NATO and the Future Role of Nuclear Weapons

Seminar at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
German Parliament
PNND Event Report

On May 25, 2008, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) held a seminar at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin on NATO and the Future Role of Nuclear Weapons with particular focus on steps that would support the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) leading up to its review in 2010.

Ana Maria Gomes and Uta Zapf

Current NATO doctrine asserts that nuclear deterrence remains an essential component of NATO security, and that the deployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in NATO countries is necessary for this doctrine.

However such nuclear policies have been criticised by a number of States Parties to the NPT as being against the spirit, if not the letter of the NPT – which prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons from nuclear weapon States to non-nuclear weapon States. In addition, holding onto nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons does nothing to encourage other countries such as India, Israel and Pakistan to abandon nuclear weapons and join the NPT. Such policies could also contribute to the decisions by other States such as Iran to develop nuclear fuel technologies that could give them a nuclear weapons capacity in the future.

Due to of a changing strategic environment, NATO is undertaking a review of its strategic doctrine. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly provides one of the few democratic forums where the issues can be discussed and a new non-nuclear doctrine advocated.   

The PNND/ Friedrich Ebert Foundation event featured two key parliamentarians from NATO countries – Uta Zapf who is Chair of the German Parliament Subcommittee on Disarmament, Arms Control and Security, and Ana Maria Gomes who is a Portuguese member of the European Parliament and is Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence. They were joined by Pol D’Huyvetter from Mayors for Peace, and two experts on nuclear weapons policies and deployments in Europe – Dr. Hans M. Kristensen, Nuclear Information Program of the Federation of American Scientists and Martin Butcher, Acronym Institute.

Uta Zapf opened with a strong call for withdrawal of US nuclear weapons form Europe and support for a nuclear weapons convention. Ana Maria Gomez spoke about the need and possibilities for parliamentarians to challenge hypocritical and unrealistic counter-proliferation strategies within NATO. Martin Butcher gave a very informative history of the involvement of key NATO leaders (parliamentarians, defence ministers etc.) in positive non-proliferation and disarmament steps in the past, and called for similar actions today. Hans Kristensen gave a very useful update and analysis of NATO nuclear doctrine and weapons deployments. Pol D’Huyvetter reported on the initiatives of mayors, grassroots activists and parliamentarians regarding the removal of tactical nuclear weapons and establishment of a European Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

There was dynamic discussion – especially from UK and French parliamentarians present – on different approaches to disarmament and the emerging threats (i.e., terrorism, Iran etc).

PNND distributed a press release at the event calling on “NATO and other countries ‘defended’ by nuclear weapons to abandon the out-dated doctrine of nuclear deterrence and redirect nuclear weapons budgets to meeting social and development goals.”

“Most people in NATO countries don’t realise that their governments continue to sanction the use of nuclear weapons,” said Uta Zapf. “Nor do they realise that some NATO countries – Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey – still host US nuclear weapons on their soil for use if conflict breaks out. Nuclear weapons, like landmines and cluster munitions, are indiscriminate, inhumane, immoral and illegal. They must all be prohibited and eliminated.”

PNND also used the occasion to highlight International Womens’ Day for Disarmament which occurred on May 24 the opening day of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. A statement released on May 24 by the five PNND Co-Presidents – all of whom are women – appeals to “world leaders and all citizens to re-dedicate themselves to implementing the goals of the United Nations for a world of peace and security through disarmament, the non-violent resolution of conflicts, and the reallocation of resources from military budgets to meet social and development goals.”

The statement notes that “The threats to our planet – of climate change, poverty and war – can only be overcome by nations and the global community working in cooperation – something not possible while nations maintain large and expensive militaries and threaten to destroy each other.”

The next NATO Parliamentary Assembly is in Valencia, Spain from November 14-18. PNND encourages parliamentarians from NATO countries to use this event to become more engaged in the issue of NATO’s nuclear doctrine and to contribute to the development of NATO’s new Strategic Concept.

PNND Bundestag  
(L-R:) Alyn Ware (PNND), Martin Butcher (Acronym Institute), Christos Katsioulis (FES), Ana Maria Gomes, MP, Uta Zapf, MdB, Hans Kristensen (FAS), Pol D’Huyvetter (MfP)




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