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Transcript from the Sixth Article VI Forum Meeting
Berlin, Germany
January 29-30, 2009

Dr. Rebecca Johnson

speaking on the panel, "Reviewing NATO Strategic Concept"

(This is a rush transcript)

Thank you, I had a slightly uncomfortable feeling when I read the bio again now. Even more now that I’ve been outed, but, I guess, after the work that I have been doing at Faslane over the last couple of years, I think people are probably fairly aware that I’ve always tried to combine activism, conflict resolution, and work to inform and work with diplomats for change, diplomats and governments. I’d like to thank Xanthe and German government and MPI for convening this, and I think we’ve had a terrific series of discussions today, and we even had a taste for this panel this morning, which really is a taste for some of the key issues that we have to address. I am really glad that Hans is on this panel, because normally when I talk about this issues, I have to go through who has what in NATO, but as Xanthe said, we all take that information from Hans and Hans’ research, and he is the one that generally tells us if, for example, the nuclear weapons have secretly been taken out of our countries bases. So, I want to concentrate, here, on the political framing of why I think it is so very important that NATO does not hide behind strategic concepts and worn out, outdated concepts of deterrence on which they relied during the Cold War and only slightly modified in 1999, but actually get to grips with the role of nuclear weapons and the necessity for devaluating and eliminating nuclear weapons, if we are to deal with very, very real and significant security challenges.

And, I was glad to, although I think that Minister Erler didn’t respond to my question. What he did do, which I think was right, was actually point out that there are all this other security challenges, notably climate, energy, water. And of course the obvious answer, nuclear weapons don’t help you one jot to deal with those, but they redirect attention and also resources away from dealing with those, while at the same time maintaining reliance on nuclear weapons, and indeed in the NATO strategic concept, reliance on the threat of first-use of nuclear weapons. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons, whether you do that as a country that posses nuclear weapons, or you do that as a part of a nuclear alliance, what you are essentially doing is advertising that you regard nuclear weapons as essential for security on into the future, even though you can’t actually identify against whom. You are advertising to the rest of the world that these weapons continue to have value for you, and that means that they continue to be attractive for countries that seek power projection or deterrence. So as part of my framing, I‘ve been doing quiet a lot of meetings, and recently I did one at the European Parliament. And, I used a strategic tool that, in fact NGOs have often used, of reversed engineering. So, I started at the point where we had, we had a world that was free of nuclear weapons and then looked back at the steps that we took to get there. Now, if you use that strategic tool of reversed engineering, it becomes strikingly clear that instead being long, long way away at the foot of the mountain, as was implied in The Wall Street Journal op-eds, we are only two, three stages away from the summit.

To get pass those obstacles, we need more than reductions. We have to devalue these weapons and make it clear, politically and possibly legally that nuclear weapons are inhuman weapons, and that any use of these weapons of mass destruction and radiation would be regarded as crime against humanity. Like with biological and chemical weapons already stigmatized as abhorrent and banned, the use was stigmatized before the possession was prohibited through treaties. And even more, land minds and cluster munitions, both of which had been declared as inhuman as part of recent, highly effective negotiations to have them banned. This is the missing qualitative requirement that underpins the logic of getting to zero, and that makes sense of all the logical and necessary steps and measures to reduce arsenals and secure nuclear materials. So, I believe that we are entering the pre-pre-negotiations stage for nuclear abolition, and it is characterized by confusions and inconsistencies with governments and leaders still attempting to cling to nuclear voodoo even as their hearts and brains are convincing them to turn more toward effective security methods. Perhaps, the most obvious sign that we are reaching the tipping-point is the way in which conservative leaders and former advocates of bust nuclear arsenals are signing-up to visions of nuclear-free world. Yet, even as architects of nuclear policy are coming round to see nuclear disarmament as, not only desirable, but feasible and practical and, in fact, necessary, they or other sections of the same government are busy signing up to renew, replace or modernize nuclear weapons and their arsenals, such as Trident or reliable replacement warhead. And, NATO continuous to behave as nuclear weapons are the indispensable glue for Euro-Atlantic cohesion and deterrence, fearfully avoiding the real challenge of deterrence and collective security for the 21 st century.

I have to note here, deterrence is not synonymous with nuclear weapons. Deterrence can be robustly asserted with the mixture of other tools. I believe, in fact, that deterrence is not only robustly asserted by many, many countries around the world without nuclear weapons, but it would be more robustly asserted by the European countries without nuclear weapons. Well, here we are coming up to the 60 th anniversary, and they hoped that by swiping nuclear policy under the carpet, to actually be in the position of adopting the strategic concept for the 60 th anniversary. But fortunately, there were enough questions being asked in an enough debates, that they found themselves in the position of not being able to do that. And, that gives us, again, an opportunity as both governments and civil society within Europe, in particular Europe, Canada, and United States, to argue that they must open the strategic concept. They must be prepared to debate the role of nuclear weapons, and they need to update the policy.

