The Nuclear Abolition Imperative

To fully appreciate the extent to which NATO’s retentionist doctrine has become an anachronism, it is necessary to also appreciate the full extent of the remarkable shift in professional judgment and public opinion toward nuclear abolition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told a New York audience in October, 2008, that “a world free of nuclear weapons would be a global public good of the highest order.” He recalled the first resolution of the UN General Assembly was a call for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, and challenged nuclear sates to meet their disarmament obligations under the NPT, and urged them to finally negotiate a global convention prohibiting all nuclear weapons.

This goal is also endorsed by former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and three other leaders as well as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev asserting “in fact with every passing year they make our security more precarious.”

A group of retired British generals rejected the UK’s nuclear weapons as “completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently or are likely to face.”

Despite NATO’s formal doctrine that nuclear weapons are “essential” to “preserve peace” most of its member state signatories are non-nuclear weapons state signatories to the NPT and have already disavowed nuclear weapons for themselves. They seek cover under the US nuclear umbrella but the Obama White House website claims the US is pursuing the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Leaders calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons include Helmut Schmidt, three former foreign secretaries, former NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, Norway, Italy and groups of Nobel Laureates. A global appeal under the banner of Global Zero is calling for a strict and accountable timeline and has been supported by the Simons Foundation of Canada.

Publics around the world are, by all accounts eager to support efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. A survey of 21 key states found 76 percent of people favour a global agreement that “all countries with nuclear weapons would be required to eliminate them would be required to eliminate them according to a timetable,” while all other countries would be required not to develop them.”

This global nuclear weapons taboo is buttressed by an international movement involving national and municipal governments and a global civil society of NGOs, faith communities, professional and service groups, researchers and academics. Mayors for Peace (see article) has mobilized leaders of 2,635 cities in 134 countries and regions to endorse the campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020. The 2009 NATO summit is a potent opportunity to set in motion a process to rethink and restate its strategic nuclear doctrine.

(For the complete article see NATO’s Strategic Concept and the Emerging Nuclear Abolition Imperative at: www.ploughshares.ca)