Why do we Still Have Nuclear Weapons?

by Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux, Co-chairpersons, CNANW

A recent Nanos poll found 80% across-the-board support for nuclear weapon elimination. A strong 74% majority believe Canada should join the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (“the ban treaty” or TPNW), even if there is pressure from the United States to stay clear. Those results are no surprise. Similar enthusiasm is found in older polls, and in Canadian municipalities where Councils have supported “nuclear-weapons-free zones” for many years

In an International Committee of the Red Cross 2019 global survey, millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) in the 16 countries polled, overwhelmingly (82%) oppose the use of all weapons of mass destruction – be they nuclear, biological, or chemical – in any circumstance.

And yet, almost half “believe nuclear weapons are an effective instrument of deterrence.”

How can this be?

There lingers a belief that possessing a nuclear arsenal may protect you from enemies. There is also a lack of political leadership countering this dangerous illusion.

For example, just recently the United Kingdom announced they would increase their Trident submarine nuclear warhead limit. There are also plans to “modernize” the arsenals of most nuclear-armed states, including Russia, the USA and China. Some militaries see these weapons as war-fighting options, or as an appropriate response to an overwhelming conventional weapon attack.

And the Canadian government has snubbed the new ban treaty. Rob Oliphant, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the ban is “inconsistent with Canada’s collective defence obligations” as a member of NATO. Within the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, however, we point to NATO’s own policy in support of “eventual” nuclear weapons abolition. And Canada has options: Either sign the treaty while pushing back against alliance nuclear deterrence policy; or work harder for a nuclear weapons convention, as Canada did before. Get back in the game.

Canadian disarmament practice hasn’t always been so hesitant – over decades, leadership was shown on antipersonnel landmines, but also nuclear weapons policy. A resolution was supported by all members of the House of Commons and Senate as recently as 2010. It called on the government to “engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention” and to “deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative” towards that end.  Despite the all-party mandate, the last ten years saw little initiative by Canada.

There is, however, a new effort — that includes Canada — known as the Stockholm Initiative. Sixteen states are engaged, including ban supporters New Zealand, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, but also NATO members Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, as well as two non-NATO nuclear umbrella states (South Korea and Japan). Will this be a fresh start?

“The initiative is positive in principle, but it is too soon to tell whether it will have any meaningful impact,” says Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of CNANW member group Project Ploughshares. “Efforts to reframe, rename and relaunch a series of steps or stones or blocks are also not new.” Canada should participate, and at the ministerial level, if this is to be a serious contribution.

Canada can also at minimum sit in as observer to the inaugural meeting of States Parties (likely in January 2022) of the new TPNW to show solidarity with the goals of its 122+ supporting or signatory states. This is also being considered by Germany.

A new global campaign for No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons has been established and encouraged the US and Russian leaders Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin at their bilateral meeting in Geneva to engage in talks to reduce nuclear risks. US President Biden is on record as questioning “first use” of nuclear weapons for the US. At the NATO summit of leaders this month, Canada had a chance to promote NFU for the alliance as a game-changing safer policy, but also as an early step towards nuclear weapon elimination.

This opens up the urgently needed discussion of alternatives to nuclear deterrence, a shift to sustainable common security for all peoples, and protection of the global environment. Canada needs to be there.

So many words, but so little action on nuclear disarmament

Earl Turcotte
Opinion Hil Times January 20, 20201

Who in their wildest dreams would have thought that the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, would feel compelled earlier this month to plead with the chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of  Staff to deny access by an increasingly unstable president to the nuclear launch codes, for fear that he might order a nuclear strike? As if this were even possible, since, under U.S. law, no one can counter such an order by the commander in chief.

Continue reading “So many words, but so little action on nuclear disarmament”

Jaramillo: Latin America and the Quest for Nuclear Abolition: From the Treaty of Tlatelolco to the Ban Treaty

photo credit: OPANAL

On February 14, 2014, as the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons came to an end, conference Chair Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo—then deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico—captured the sentiment in the room in the powerful last few words of his closing remarks: in global efforts toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, this conference marked a “point of no return.” His optimistic conclusion was met with a roar of applause.

Read further: here 

Roche: Canada can’t hide behind NATO in refusal to sign treaty on nuclear weapons prohibition

Douglas Roche: “The Canadian government has said it cannot make such a commitment because of its membership in NATO. But the letter contests this stand, arguing that nothing in the new treaty precludes a NATO state joining, as long as it never assists the use of nuclear weapons.”

EDMONTON—Lloyd Axworthy, Jean-Jacques Blais, Jean Chrétien, Bill Graham, John McCallum, John Manley, and John Turner.

These seven names hardly need an introduction to readers of The Hill Times, and certainly not to the Government of Canada. Two of them are former prime ministers, three are former foreign ministers, and two are former defence ministers, who ran and served Liberal governments.

