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.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Israel is the main impediment to the universality of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the single violator of the accord.
“Unfortunately, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and its refusal to engage with the international community has become the greatest impediment to the universality of this treaty,” Zarif told Press TV correspondent in New York upon the arrival of Iran’s delegation of nuclear negotiators in the city to attend the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT.
Israel is widely believed to be the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East with up to 400 undeclared nuclear warheads. Tel Aviv has rejected global calls to join the NPT and does not allow international inspectors to observe its controversial nuclear program.
“Israel is the single most violator of this international regime (NPT) which is the requirement of the international community,” Zarif stressed.
The top Iranian diplomat further underlined the need for the establishment of a nukes-free zone in the Middle East.
“Since [the] 1970s, the General Assembly of the United Nations has been calling for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, he said.
He underlined that the call for such a nuclear-free zone is not something new.
“In 1995, when the NPT was renewed, there was a declaration on the need for the universality of the NPT as well as the need for the establishment of the nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. This request, or requirement and demand of the international community and member states of the NPT was again repeated in 2010 in the last review conference,” Zarif said.
“One of the most important issues in the NPT review process is to look into ways and means of bringing about universality and bring about the Israeli compliance with NPT,” he added.
He also elaborated on the function of the NPT, stressing that the treaty “rests on three pillars: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
He also said that the issue of Israeli compliance with the NPT will top the agenda in the 2015 Review Conference.
Zarif further noted that he will probably have a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the event during which the will discuss the issues surrounding negotiations on Iran’ nuclear program. The meeting will be the first time since the groundbreaking talks on Iran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne earlier in the month.
The top Iranian diplomat said he will also hold separate meetings with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and some foreign ministers of the P5+1– the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany, engaged in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Zarif also said that he will make a speech on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement countries as Iran is the movement’s current chair. The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations members and contain 55 percent of the world population.
He further stressed that he will also sit for talks with foreign ministers of the countries in the region to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria, Iraq, and especially in Yemen.
The NPT review conference, slated to be held from April 27 to May 22 at the UN headquarters, will address issues such as nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, safeguards measures and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
When the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) opens in New York next week, the 190 member states will have to come to terms with some hard facts.
The NPT is 45 years old, and while most observers agree that it has worked reasonably well over that time to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that did not have them in 1970, it has not achieved its most important goal—a world in which no countries have nuclear weapons.
There are still more than 16,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine states, three of which have never joined the NPT. Despite reductions from Cold War levels, the US and Russia have more than 90% of that total between them, and the prospects for negotiating deeper bilateral reductions while NATO and Russia glare at each other from opposite sides of Ukraine look dim.
While giving lip service to the goal of nuclear disarmament, all nine nuclear-armed states—the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea—are modernizing their warheads, delivery systems, and infrastructure. India and Pakistan, which are not NPT members, are engaged in a nuclear arms race reminiscent of the Cold War. In the always tense Middle East, a nuclear-armed Israel is making a precarious agreement with a not-yet-nuclear-armed Iran even more precarious.
With the risks increasing that nuclear weapons could be used in warfare for the first time since the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago, nuclear disarmament takes on added urgency. The NPT is supposed to be the most effective tool the world has for producing a world without nuclear weapons. So how is it doing on the eve of another five-year review? Not so well.
At the last NPT Review Conference in 2010, the Member States adopted a 64-point action plan. The first 22 actions, pertaining to nuclear disarmament and Article VI of the treaty, were largely recycled priorities that have been on the table for a decade or two.
According to a report prepared by Reaching Critical Will, progress has been made on only five of the 22 disarmament actions. Four of the five relate to maintaining the existing nuclear testing moratorium and strengthening support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its technical infrastructure, and were happening anyway. The US and Russia ratified New START, but have engaged in no further disarmament negotiations since then. Worse, they have undermined a modest set of reductions through provocative and expensive modernization of the weapon systems they have retained. If 60% is an “F,” then the grade for this part of the action plan is much further down the alphabet.
