Disarmament only Verbal

Non-proliferation Treaty Conference in New York: The way to a nuclear weapons-free world is still not open.  Obama allows warheads to be produced. NATO modernizes its arsenal.
By Reiner Braun

It has been 40 years since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed. The states without nuclear weapons declared their abandonment to both development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, and the nuclear weapons
possessors agreed to universal disarmament.  Every five years, the so-called Review Conferences occur, where revisions are made under the respect for the rights and obligations under the contract that was initially established.
Whereas the discussions with the Council resolutions in 1995 and 2000 ended in further steps towards disarmament, the 2005 meeting was a disaster because of the resistance of the United States.  After the announcement from  the US President in the following year to strive for a nuclear weapons-free world, the conditions surrounding his goal have fundamentally changed. Initiatives, which aim towards disarmament, like the new START treaty, the debate in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Posture Review (again) are reviving the disarmament debate.

Until the end of the week, an often forgotten point was agreed upon at the NPT Conference in 2010: (Almost) all ideological and political divides – from Brazil to Cuba, from China to the US, from Iran to Nigeria – agreed upon an unrestrained policy for peaceful use of nuclear technologies.  It was left to the non-governmental organizations to denounce this policy as irresponsible, immoral and unsustainable.

Foreign ministers from almost every country spoke out verbally for the nuclear disarmament, saying yes to a world without nuclear weapons.  The actions of at least the NATO countries, however, speak a different language.
In her speech to the NATO summit in Tallinn at the end of April, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton set the “spirit of NATO” for this year’s NPT Conference.  Last week the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright submitted a first draft of the future strategy of the military pact, which again clearly reinforces that nuclear weapons are indispensable
for NATO.  They must remain in Europe, be modernized, and act as an integral part of future military strategy.  One cannot more clearly express a ‘no’ to a world without nuclear weapons.

But it is not only NATO that clearly has an anti-disarmament stance.  US President Obama declared through a governmental decree, that an additional 80 billion dollars would be allocated to the modernization and creation of
new nuclear war heads.  Funding for U.S. defense research centers, especially at one in Los Alamos, New Mexico, will rise in the coming years at an annual rate of more than ten percent.  Washington is part of the
trend: in the past months it has become clear, that all nuclear-weapons state – the official and the “unofficial” ones – have a verbal commitment to disarmament, a costly modernization of their nuclear potential.

In pursuing nuclear rearmament and deterrence policy, NATO is undoubtedly a pioneer and a proponent.  At the same time, the group of those states who want a world without nuclear weapons is also increasing.  It is more of a
grass-roots movement; they are comprised of political elites of the First World and the elites of the South.  Central to all of these forces is the support of a Nuclear Weapons Convention: an international treaty for the destruction of all nuclear weapons. Those advocating for this cause include UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, the majority of all states (e.g. the non-aligned, but also Austria and Switzerland), the vast majority of parliaments (including the EU Parliament
in Brussels), conservative elder statesmen, churches, unions, and thousands of mayors.  And lastly: 25 million people worldwide have expressed their will through signature to an end of nuclear weapons.

In this unique international chorus for a nuclear-free world, no one can do more when the weapons increases are verbal and sometimes come with forced and practical concessions.  However, the NPT regime threatens to fall apart. Because the system is a two-tiered system of states, where there are the “nuclear haves” and the “nuclear have-nots”, a disarmament promise is no longer attainable after 40 years of this unfair system.  Fundamental change of international power relationships has set the self-consciousness for equality of states on the agenda.  The dramatic consequence will be an unchecked spread of nuclear weapons; nuclear plans lay in very many areas, and the technological requirements are available in more than 40 states. Not to mention also accessible by terrorists and states that wish to use them.

The Bundestag spoke out in April in a notable resolution for a world without nuclear weapons.  Members of parliament have called for concrete steps to be taken, especially the removal of US nuclear weapons from Germany.  The
stance of State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Werner Hoyer, in New York pivoted between full NATO loyalty and trying to salvage at least some short-term disarmament projects.  The German policy of nuclear sharing, which violates the NPT, is a part of the nuclear weapons problem that Germany has concealed.

The peace movement showed their flag in New York.  The conference, “for a nuclear-weapons free and equitable world,” attracted more than 1,500 participants, including speakers such as UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon.
And more than 15,000 people from over 25 countries joined in demonstration in the unmistakably smelly streets of New York to call for a nuclear weapons convention and a world without nuclear weapons.  There were also many “side
events”, actions of civil disobedience and other public events that substantiated arguments during the NPT conference.  They were the largest actions of the international peace movement against nuclear weapons in more
than 20 years.

Originally published in Junge Welt on 26.05.2010. Reiner Braun is the managing director of the German affiliate of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), founded in 1988.

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