Now, I was going to go, but I think we have time problems here, and I had been asked to cut five minutes out. I was just going to remind us what NATO nuclear policy entails, but I believe the audience here probably knows. We talked a little about this in this morning session. Also, the concerns that had been raised, since this meeting is not only about NATO, but NATO in the context of supporting and trying to get the positive outcome for the 2010 NPT Review Conference. We need to be reminded, I think, that, in 1985, the NPT review conference agreed as part of its final document that treaty remains in force under any circumstances. Now, though this was made explicit, this was language which was basically intended to constrain NATO nuclear sharing arrangements. Now, NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements would amount to de facto proliferation in the time of war. Remember in the post 9/11 context, the Bush Administration declared a War on Terror and changed military doctrines to provide, or reinforce in some cases, for nuclear weapons to be used in preemption or retaliation. We now have the Obama Administration, which is definitely moving back from significant parts of that, but we also have that reinforced still in the policies of Britain, of France, and indeed of Russia, doctrines where non-nuclear weapons states become vulnerable targets for weapons that they had themselves renounce. Although the Obama Administration is sending some positive signals, we have to recognize that Robert Gates, as Secretary of Defense, argued for new nuclear weapons, the reliable replacement warheads, and even implied it might be a deal even in relations to the CTBT, which I think must absolutely be resisted.

Also, we’ve often noticed NATO solidarity impeding NPT implementation in various ways, and we often see bloc votes of NATO states in the context of the resolution to the UN General Assembly. I am very pleased to see that this was not the case, is increasingly not the case, with things on the New Agenda resolutions, has not be the case with the de-alerting resolution. I think that’s positive.

And now, very quickly, I will remind us where we are now, because we have here the chair of the 2008 Prep Com who is responsible for the chair summary, although it had to be attached as a working paper, it still was a summary that the vast majority considered, did reflected the debate that was going on at that Prep Com. And, paragraph thirteen of that says, and this is an incomplete quote, but its concerns were also voiced about the increased role of the nuclear weapons at some strategic and military doctrines, and the apparent lowering of the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. Calls were made for the reevaluation of the strategic utility of the nuclear weapons and their role in National Strategic Security Policies in the Post-Cold War context. And, I think it is fairly obvious for diplomatic reasons NATO was not mentioned, but it is clear form the context, and the very statement to the Prep Com, that this concerns relate principally to NATO and to Russia.

So, what needs to be done now? I’ve identified four key points here. NATO non-nuclear members, this is a point actually raised by, I think, Peter Becker in this morning discussion, should cease equipping their aircraft and training to use nuclear weapons in times of war. This would be timely and economically attractive, since all nuclear-sharing nations need to replace their aging fleets of aircrafts over the next decade, as far as I understand, and some of you can correct me if I am wrong on that, and could use this opportunity to reorient the defense budgets while giving away the anachronistic nuclear role. Secondly, as part of its Strategic Concept review, NATO should remove tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, end policies of nuclear sharing and deterrence, based on the potential first-use of nuclear weapons. We all know the tactical nuclear weapons are portable and relatively more vulnerable to theft and inadvertent or unauthorized use. They’re potentially destabilizing and creating additional risks and insecurities. NATO should close its nuclear facilities in Europe, initiate withdrawal and elimination of its tactical nuclear weapons, but also use this decision in a leverage strategy to persuade Russia to mothball and eliminate its tactical nuclear forces as well. In case this isn’t clear, I am not arguing that NATO should refuse to take the move until they have the negotiations with Russia. I think NATO is in a very strong position to initiate and start this process, but to use this process to engage Russia, and I believe the time is now, when Russia is prepare and willing to become engaged on some of this issues, and I suspect that the ballistic missile defense bases would probably have to come in on that.

Thirdly, NATO members should initiate a program of actions to strengthen the NPT, including committing to the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world and take practical steps to achieve this aim. And I say NATO members here, because I suspect this would probably be a very difficult thing to try to negotiate a common statement within NATO that would not become just a lowest common denominators statement that would then bind the more progressive members of NATO to something much lower than they should be at. But the NATO 5 played really useful, significant, constructive role in the year 2000. We know that there are talks about NATO 7, maybe they could even be NATO 9. And so, the argument is that we need NATO countries. I know that some discussions are here, but I like to see the discussion to go on here to in this room about what should be a part of a program of action to strengthen the NPT. But, I have to say that NATO would have no credibility in making this appeal in 2010, unless it seems to be dealing with the Strategic Concept at home. Nuclear policy, like charity, begins at home.

And then, my fourth point on this is at the 2010 Review Conference NPT states, all of them, should strengthen the Treaty by declaring that the NPT is binding on all state’s parties under any circumstances. In other words, to remove this clause that says it would cease to be binding in war time. I think this is destabilizing. Europe’s role would be critical. Its time to take the bold steps to show that NATO understands the 21 st Century security challenges, and all of Europe, not only the NATO states’, but the European Union states too must play a role in this, recognizing the development of the EU, building mutual dependencies and shared the objectives for common security and foreign policy, have provided the greatest deterrence to war between states in this region. The US and European members of NATO need to communicate honestly with each other about our mutual and different security needs and constraints. Then, we should cooperate to close down the nuclear facility in Europe and follow through the arguments that I made.

And, my final point really is that, I do draw attention to this quiet interesting interim report from the IPRC, the International Policy Review Commission, headed by Lord George Robertson and Patty Ashton and others, because it comes to the argument that they made for NATO to address this issues by looking at the real security issue challenges, and that should be how NATO addresses it at its 60 th anniversary and leading into 2010. It does not make sense for nuclear policy to be getting in the way of addressing this 21 st century challenges. Thank you.