The NPT is stuck in quicksand. Elsewhere, however, there has been a seismic shift in the political and diplomatic landscape regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. Scientific evidence about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons (HINW), presented at a series of three groundbreaking international conferences, has put the dangers into chilling context. The evidence was summed up this way at the third conference, held in Vienna in December 2014 and attended by 158 states, along with many international organizations and civil society groups:
“The impact of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of the cause, would not be constrained by national borders and could have regional and even global consequences, causing destruction, death and displacement as well as profound and long-term damage to the environment, climate, human health and well-being, socioeconomic development, social order and could even threaten the survival of humankind.”
Put another way, a single nuclear weapon can destroy a city; as few as 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, used in a limited, regional nuclear war, would disrupt the global climate so severely that at least two billion people—more than a quarter of the world’s population—would face starvation from a “nuclear famine”; a nuclear war between the US and Russia, each with thousands of warheads, would shut down the Earth’s life-sustaining ecosystems, bringing an end to humanity itself.
From this perspective, to use American slang, the NPT needs a real kick in the pants. That kick is about to be delivered at the 2015 Review Conference in the form of the Austrian Pledge. At the conclusion of the Vienna HINW conference, Austria pledged that it would “cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”
The first step identified in the Pledge was to bring the evidence from the three HINW conferences into the NPT Review and to challenge the member states “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.”
The Pledge has been adopted by 69 states during the run-up to the NPT Review, and more endorsements are expected during and after the month-long conference.
The Austrian Pledge is a gift to the NPT member states—a way out of the malaise that has prevented the treaty from delivering on its promise of a nuclear-weapons-free world for 45 years. Should the NPT fail to make the most of this gift at the upcoming Review, the time will have arrived to look for a more effective means to close the legal gap and to prohibit and eliminate weapons that threaten each and every one of us with extinction.
Russia says the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing the ground for the use of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear countries in contradiction to the Western military alliance’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“NATO, contrary to the obligations taken under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is still conducting preparations for the use of nuclear weapons by countries that are non-nuclear states,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said at the Fourth Moscow International Security Conference on Thursday.
The NPT, which was ratified in 1970, constitutes the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to open up access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Non-nuclear signatories to the treaty have agreed not to seek to develop or acquire nuclear arms.
The Russian official further accused the military bloc of seeking to revive the Cold War ideology.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told the conference that NATO military exercises in the Arctic and Eastern Europe are against Russia.
The minister also warned that the participation of NATO’s non-nuclear states in the drills stimulate “the use of US tactical nuclear weapons” in violation of the NPT.
In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to increase from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000 the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force. They also announced plans to set up six new command posts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Western military bloc has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several drills in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow, however, has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup near Russia’s borders.
Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly denied by the Kremlin.
Nuclear disarmament has for too long been about waiting. Waiting for nuclear-armed states to fulfill their obligations. Waiting for the so-called “conditions” to be right for disarmament.
While we wait, we do not get closer to the elimination of nuclear weapons or to a more secure world. While we wait, the risks of the use of nuclear weapons remain or even increase. While we wait, the catastrophic and overwhelming consequences of such use do not diminish.
We do not have time to wait.
The conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway and Mexico have clearly explained and documented these consequences.
Physicians, physicists, climate scientists, humanitarian agencies, and survivors have all presented alarming evidence about the effects of nuclear weapons.
This evidence has shown that a single nuclear weapon can destroy an entire city, inflicting massive numbers of instantaneous casualties.
This evidence has shown that acute radiation injuries kill people in a matter of minutes, days, or weeks; and that radiation-caused cancers and other illnesses continue to kill for years among those directly exposed and across generations.
This evidence has shown that the use of even a small fraction of existing nuclear arsenals would cause environmental devastation, including disruption of the global climate and agricultural production.
This evidence cannot be ignored.
