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The Trident White Paper - 3. the international implications

not just a blow to the British people – it is a blow against the majority world

Hans Blix, the UN WMD expert, has warned that the decision will make it more difficult to stop Iran acquiring the bomb, pointing out “the strong feelings of frustration” among non-nuclear states that they are being “cheated” by Britain and the other nuclear powers.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, first signed in 1970, then extended indefinitely in 1995 strikes a bargain. Non-nuclear weapons states agree not to acquire nuclear weapons on the grounds that those who have them agree, under Article VI, to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
In his report on WMDs for the Stockholm Commission, Blix found that non-nuclear weapons countries “do not accept a de facto perpetuation of a licence for five or more states to possess nuclear weapon. Renouncing nuclear weapons for themselves, they wish to see steps that will lead to the outlawing of nuclear weapons for all.”

Furthermore, he reported, “France and the UK will have to decide whether it will be meaningful to retain costly nuclear arsenals that were developed for an enemy that no longer exists. Both countries are now at a cross-roads: going down one road would show their conviction that nuclear weapons are not necessary for their security, while the other would demonstrate to all other states a belief that these weapons continue to be indispensable.” Blix was right on WMD in Iraq, and I believe his words here succinctly summarise the effect of any vote by Labour and the Conservatives to replace Trident.

The International Court of Justice of the UN 10 years ago ruled unanimously that, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.” Blair’s decision to commit Britain to another 40 years of nuclear weapons demonstrates to the world contempt for international law and our Treaty commitments. Why should anyone else honour where we show contempt?

Ten years ago the NPT was extended indefinitely on the eve of its expiry; the comprehensive test ban treaty was concluded; chemical weapons were outlawed; weapons programmes in Iraq had been ended, and in North Korea had been negotiated away.

Since then, although South Africa and three former Soviet republics have given up their nuclear weapons unilaterally, the need for nuclear disarmament has become much more pressing. There are still 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world, many on hair trigger alert. The 2005 NPT review conference failed to agree any steps forward, North Korea has tested a nuclear bomb, Iran is clearly trying to move towards that, and he Geneva conference on Disarmament has been stagnant for a decade. Meanwhile Britain’s White Paper on Trident replacement specifically states “we will not rule in or out the first use of nuclear weapons.”

Scottish CND delegation to British CND’s Annual Conference Oct 06

No wonder Kofi Annan has warned, “We are witnessing continued efforts to strengthen and modernise nuclear arsenals. We also face a real threat that nuclear weapons will spread. Without concerted action, we may face a cascade of nuclear proliferation.”

It is urgent and imperative that we build the campaign in Britain against Trident and its replacement. We must also be ready to see the Westminster vote in March as the first step in the campaign and not, as Blair hopes, the last.
The Swedish government’s independent commission on WMDs chaired by Blix has proposed a positive and implementable series of recommendations to move disarmament forward (www.wmdcommission.org)
The Commission recognises that the Treaty is under strain, but points out that there is an overwhelming commitment to the Treaty by the majority of the world.

The regional nuclear-free weapons zones have been particularly successful, particularly in limiting nuclear weapons in the southern hemisphere. The partial test ban Treaty has been successful, banning testing everywhere except underground, and while the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, it has generally been upheld. Thousands of nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from service since the end of the Cold War. But nuclear proliferation is on a knife edge. Now is the time, again, to get active in this campaign.

If Britain decides to replace Trident, and if this decision is not continuously challenged until it is reversed, New Labour will have had the same effect on international nuclear security as its foreign policy has had on stability in the Middle East.

Chris Ballance MSP
Green speaker on nuclear issues

 

 
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