All of them signed an open letter [en français], released on Sept. 21, that features 53 former high officials of NATO countries expressing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is an astonishing rebuke of NATO’s moribund policies on nuclear weapons, and the most serious challenge to NATO’s nuclear orthodoxy in the organization’s 71-year history. Even two former NATO secretaries-general, Javier Solana and Willy Claes, as well as former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, joined in this protest.

Continue reading “Roche: Canada can’t hide behind NATO in refusal to sign treaty on nuclear weapons prohibition”

Building security without nuclear weapons

Strong arguments are being made to rid the world of the risk posed by reliance on nuclear deterrence. We should adopt a mutual security policy based on sustainable common security principles.

The Palme Commission in 1989 proposed the concept of Common Security: “All states, even the most powerful, are dependent in the end upon the good sense and restraint of other nations.  Even ideological and political opponents have a shared interest in survival.  In the long run, no nation can base its security on the insecurity of others.  True security requires a cooperative effort, a partnership in the struggle against war.”

What are some “tools” of common security?

  • local-global democracy
  • human rights
  • social justice
  • economic development
  • environmental security
  • peaceful measures
  • “non-offensive” defence (NOD)

What are “Confidence and Security Building Measures” (CSBM)?

States wanting to improve their security can develop techniques of gradually developing confidence between themselves and states they perceive as threats.  During the Cold War,  the NATO and Warsaw Pact states agreed through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to participate in:

  • Annual mutual exchanges of military information
  • Consultation and cooperation re: unusual military activities
  • Cooperation re: hazardous incidents
  • Voluntary hosting of visits to dispel concerns about military activities
  • Visits to bases, academies, language facilities, conferences, sporting, cultural events
  • Joint military exercises and training
  • Mutual provision of experts
  • Prior notification of certain military activities
  • Observation of certain military activities
  • Sharing annual calendars of military activities
  • Communications (CSCE Communications Network)
  • Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting

Are there other security building processes?

  • Creation of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZs)  See the Opanal website and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs website on NWFZs
  • Use of Preventive Diplomacy to avert violent conflicts
  • Reference of inter-state disputes to the International Court of Justice
  • Maintain peace in pre- or post-conflict regions through use of UN peacekeepers
  • The International Criminal Court enables prosecution of international criminals in cases of war crimes where their own country does not act, or where national prosecution is not believed to be fair and credible.
  • Intrusive inspection measures such as “Open Skies”: The “Open Skies” Treaty of 1992 allows states parties to conduct observation flights over each other’s territories and provides warning of surprise attack, reduces misperceptions and thereby promotes mutual confidence.
  • Conversion of industry and transfer of priorities; creation of new jobs in public infrastructure, climate sustainability sectors

Scholars, Studies and Reports proposing alternative security options:

Peggy Mason: Canada — From nuclear disarmament stalwart to nuclear weapons apologist

“To understand the extent of Canada’s retreat from staunch defender of meaningful steps towards increased nuclear restraint and eventual disarmament to the shocking role of U.S. nuclear weapons apologist, it is necessary to review the position of Canada in the context of the NPT and NATO.” (Peggy Mason is President of the Rideau Institute.)

Download pdf here: From nuclear disarmament stalwart to nuclear weapons apologist

Oped in Hill Times by Earl Turcotte: U.S. joint chiefs release alarming nuclear operations document

Opinion: Earl Turcotte,
Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

On June 19th, The Guardian and a host of other media reported that on June 11th the U.S. Joint Chiefs released a document simply entitled “Nuclear Operations”… Continued

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MILITARY STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

MILITARY STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

“US military leaders would reject illegal order for nuclear strike, senators told,” The Guardian, Nov. 14, 2017
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/14/us-military-nuclear-weapons-strike-senate-trump
As senators raise concerns about ‘unstable’ Donald Trump’s decision-making, former commander says military is ‘not obligated to follow illegal orders’

Dec. 6, 2014 – Statement by US General (Ret) Lee Butler speaks for a ban on nuclear weapons
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBgF-2HK8H0

Statement by Generals and Admirals of the World Against Nuclear Weapons , December 5, 1996.

Address by General Lee Butler to Canadian Peaceworkers, March 11, 1999, Ottawa.
https://www.cnanw.ca/1999/03/11/voices/

General Lee Butler, Remarks to National Press Club, Dec. 5, 1996
https://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/Butlpress.txt

Joint Statement on Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Arsenals: Declining Utility, Continuing Risks by Generals Lee Butler and Andrew J. Goodpaster, Dec. 4, 1996, National Press Club
http://prop1.org/2000/gengood.htm

Letter to Bill Graham M.P., Chair, Standing Committee on oreign Affairs and International Trade from Lee Butler, General, USAF, Ret., July 1998
http://www.ccnr.org/scfait_recs.html