We know that the only way to ensure these consequences will never occur is to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. And the only way to do that is to eliminate them entirely. The General Assembly, NPT states parties, the International Court of Justice, the overwhelming majority of states that belong to nuclear-weapon-free zones, and civil society have all said this repeatedly. That part of the debate is over.
We don’t have time to wait. States are in fact legally bound not to wait. Every state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is committed to pursuing effective measures for nuclear disarmament.
Most importantly, we do not have to wait.
While the nuclear-armed states modernise their arsenals and refuse to engage in multilateral negotiations for nuclear disarmament as they are obliged to do, there is at least one effective measure that the rest of the world can take.
That is to prohibit nuclear weapons through a legally-binding instrument.
This is not a radical proposal. Indiscriminate weapons get banned. It is what we do as human society in the interests of protecting ourselves. We have done it before with other weapon systems, including biological and chemical weapons. A treaty banning nuclear weapons would complete the set of
prohibitions against WMD.
This should not be a controversial proposal. An international prohibition is merely the logical outcome of an examination of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons detonation. It is complementary to existing international law governing nuclear weapons.
This is a meaningful proposal. It could have a variety of effects on the policy and practice of states. It could establish a comprehensive set of prohibitions and provide a framework under which the elimination of nuclear weapons can be pursued.
This is a feasible, achievable proposal. It can be negotiated in the near-term, and have normative and practical impacts for the long-term.
Naturally, as we get closer to beginning a diplomatic process, thoughts will turn to how and where such a treaty should be negotiated.
ICAN has no fixed view on this except that effective processes that have meaningful results tend to be based on some important principles of multilateralism. Negotiations must be inclusive, democratic, and involve civil society and international organizations.
A crucial foundation for our confidence in this idea is the conviction that such a treaty can and should be negotiated by those states ready to do so, even if the states with nuclear weapons oppose it and decide not to participate. A few recalcitrant states should not be able to block a successful outcome. It would be better for all states to participate and to move towards prohibition and elimination without delay. But this seems unlikely at the present time.
While we must keep working towards that goal with absolute determination, we believe states should put a prohibition in place now.
To the nuclear-armed states that see this as a hostile idea: it is not. You have applauded groups of states for adopting nuclear-weapon-free zones in their regions. Globalising this prohibition on nuclear weapons will give increased political and legal space for you to pursue elimination. All of you have registered your commitment to a nuclear-free world. A prohibition of nuclear weapons is an important part of the process to achieve that universal goal.
To the states in alliances with nuclear-armed states that are concerned such a treaty would be inconsistent with existing commitments: it would not be. All states have agreed that nuclear weapons should be eliminated. No security alliances have ever crumbled because a weapon system was outlawed and eliminated. Any states that consider humanitarian action a priority should understand that a ban treaty would be consistent with their existing obligations and principles.
To the states that have already foresworn nuclear weapons through the NPT and nuclear-weapon-free zones, and that might baulk at the idea of taking on more of the burden for nuclear disarmament: this ban treaty will not be a burden. It will reinforce the stigma against nuclear weapons. It will undermine their purported value. It will further erode any misplaced perceptions that these weapons of mass destruction confer symbolic power and prestige. It will make global the commitments you have already made regionally. It will give you an opportunity to take charge, for nuclear disarmament is the responsibility and right of everyone. Finally, it will have normative and practical impacts that will facilitate elimination. We welcome the opportunity to consider this approach with you. As Kenya said earlier this month, discussions about this should not cause anxiety.
A window of opportunity is now open to take an important next step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. We should seize this opportunity before it closes. The conferences in Oslo and Nayarit have helped us see nuclear weapons as the devastating and inhumane weapons they are. We’re confident that the Vienna conference in December will reinforce that humanitarian perspective.
It is clear to us that the logical conclusion of these evidence-based gatherings is to begin a diplomatic process to prohibit nuclear weapons through a legally binding instrument.
This will take courage. We have confidence that the overwhelming majority of states will join this process. And we look forward to accompanying you along the road to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) represents more than 360 partner organizations in 93 countries.
