Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Nuclear WMD disarmament: Unilateralists are mulitlateralists who really mean it

In the current dispute over nuclear weapons between Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his front bench shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, and shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, the latter two always persist in asserting they support renewal of Trident (WMD nuclear system) while backing long-term multilateral nuclear disarmament.

In so saying Ms Eagle and Mr Benn align themselves with Conservative Defence secretary Michael Fallon, who told Parliament in a debate on Trident renewal in January this year “we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (Hansard, 20 January, column 105,

Eleven months on, on 10 November, defence minister  Philip Dunn answered a written Parliamentary question from Labour backbencher, Paul Flynn MP, -who had asked the Defence Secretary how many UK nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from operational service as a result of (a) multilateral negotiation and (b) unilateral action since 1985 - with the following

The UK has a strong record on nuclear disarmament. Since 1985 the WE 177 and Polaris warheads have been removed from operational service leaving only one type of nuclear warhead in service delivered by the Trident missile system. These withdrawals from operational service have been as a result of unilateral action As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence set out in his Written Ministerial Statement of 20 January 2015 (Official Report, column 4WS) the Government has met its commitment to implement the changes announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 to reduce the number of operationally available warheads from fewer than 160 to no more than 120.

Thus, despite protestations to support multilateral,  ie negotiated nuclear disarmament, not one single nuclear warhead has been negotiated away by any Tory government, or Labour government supporting multilateralism, in the past 30 years..

The only nuclear disarmament has been by unilateral action, by both Tories and Labour.

Last week the Tory government had the opportunity at the United Nations in New York to support several multilateral resolutions supporting multilateral m nuclear disarmament.

Because not one British newspaper or broadcaster now has a full time United Nations correspondent, nobody in the UK  has any idea that these resolutions to the  UN General Assembly we were even proposed; or that the multilateral-supporting UK Government rejected them! 

Here are extracts from the resolution as proposed, inter alia, by Austria, Ireland, Mexico and the Marshall Islands  (on which the United States tested many huge hydrogen nuclear bombs) on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolutions 67/56 of 3 December 2012, 68/46 of 5 December 2013 and 69/41 of 2 December 2014 on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,

Deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons,

Welcoming the efforts by Member States to secure progress in multilateral disarmament and the support of the Secretary-General for such efforts, and recalling in this regard the Secretary-General’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament,

Reaffirming the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, and determined to promote multilateralism as an essential way to develop arms regulation and disarmament negotiations,

Recognizing the absence of concrete outcomes of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the United Nations framework for almost two decades,

Recognizing also that the current international climate makes increased political attention to disarmament and non-proliferation issues, the promotion of multilateral disarmament and moving towards a world without nuclear weapons all the more urgent,

Welcoming the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament, held on 26 September 2013 pursuant to its resolution 67/39 of 3 December 2012, which highlighted the wish of the international community for progress in this field, and noting its resolution 68/32 of 5 December 2013 as a follow-up to this meeting,

Welcoming also the report on the work of the Open-ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, submitted pursuant to its resolution 67/565 and referenced in its resolution 68/46, and noting with appreciation the report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to its resolution 68/46,6 containing the views of Member States on how to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, including the steps that Member States have already taken to that end,

Welcoming further the efforts by all Member States, international organizations and civil society to continue to enrich the discussions on how to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in the United Nations bodies in which disarmament and peace and security are addressed, taking into account the report of the Open-ended Working Group and the proposals contained therein,

Recognizing the important contribution that international organizations, civil society, academia and research make to multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control processes,

1. Reiterates that the universal objective of taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations remains the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, and emphasizes the importance of addressing issues related to nuclear weapons in a comprehensive, inclusive, interactive and constructive manner, for the advancement of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations;

3. Decides that the open-ended working group shall also substantively address recommendations on other measures that could contribute to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, including but not limited to: (a) transparency measures related to the risks associated with existing nuclear weapons; (b) measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of accidental, mistaken, unauthorized or intentional nuclear weapon detonations; and (c) additional measures to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of and interrelationship between the wide range of humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear detonation;

4. Encourages all Member States to participate in the open-ended working group;

5. Decides that the open-ended working group shall convene in Geneva, in 2016, as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly and under its rules of procedure, for up to 15 working days, within available time frames, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society representatives, in accordance with established practice, and shall hold its organizational session as soon as possible;

8. Requests the Secretary-General to provide, within available resources, the support necessary to convene the open-ended working group and to transmit the report of the working group to the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission and to the international conference foreseen in paragraph 6 of resolution 68/32;

9. Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session, under the item entitled “General and complete disarmament”, the sub-item entitled:

“Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations”.

