Thursday, 19 November 2009

Parliamentarians and NATO Strategic Review

Parliamentarians in NATO countries are stepping up their engagement in the current NATO Strategic Review which includes a review of NATO nuclear policy. There is a widespread concern that the current policy is detrimental to European efforts to prevent proliferation and ensure a successful Review Conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May 2010.

The wall of nuclear weapons-- should NATO leave it standing?

Of key concern amongst parliamentarians and civil society representatives (including Mayors for Peace) are the policies maintaining a significant role for nuclear weapons in NATO security doctrine, and the deployment of nuclear weapons in NATO countries. There are positive signals from some NATO countries, including the United States, indicating that change in the doctrine is now possible. Ivo Daalder, the incoming US Ambassador to NATO, wrote in Foreign Affairs that the US must work with its allies to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines as ‘the first step on the road to zero’ (The Logic of Zero – Towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons).

However, there remains a general lack of confidence that NATO will significantly reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the new Strategic Concept, especially in light of recent comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who remarked that any discussion on reducing US nuclear weapons in NATO countries was complicated and involved security obligations to all NATO states including those in Eastern Europe (Hillary Clinton interview with Dr. Sebastian Hesse-Kastein of MDR Radio, 9 Nov 2009). Thus, parliamentarians from across the political spectrum are taking action in resolutions, parliamentary debates, media statements, forums and joint declarations.

A resolution unanimously adopted by the Italian Parliament on 23 June, for example, calls on the Italian government to foster within NATO a discussion on the need to rethink the role and importance assigned to nuclear weapons, and to promote a European Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (see item 4 below).

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is providing a limited opportunity for parliamentarians from NATO countries to discuss the NATO Strategic Doctrine, in preparation for a report to go from the Assembly to the NATO Strategic Review. However, the focus of these discussions has been more on conventional military arrangements and operations and nuclear non-proliferation. PNND has complemented these discussions by organizing side events at the Berlin NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Edinburgh NATO Parliamentary Assembly in November 2009 specifically on NATO and nuclear weapons issues.

Bill Kidd, MSP

A common theme of the Edinburgh event, hosted by PNND Council Member Bill Kidd, was that there is an increased imperative to make progress on nuclear disarmament in order to ensure a successful Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2010. The failure of the previous NPT Review Conference in 2005 was followed by North Korea withdrawing from the NPT and testing nuclear weapons, Iran stepping up its uranium enrichment program brining it closer to a nuclear weapons capability, and the announcement of a number of Arab states to develop nuclear energy programs.

Another key theme was that the change in policy of the US administration provides a golden opportunity for NATO countries to take significant nuclear disarmament steps without the risk of counter-pressure from the US.

For more information see: NATO Strategic Concept (agreed in 1991)

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