Statement on NATO Nuclear Strategy Review, No First Use, Pre-emptive Counter-Proliferation
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address this meeting. It is especially timely to highlight the ramifications to the NPT of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, finalized just two weeks ago at the NATO Summit. NATO has announced that it will start a review of its non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament policy, and will provide the initial results of this in December 1999. Until then it is likely that NATO will decide either to increase the role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance, or to decrease this role and make substantive progress on Articles I, II and VI of the NPT. Of these two options, only the latter is compatible with strengthening the NPT.
In this statement we will first comment on the role of nuclear weapons in NATO, the continuation of nuclear sharing arrangements and the possible introduction of counterproliferation tasks. We will then comment on NATO’s new arms control policy review, and finally on NATO-Russia relation.
First, we draw your attention to the role of nuclear weapons in NATO. None of the fundamental principles of NATO’s nuclear weapons policy have changed in the new Strategic Concept. Thus, NATO still reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first in any military conflict, nuclear weapons are still considered ‘an essential political and military link between Europe and the North American members of the Alliance’, and NATO will continue its controversial and unique policy of nuclear sharing.
It is unacceptable that NATO has not further downgraded the role of nuclear weapons in the Alliance. NATO should make explicit that it has no use for nuclear weapons other than to repel nuclear attack, by adopting a ‘no first use’ policy. As all Alliance members are states party to the NPT and committed to the aims of the Treaty, NATO should also make clear that its ultimate goal is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. In the interim, language is required to clarify that nuclear weapons are solely weapons of last resort, spelling out that ‘last resort’ covers only the one case the International Court of Justice did not rule out as illegal, namely if the very survival of a state is at stake.
In addition, we draw your attention to the continuation of nuclear sharing within NATO, which is itself a refutation of, and challenge to, the international norm against ownership and use of nuclear weapons. NATO is the only military alliance in which nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states participate together in‘collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on [non-nuclear-weapon state] territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements’. (our emphasis) We raise once again the question of whether NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements contravene Articles I and II. It is clear that there is serious concern about this, as was expressed by the Non-Aligned Movement working paper at last year’s PrepCom and the South African statements in 1997. The NPT Review Process is the appropriate forum to address this question.
The new strategy for the first time commits NATO’s military capabilities to playing a role in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, while stopping short of openly assigning them a role in pre-emptive military action. We are worried that this could be interpreted in different ways, paving the way to a future expansion of the role of nuclear weapons within the Alliance to explicitly include counterproliferation tasks. This would violate the negative security assurances of NATO’s nuclear weapon states given in UN Security Council Resolutions 984 and 255, which do not exclude biological- and chemical- armed non-nuclear-weapon states.
Moreover, NATO’s nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states would violate Articles I and II of the NPT if nuclear counterproliferation were officially included in NATO's nuclear strategy. Under NATO's nuclear sharing arrangements, counterproliferation would require non-nuclear-weapon states to prepare for and participate in NATO nuclear missions against non-nuclear-weapon states believed to own or have used biological or chemical weapons - a clear violation of the NPT commitment to not transfer the control of nuclear weapons. Even NATO's heavily disputed ‘war-time exemption’ (which it uses to legitimize its nuclear sharing arrangements) does not allow NATO's non-nuclear-weapon members to participate in offensive nuclear counterproliferation missions. When explaining the ‘war-time exemption’ at the time of ratifying the NPT, US officials made it clear that it referred to general war, defined as the time during and after a massive nuclear exchange, not regional wars. Thus, outside of general war the use of US nuclear weapons by an allied nation constitutes a violation of Articles I and II even by NATO standards.
Further, linking military capabilities to counterproliferation implies that NATO is undermining the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Counterproliferation tasks involve preparing unilateral measures to respond to possible proliferation, instead of promoting the internationally agreed mechanisms to deter and respond to chemical and biological warfare proliferation.
We now draw your attention to NATO’s new arms control policy review process. The Alliance’s Summit Communiqué announces ‘In the light of overall strategic developments and the reduced salience of nuclear weapons, the Alliance will consider options for confidence and security building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament’. We strongly support the position of the German and Canadian Foreign Ministries that this process should include a full review of NATO’s nuclear doctrine, and emphasize that the review should be as comprehensive and transparent as possible. NATO has pledged to report the initial findings of the review to the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in December 1999. NGOs and the public will carefully watch the outcome, which may provide important input for the 2000 NPT Review Conference. We are encouraged by the vote on the New Agenda Resolution 53/77Y last year in the General Assembly, especially since it had some support from a majority of NATO states. These states must now make sure that NATO seriously considers the proposals made in the resolution.
Finally, we call on NATO to honour its commitment to develop good relations with Russia. NATO should make its agreement not to deploy nuclear weapons in the Alliance’s new member states in peace time legally binding. In addition, NATO must take care that any possible future enlargement is handled sensitively. NATO should attempt to revive and strengthen the activities of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, the only body currently consulting on nuclear arms control and disarmament on a multilateral level.
We also call on NATO to end its nuclear sharing arrangements, by withdrawing all its European-based tactical nuclear weapons. Such disarmament is in the interest of both NATO and Russia for at least three reasons. First it serves to protect against the risk that Russia may develop her version of a flexible response strategy, a decision which has already been indicated by initial Russian steps to develop a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons. Second it would give NATO political leverage to embark on new arms control arrangements with Russia, which is especially important now that the START process has come to a halt. And third it would stimulate comprehensive international disarmament, thereby fulfilling Article VI commitments.
To conclude. More than ten years after the end of the Cold War, it is high time that NATO aligns its nuclear policy with the NPT. The current policy includes aspects out of step with today’s security environment. NATO - by far the strongest military alliance in the world - could reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons without any loss of security or cohesion in the organization. The new arms control review is the last opportunity before the year 2000 NPT Review Conference for NATO members to indicate whether they will undertake substantive nuclear disarmament measures, or whether they intend to rely on nuclear weapons indefinitely. Either way the repercussions for the NPT will be great.
CONVENOR: HENRIETTA WILSON
 1999 NATO Strategic Concept