 [United Nations A/C.1/70/L.13/Rev.1 General Assembly Distribution.: Limited 29 October 2015; Seventieth session, First Committee, Agenda item 97 (bb);]

Here is the mealy-mouthed so called  Explanation of vote presented on 2 November by Ambassador Alice Guitton, Permanent Representative of France to the UN Conference on Disamament, on behalf of the UK, the US the People's Republic of China, and the Russian Federation, ie the self-appointed nuclear weapons states

“As NPT nuclear-weapon States, our five countries reaffinn the shared goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament as referenced in the preamble and provided for in Article VI of the NPT. In this regard, we remain steadfast in our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

We continue to pursue progressive and concrete steps towards this end in a way that promotes international stability, peace and security, and based on the principle of increased and undiminished security for all. An instrument such as a ban without the support and participation of the nuclear-weapon States would not eliminate nuclear weapons, but would rather undennine the NPT regime which is indispensable to the maintenance of international peace and security. Significant achievements have already been made within this framework.

An incremental, step-by-step approach is the only practical option for making progress towards nuclear disarmament, taking into account all factors that could affect global strategic security and stability. All States can help fulfill this goal by creating the necessary security environment through resolving regional tensions, tackling proliferation challenges, promoting collective security, and making progress in all areas of arms control and disarmament.

The NPT and the existing machinery set out in the Final Document of SSOD-1 have proven to be a solid framework to advance nuclear disarmament and provide all opportunities for launching a constructive and mutually respectful dialogue. However, we remain open to other channels of discussion, not excluding an appropriately-mandated OEWG, provided that they are conducive to a constructive dialogue. Productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach. To ensure such an approach is genuinely inclusive and fully anchored in the security context, States must agree in advance on the key parameters of the process ahead.

L.13/Rev .1 lacks all those vital components that would guarantee both a meaningful collaboration and a productive outcome as a result of concerted collective effort. This resolution attempts to promote nuclear disarmament whilst ignoring security considerations. We do not believe that such an approach can effectively lead to concrete progress. Our five States, like many others present here, are concerned with this divisive approach, which in no way brings the international community closer to nuclear disamament.

For these reasons, our five countries voted against this draft resolution, while reaffirming our commitment to continue our individual and collective efforts, including through the P5 process, to advance nuclear disarmament.”

 [L.13/Rev.1 "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations", New York, 2 November 2015;]

Yet political leaders still proclaim to back nuclear disarmament.

President Obama has said earlier this year in March: “As I stated in Prague in 2009, reinforced in Berlin in 2013, and again reaffirmed last month in my National Security Strategy, the United States seeks the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”(

After their meeting on 6 February this year organized in London by the Foreign Office,  the UN Security Council Permanent Five member states – the UK, US, Russia, France and China - dubbed the “P5”-  the collected diplomats issued a joint statement through the Foreign Office which included a very interesting passage, considering it is co-signed by Russia, stating: 
At their 2015 Conference the P5 restated their belief that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the essential cornerstone for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and is an essential contribution to international security and stability..... The P5 reaffirmed that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament that promotes international stability, peace and undiminished and increased security for all remains the only realistic and practical route to achieving a world without nuclear weapons..”

Back in June 2007, as  Margaret Beckett (now Dame Margaret) was coming to the end of her time as Foreign Secretary under the last Labour Government, she made a very important speech to a prestigious and influential annual conference held in Washington DC by the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace

 Dame Margaret called for negotiators to take additional steps toward nuclear disarmament, stressing:

  “The judgment we made 40 years ago [at the NPT’s signing] that the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons was in all our interests is just as true today as it was then. For more than 60 years, good management and good fortune have meant that nuclear arsenals have not been used, but we cannot rely just on history to repeat itself.”

[Keynote address at Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, Washington, D.C., June 25, 2007]

 These were very wise words then, and remain just as wise today. Labour current spokespeople and the Tory government should pay special heed to her sage counsel.

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