Moscow, April 22, 2009
The global financial and economic crisis has temporarily overshadowed the issues of nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Unprecedented and unexpected problems of economic welfare and even survival directly affecting all segments of society in all countries all over the world have pushed aside long-term issues of preventing nuclear catastrophe that have been on the agenda of world policy for a long time.
Nonetheless, despite its importance, the economic crisis cannot serve as an excuse for ignoring control over nuclear weapons, materials and technologies. Moreover, the crisis has clearly demonstrated the universal interdependence of world powers and other countries. This interdependence allows no return to the nuclear arms race and their proliferation. More than ever, the crisis highlighted the need for all leading states to cooperate in the name of counteracting economic and military threats posed to global security. The economic crisis has caused severe damage to the global economy, but it will end sooner or later and give way to economic growth, while a nuclear catastrophe, if not prevented, will put an end to both the global economy and our civilisation.
The major goal of today’s meeting of Luxembourg Forum experts is to analyse issues relating to further limitation of START and elaboration of a new treaty between Russia and the U.S. to substitute START I, which expires December 5, 2009. This issue is of particular importance in light of the forthcoming final meeting of the Preparatory Committee before the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Our work is conducted in the context of the general activities of the International Luxembourg Forum, focused on major aspects of preventing a nuclear catastrophe.
It is generally accepted that the 2005 NPT Conference was almost a complete fiasco, as its participants did not manage to adopt any resolution to reinforce NPT regimes and mechanisms. If the same happens to the 2010 Conference, it is quite possible that this treaty will officially collapse or, at the very least, cease to be a central pillar of global security.
The major reason for the failure of the 2005 Conference was the absence of progress in the P-5 performing their obligations to conduct nuclear disarmament negotiations according to Article VI of the NPT. If there are no advances in this area, the 2010 Conference will be doomed to failure. And if that happens, it is likely that no new steps will be taken to reinforce the NPT.
Luxembourg Forum experts are convinced that NPT negotiations between Russia and the U.S. held in this context will be of great significance apart from their importance as for the substance of the matter, as a forum for reinforcing strategic stability while decreasing levels of strategic nuclear arsenals.
Reduction of nuclear arsenals by the world powers will serve as a sign to threshold countries to think of the need to conduct research work in this area. First of all, we have in mind a general atmosphere of perceiving global security in which states declare a permanent stance on nuclear weapons regardless of what factors may influence this attitude at any given moment. It is also obvious that, since the 1990s, the opposing policies adopted by world powers and the three states that did not join the NPT have created an atmosphere in which nuclear weapons are increasingly attractive to governments and the public in an ever larger circle of countries.
The connection between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can be worded as follows. In and of itself, fulfilling nuclear disarmament obligations pursuant to Article VI does not guarantee nuclear non-proliferation given the diversity and complexity of motives of the latter. In order to ensure that, numerous additional measures are required to reinforce and develop the NPT, its norms and mechanisms (including joint military actions, as a measure of last resort). However, failure by the nuclear powers to fulfil their obligations under Article VI practically guarantees further nuclear proliferation and makes it exceedingly difficult to reinforce the non-proliferation regime and system. Thus, use of force becomes the only solution remaining, and it is often unilateral force lying outside the international legal framework. As showed by the war in Iraq in 2003, this kind of “remedy” can be worse than the “disease,” and may lead to exactly the opposite consequences, including the aspect of nuclear non-proliferation.
Today such mechanisms exist only on paper, if they exist at all under the NPT, which is confirmed by the current actions of Iran’s leadership. Iran continues to be a threshold state that has come quite close to creating both nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles, despite all the UN Security Council sanctions and calls from the international community. The danger of this situation does not only lie in the fact that Iran becomes uncontrollable for international organisations. Iran with nuclear weapons may lead to a potential conflict in the Middle East (with the prospect for a global catastrophe). It may also result in proliferation of “nuclear terrorism,” as Tehran supports Islamic terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The danger is also that Iran may use its “nuclear bomb” as a convenient tool for blackmailing the international community, giving it the opportunity to propagate racist and hatred ideas with impunity under the umbrella of the leading international organisation, which was demonstrated this week at the UN conference on racism in Geneva (so-called Durban II).
The experience of the past fifteen years has proved that we should pay attention primarily to the two following issues.
First, in order to drastically change the stance of strategic mutual nuclear deterrence between Russia and the U.S., a stance which is based on plans to potentially launch mutual crushing nuclear strikes, it is not enough to stop considering each other enemies. Nuclear powers must become full-fledged military and political allies (like the U.S., Great Britain and France). There is a great distance between enmity and such a union. Until this distance is covered, partnership requires serious and consistent disarmament negotiations and treaties so that cooperation prevails over confrontation in the military sphere. Otherwise, any aggravation of political disagreement against a backdrop of mutual nuclear deterrence will immediately generate mutual animosity, suspicion and another arms race (as we see happening now regarding plans to locate the U.S. ABM system in Europe or to expand NATO).
Second, the Russian-U.S. dialogue on strategic weapons is an irreplaceable framework for mutual relations between the two world powers to stabilise global policy in general. Without it, endless conflicts and confrontation can make the process uncontrollable.
This, in addition to military issues, is why it is important to prevent a treaty/strategic vacuum or even a long-term break after START I expires in 2009. By properly supporting this treaty, which is a pillar supporting Russian-U.S. relations and global security, the two powers could take the next 3-4 years to elaborate a more radical long-term treaty without any pressure.
Finally, this is a matter of eliminating the nuclear warheads that are being reduced, both tactical and strategic weapons (especially by means of “unloading”).
The final document of the Rome Seminar of the Luxembourg Forum (June 2008) contained a recommendation to Russian and U.S. leaders on the necessity of renewing “active efforts aimed at conducting negotiations in order to sign a treaty that would follow START I.” Today it becomes a reality. The first important step in this direction was the April 2009 meeting in London between the Russian and the U.S. Presidents and the agreement reached there to commence bilateral talks to elaborate a new full-scale, legally binding agreement on reduction and limitation of strategic nuclear arms to replace START.
It is comforting to see that authorities in Russia, the U.S. and other countries are more and more often turning to experts when formulating important resolutions, including in the military and political spheres. Hoping for a continuance of this trend, the International Luxembourg Forum is ready to continue offering its expert resources for elaboration of significant practical resolutions.
One of the most important outcomes of this meeting, besides its deep analysis of the stated problems, is its final document, a practical text containing recommendations by recognised experts. Following Forum traditions, this document will be sent to leaders of concerned states and the heads of international security institutions.