves.”
“History honors only the brave,” declared Costa Rica. “Now is the time to work for what is to come, the world we want and deserve.”
Ray Acheson of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom says, “Those who reject nuclear weapons must have the courage of their convictions to move ahead without the nuclear-armed states, to take back ground from the violent few who purport to run the world, and build a new reality of human security and global justice.”
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.
Can you name the “official” NPT nuclear-weapons states?
If you said the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China…you’re wrong.
No, this wasn’t a trick question having something to do with North Korea. The fact is the NPT doesn’t contain a single word that confers any kind of special status on its five nuclear-armed members. The word “official” never appears. Neither does the word “recognized.” Nor does any other word that even hints at the notion that these five states have a right, temporary or otherwise, to the nuclear weapons they had when they joined the Treaty. (France and China did not even become Member States until 1992.)
The nuclear-armed states are mentioned only twice—and never by name—throughout the entire text of the NPT. Article IX provides a generic definition: “For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January, 1967.”
Then, of course, there’s Article VI, which says “Each of the Parties to the Treaty [not just the nuclear-armed Parties, mind you] undertakes 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.”
That’s it. No language anywhere that says—or could be interpreted to mean—that the nuclear weapons held by these five states got grandfathered in and are therefore permitted—or even tolerated for some indefinite time—under the treaty.
If you catch yourself using these words or any others that convey the same false impression, try to eliminate them from your personal glossary of nuclear terms.
While I’m on the subject, we keep hearing from certain states at the NPT Review Conference and elsewhere (you’ll find them in the glossary under “weasels”) that they don’t support the ban treaty because we will only eliminate nuclear weapons if we “engage” with the nuclear-weapons states.
Have they not noticed that this is exactly what we’re doing? Granted, the nuclear-armed states want nothing to do with negotiating a ban—which fact, alone, proves its effectiveness. “Engagement,” to the P5 and the weasels, means letting them define the terms and the pace of nuclear disarmament, and not rocking the boat with “unrealistic” demands and distractions. Once we have it, however, the ban treaty will set new terms for engagement. It will inform the nuclear-armed states that they are outlaws and that they need to “engage” with that and become respectable, law-abiding world citizens, like it or not.
If you ask me, the nuclear-armed states, to their distress, haven’t been so engaged since the end of the Cold War. The humanitarian impacts movement, the Austrian Pledge, and the campaign for a ban treaty have been the agents for that engagement. That’s official.
Washington’s current course in relations with Moscow could prevent any resolution of urgent problems in bilateral relations, including nuclear disarmament, the Russian Foreign Ministry warns.
“The White House’s line on aggravation the relations with Russia threatens to lead the whole complex of sensible issues on the modern bilateral agenda to a dead end,” reads the annual review of the foreign policy and diplomatic activities for 2014 that was published on the ministry’s website on Thursday.
“The discussion of such pressing issues has become sporadic and non-systematic,” the document reads.
Russian diplomats emphasized that the plans of the United States and its allies to deploy the global missile defense system is one of the typical examples of such hostile approach.
“Practical discussion of how Russian worries can be eased was curtailed at the initiative of the US. Now we are forced to develop adequate countermeasures,” the ministry wrote.
“In addition, when [President] Barack Obama’s administration promoted further cuts in the Russian and US nuclear arsenals, it completely ignored Russian arguments that other states with nuclear potential should be included in this process,” the report reads.
The Russian side noted that the United States continued to implement its concept of immediate global strike that uses conventional strategic weapons and continued to avoid making any concrete statements regarding their refusal to deploy weapons in space.
The released plans to beef up US and NATO military presence near Russian borders pose direct risks of a shift of the European balance of forces, the report states.
In late April, President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia had brought its nuclear arsenal to the minimum ordered by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and plans to continue work in this direction.
“We have reduced our nuclear weapons stockpiles to minimal levels, thereby making a considerable contribution to the process of comprehensive and complete disarmament,” Putin wrote in his address to the international conference on nuclear non-proliferation.
He also emphasized Russia’s commitment to Article VI of the treaty, which states that each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith,” and agrees to disarmament “under strict and effective international control.”
In mid-January the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Security and Disarmament Department, Mikhail Ulyanov, said unfriendliness by the US could cause Moscow to review its approach to the New START agreement on cutting nuclear weapons and their delivery.
“So far we have not taken any particular steps in this direction, but I cannot exclude that in the future Washington will force us into taking them, into making corrections to our policies regarding this direction,” he stated in a press interview. “This would only be natural, considering the unfriendly character of the US actions.”
Press TV has conducted an interview with Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, an independent researcher and writer, in Irvine, to get her take on the stance of Iran and other countries over the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Mohammad Javad Zarif’s spokes of fairness and equity when it comes to the implementation of the NPT, has that been like that ever since this treaty came into effect?
Sepahpour: Regrettably, not at all and under the international law there ought to be no discrimination whatsoever. In fact, scholars have argued that the only time that discrimination if he wants to be called that is acceptable in international law is to elevate the status of a state to be on par with the rest. But right now as we said the international law has been hijacked and we see that powerful states are doling out favors to those that are pariah states, especially Israel in the region, and in fact, rewarding them for violating international law, while again themselves violating international law by not rendering assistance to those who are signatories to this treaty.
Press TV: How imperative is this for this NPT treaty to remain relevant to be able to bring Israel’s nukes under its control or supervision and also compel nations like the United States to clamp down on their own arsenals?
Sepahpour: I think if the former director general of the IAEA Mr. ElBaradei had listened to Mr. Zarif and perhaps he has, he would have applauded him. In 2004, Dr. ElBaradei, in fact, said that we need to talk seriously to Israel about its nuclear weapons whether it wants to admit to having them or not. And in fact, he called on a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. So, Mr. Zarif is right on the point in calling out, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, is being rewarded for having nuclear weapons. And as far as the other states are not abiding by the NPT, again I’d like to quote Mohamed ElBaradei, he was the IAEA chief for three terms and he was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize together with the IAEA, and he said of nuclear powers, it is like them having it, “dangling a cigarette in their mouth while telling others not to smoke”. You can not violate international law and expect others to comply. This will create total chaos, disorder and it is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the entire world.
Press TV: When you speak of international law, so let’s not forget Iran is a signatory to the NPT and yet it has faced multiple sanctions regarding its peaceful nuclear energy program. That in itself is another violation, would not you agree?
Sepahpour: It is absolutely a violation. The whole purpose of the IAEA, when it was established in 1957 as a body of the United Nations, was to enable peaceful nations, those there were party, there was no treaty at that time, but to spread nuclear technologies, peaceful use around the world and NPT which was presented in 1968 for signature, in fact the whole spirit of the NPT was not only to render assistance in peaceful nuclear technology to the signatories but to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons, total disarmament and stop proliferation none of that has happened, in fact, Iran is a victim of policies here. There are nations that would want to use this law, this international treaty as a tool to dole out favors to the nations to that their working with and to those that are demanding their rights under the international law. So, it is very hypocritical, it is very dangerous and I think that this was a good occasion for the world to listen to a representative of 120 nations. And I just want to add that Iran has asked in numerous occasions for there to be total nuclear disarmament in the Middle East and even in 2009 the Arab League had said they could no longer tolerate Israel’s nuclear weapons without it is being subjected to… become a part of the NPT and have its nuclear facilities inspected. So, the vast majority of the world understands what is going on and what needs to happen. It is for more powerful nations that have hijacked the NPT that are keeping it as hostage to come on-board and be law abiding.