The Nuclear Age – risk of omnicide and our new responsibilities
Lund, Sweden – Nuclear weapons came into the world and were used for the first time in 1945. Their specific feature as weapons of mass destruction and “omnicide” – able to kill us all – has changed what it means to be alive on this earth and to be responsible for its existence.
Until nuclear weapons, human beings could not decide whether or not to end project humankind and project planet earth.
Today we know that the arsenals and missile projection methods are such that a few decision-makers, or a technical malfunction, could blow up enough of the world to make the living – if any – envy the dead.
We live in the Nuclear Age. It means living with the permanent daily threat of extinction.
Nuclearism undermines security and democracy
The Nuclear Age has undermined not only security but also democracy.
No nuclear weapons state has ever held a referendum on whether to maintain these weapons or not. There is not a single opinion poll ever made that shows that the citizens of those states want these weapons.
The overwhelming majority of the world’s population want nuclear weapons to be abolished.
In recognition of the fact that these weapons are immoral and useless for any human political purpose, the world’s nations have signed numerous UN resolutions to the effect that we shall seek “general and complete disarmament.”
The nuclear weapons states grossly ignore their responsibilities while pointing fingers at others
The most well-known is the NPT – the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1970). It declares that those who do not have nuclear weapons should abstain from acquiring them and as a quid pro quo the nuclear states should negotiate their arsenals down to zero “in good faith” and assist those who abstained to acquire nuclear technologies to meet their civilian energy needs.
Today the nuclear weapons states have many times more and more advanced nuclear weapons and much more sophisticated missiles, submarines and aircraft to project them to all parts of the world.
Possession – not proliferation – is the essential problem
In short, the main problem is nuclear weapons possession and growth and not – as the media and nuclear leaders want us to believe – their proliferation.
The mechanism is simple: As long as some – mostly Western countries – maintain and develop their arsenals, other will want to have them too.
This argument tends to be ignored when interventions, occupations and bombings are on the agenda, be it Iraq, Pakistan, India, North Korea or Iran.
That Israel possesses 100-300 nuclear weapons in contravention of UN resolutions that declare that the Middle East should remain a zone free of such weapons is equally forgotten.
Thus, while worldwide nuclear proliferation is seen to be the major obstacle to be surmounted, we at TFF argue that nuclear possession is the fundamental problem – as is the perverse thinking it is based upon.
Nuclearism must end – like slavery and cannibalism – and here is how
We insist that nuclearism – the political view that nuclear weapons are essential for the maintenance of national security and international stability – must come to an end and be seen as incompatible with human civilization.
TFF’s pro-peace perspective is three-fold:
a) To abolish nuclear weapons, we need to think of alternative defence, security and peace concepts, policies and strategies that will render nuclear weapons superfluous; and we must undermine the “fearology” and propaganda that makes people believe that nuclear weapons offer security, protection and peace.
b) We must build on the energy and hopes embedded in the fact that so many countries that could have been nuclear weapons states today have made political decisions to abstain from them.
This is the case for Sweden, Switzerland, former Yugoslavia, South Africa, Libya, Austria, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
Hope-inducing is also the fact that 60% of the world’s 193 states are now parts of Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ).
c) It remains essential to educate the general public about the risks of nuclear weapons and what the consequences would be if they were used.
The risks comprise both technical and human failure; moreover, there remain a few elites who believe that for certain political goals the use of nuclear weapons would be justified.
Politicians, schools and media must focus on the end of nuclearism before it ends us all
While public debate and education on nuclear issues were on the world’s agenda in the 1960s and 1980s, this existential issue has virtually disappeared from the radar over the last 20 years.
TFF believes that everything must be done to bring it back to the forefront, but without contributing to the afore-mentioned “fearology”.
The focus must be on the advantages for humankind’s common good if, in the name of civilization, we could abolish these weapons like we have abolished cannibalism, slavery and other inhuman practices.