Monday, December 22, 2008

Zero Global Zero

A new international group has been formed to campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Chock full of celebrities, political moves and shakers from the U.S. and around the world (e.g. former President Jimmy Carter; former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci; former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; Shaharyar Khan, a former Pakistani foreign minister; retired Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi of India; and Malcolm Rifkind, a former British foreign secretary); and retired military men from multiple countries, etc. , they launched their efforts in Paris. The group is called Global Zero.

From the Global Zero web site: "... One hundred international political, military, business, and civic leaders from across political lines launched a new initiative today in Paris to eliminate nuclear weapons globally to combat the threat of proliferation and nuclear terrorism. Called Global Zero, the initiative will combine high-level policy work with global public outreach to achieve a binding agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons through phased and verified reductions. Each leader has signed a Global Zero declaration calling for a binding, verifiable agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons by a date certain. The group is developing a step-by-step plan to eliminate nuclear weapons ... Global Zero leaders emphasized that eliminating nuclear weapons will not happen overnight but instead must be done through phased and verified reductions over a period of years. Key steps include:
  • Deep reductions to Russian-U.S. arsenals, which comprise 96% of the world’s 27,000 nuclear weapons.
  • Russia and the United States, joined by other nuclear weapons states, cut arsenals to zero in phased reductions.
  • Establishing verification systems and international management of the fuel cycle to prevent future development of nuclear weapons.

... To finalize the step-by-step plan, Global Zero will form an international commission of distinguished political and military leaders and policy experts from key countries. Jointly led by two prominent individuals – one from Russia and one from the United States – to be named soon, the Global Zero Commission will emphasize establishing a Russian-U.S. partnership to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons ..."

The group "envisions U.S.-Russian negotiations to cut back nuclear stockpiles to roughly 1,000 weapons apiece, from current arsenals of about 5,000 warheads each, followed by a second phase bringing in countries such as China, Britain and France. From there the aim would be to attract would-be members of the nuclear club, such as Iran." The aim is to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons by 2035.

This effort is a successor to previous calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons. For example, in January of 2007 George P. Shultz (former U.S. SecState), William J. Perry (former U.S. SecDef), Henry A. Kissinger (former U.S. SecState), and Sam Nunn (former U.S. Senator) penned a Wall Street Journal article, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons. In June of 2008 Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Lord Hurd of Westwell and Lord Owen (all former British foreign secretaries); and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen (a former NATO Secretary-General) penned 'Start worrying and learn to ditch the bomb' in the Times.

This blogger is not much impressed with any of these worthies and their putative calls for nuclear disarmament! While getting much laudatory press coverage, and gathering kudos and encomiums for their foresight and brilliance, they somehow manage to ensure a process that will be long and drawn out; they end up engaging in a lot of talk, somehow without putting any sort of pressure on the current nuclear "haves"; and generally the result is a lot of activity that produces few tangible results other than these worthies gaining kudos for being thought leaders!

The latest group effort seems to be in the same vein. Global Zero also includes stalwarts from the political, military, and defense establishments of France and the U.K. all of whom are deeply committed to the notion of nuclear disarmament! So much so that they want the United States and Russia to spend several years negotiating deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals BEFORE they take a look at their own nuclear arsenals! This blogger would like to know why the immediate elimination of the 'independent' nuclear forces of the U.K. and France is not Step 1 in their plan. This blogger would strongly argue that a key test of the seriousness of any plan put forth to achieve nuclear disarmament is whether they have this as the first step! If not, the plan is not a serious one.

Were the British and French to denuclearize they could/would immediately be seamlessly covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, as is most of the rest of Europe. Is there any real, credible reason for these two countries to have their own nuclear weapons? Does anyone in their right mind really believe that the U.K. would ever use their nuclear weapons without the assent and permission of the United States? (Read, and get a chuckle out of the ArmsControlWonk's blog entry, 'Britain's Independent Deterrent.') It is abundantly clear (once you cut through the thickets of verbiage about deterrence, etc.) that in reality Britain has its "independent" nuclear forces, and France has its "force de frappe" almost if not exclusively for reasons of national prestige... The nuclear "have-nots" see this clearly and have taken away the lesson that having nuclear weapons lends prestige and 'heft' to a country. Without its nuclear weapons and without its permanent seat on the Security Council (an artifact of WW II) Britain clearly would be a second-rate political and economic power, and would play a much smaller role on the world stage.

It is precisely for this reason (i.e. the knowing and understanding of this across the world) that if the denuclearization of France and the U.K were to occur as an immediate first step, then countries around the world would immediately understand that it was no longer lip service but a serious effort; that calls for disarmament were not just one-sided, calling for the "have-nots" to give up something while the "haves' do not; that the promise of the NPT was beginning to be fulfilled; and many/most (but not all) countries around the world would be galvanized by this!

Sadly, this is precisely why this has not and probably will not happen any time soon, none of the worthies involved, especially the British and French establishments, are about to volunteer to go first. Once in office a President Obama should slowly ratchet up pressure on these two countries until they agree to this plan...

Getting to Global Zero (Nuclear Weapons)
World leaders try to ban nuclear weapons
The Logic of Zero: Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons
To Nuclear Disarmers, It's Too Early to Worry About Violators

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