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Media Advisory

Nuclear Proponents “Irresponsible in the Extreme”

For immediate release: January 24, 2008

Contact: Jim Wurst, Middle Powers Initiative, (646) 289-5170

Five retired military leaders who have called for increasing NATO’s willingness to use nuclear weapons are “irresponsible in the extreme,” said Senator Douglas Roche, O.C., Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative, releasing a new MPI Briefing Paper.  Rather than planning to use them, NATO needs to show a “visible intent” to downgrade nuclear weapons.

As NATO gears up for its 60th anniversary summit next year, many arms control experts are urging NATO to end its Cold War reliance on nuclear weapons, arguing that a Strategic Concept that still includes nuclear weapons is contrary to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and irrelevant to modern strategic concerns. “Visible Intent: NATO’s Responsibility to Nuclear Disarmament” is MPI’s contribution to this debate.

MPI NATO brief 08

The briefing paper says that non-nuclear weapon NATO states should work to bring NATO’s nuclear weapons policy into accordance with NPT commitments and international law. NATO policy should be revised at a minimum to bar the use of nuclear weapons except in response to a confirmed nuclear detonation and more affirmatively to envisage the non-use of nuclear weapons in all circumstances. NATO states should also stop hosting U.S. nuclear weapons in five European NATO states under “nuclear sharing” arrangements that enable delivery of nuclear weapons by NPT “non-nuclear weapon states.”

A related step NATO states should take in improving international relations is to prevent the development of missile defenses. Such deployments would undermine strategic stability and impede the reduction and elimination of nuclear forces. As an immediate matter, a way can and must be found to meet Russian concerns about the plans for a US missile defense system based in Europe; optimally, the plan would be cancelled.

Senator Roche said it is “incoherent” that the NATO states are committed under the NPT to the elimination of nuclear weapons while considering NATO’s retention of those weapons “essential.”

During the week of January 14, MPI presented its new brief to foreign ministry officials in Germany, Norway and Spain, and will do so in Canada on February 5, with more NATO capitals to follow.

In contrast, “Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing the Transatlantic Partnership,” presented in January at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, maintains that the first use of nuclear weapons is an “indispensable instrument” in NATO strategies. The authors, including former US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. John Shalikashvili, and the former UK Chief of the Defense Staff, Field Marshal The Lord Inge, argue their case with the Orwellian declaration that “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

As MPI and other disarmament advocates have repeatedly said, the only certain way to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction is their total elimination.