Brief comments at the NPT side panels
(by Robin Collins, Co-chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)
August 9, 2022 by Zoom
“Don’t let your reticence with one approach for the sake of alliance solidarity be the excuse of convenience that you use to justify not proceeding with another.“
A colleague in Canada recently asked us to imagine that day when “You wake up to the news that the last remaining warhead has been dismantled. The era of nuclear weapons is over.”
We know he wasn’t being overly optimistic, because he then offered a list of many of the hard cases and sticky problems that obstruct us: the nuclear sharing policies of NATO; North Korea; Iran; the nuclear weapons states outside the NPT, and all those NPT obligations and expectations that to a large extent are unfulfilled or are openly violated.
He was urging us to be realists and to consider the complementarity of options.
The point is that the specific vehicle must defer to the desire and commitment by states to accomplish the abolition. What will inspire the political will to end the existential threat hanging over us all? What are the unnecessary obstacles?
As nuclear weapon abolitionists we can make the project of abolition and the replacement security framework coherent and as palatable as possible so that when the road is cleared, or clearer, things can as easily as possible fall into place. Which package, or options picked, is far less important. What counts is that the goal is pursued in earnest.
As Jackie Cabasso, one of our Abolition 2000 working group members said earlier at the NPT as an NGO representative — considering the ignoring of NPT commitments from 1995, 2000 and 2010, it’s time to refocus our attention on the nuclear-armed states. A time-bound target for abolition is overdue. Jackie said: we “call on the nuclear-armed and nuclear sharing states to commit to a timeframe of no later than 2030 for the adoption of a framework, package of agreements or comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, and no later than 2045 for full implementation”.
The Nuclear Weapon Convention Reset paper that our Abolition 2000 working group constructed, has this approach, which is to highlight the three primary options that are under consideration: Then it is up to the official and unofficial Nuclear Weapon States, NATO members and NATO umbrella states to proceed.
Canada, my country, has no nuclear weapons although was involved in the nuclear bomb project from the early days, and is a member of NATO, along with three nuclear-armed states, five others with nuclear-sharing arrangements[i] and seven others that participate in Support of Nuclear Operations With Conventional Air Tactics (known as SNOWCAT).[ii]
We are fully aware of the pressures on NATO members towards their being compliant and in solidarity with other NATO members, to go along with the prevailing winds – and therefore also the reluctance to push back or be that nuclear nag (once again). This is still the case, particularly in the most delicate of moments, by which I mean the current context of the Russian illegal invasion of Ukraine: the sabre-rattling rhetoric, the references to actual use of nuclear weapons. Not to mention the daily killing and dying. But just as the New START talks need to continue, now more than ever, so is this a good time for states to speed up, not slow down, progress on abolition.
Countries like Canada may have been involved at the Stockholm Initiative, a diplomatic forum that proposes risk reduction measures and a “stepping stones approach” to nuclear disarmament; or attended The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons this last June, but then avoided the TPNW like the plague, despite pressure from disarmament activists and many parliamentarians.
We are here pragmatically advocating for nuclear weapon states and NATO members to consider the options for disarmament that you can stomach. If not the TPNW with protocols, then a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of instruments. Don’t let your reticence with one approach for the sake of alliance solidarity be the excuse of convenience that you use to justify not proceeding with another.
Some leader or leaders need to step up within NATO to break the silence and expose the illusory consensus, and begin the renewal of the abolition project, because, as the UN Secretary-General said, “Luck is no strategy!”
Our “Nuclear Weapons Convention Reset: Frameworks for a nuclear-weapon-free world” message, therefore, highlights this complementarity of three possibilities towards a time-bound abolition target, for de-escalation of the unhelpful rhetoric, for urgent risk reduction measures, and ultimately for a sustainable peace and common security wherein nuclear threats and nuclear weapons no longer exist.
Thank you for your time.
[i] Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey
[ii] Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland and Romania