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The P5 are on the run…but toward or away from Nayarit?

January 27, 2014

Thanks to our friend John Burroughs at the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy for tipping us off to the latest piece of evidence that the humanitarian framework for nuclear disarmament is causing indigestion and sleepless nights for the P5, its allies, and its think tanks.

A new “consensus statement” from the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) warns the nuclear-armed states that this new focus on humanitarian impact—in other words, what nuclear weapons actually do when used, regardless of who uses them—is “encouraging opposition to…nuclear deterrence.”

The CSIS is right about that. The only argument the nuclear-armed states have left for keeping weapons that most of the rest of the world has already renounced is “deterrence”: the circular (and preposterous) logic that having them prevents others who have them from using them (with “forever” as a hidden premise). The problem, as often discussed on this blog, is that for deterrence to be credible, everyone who has nuclear weapons has to be willing to use them. And that means being willing to inflict the humanitarian nightmare that would inevitably follow their use. Condemn the willingness to inflict such catastrophic harm—possibly to threaten human existence itself—and you condemn the policy that stands behind the weapons. Condemn the policy, and the weapons themselves have to go. Deterrence and the humanitarian argument are simply incompatible—approximately as incompatible as nuclear weapons are with humanity— and the CSIS gets it.

So do most of the States who went to Oslo last year and who are going to Nayarit in a few weeks. That includes a few uncomfortable NATO States, which apparently has the CSIS and the P3 (US, UK, and France) in a panic. Here’s the CSIS “consensus” on that little fly in the ointment:

We are concerned, however, that some elements within Alliance governments are supporting and encouraging opposition to NATO’s policy of nuclear deterrence. We call upon the officials of our three countries to continue to work within the Alliance and other relevant fora, to remind their colleagues of the risks of undermining a key pillar of both our nations’ security and the transatlantic relationship, and of the importance of the principle of collective responsibility to NATO.

We are specifically concerned about the long-term implications of the conference on Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, the second meeting of which is to be hosted by Mexico on 14 February 2014 with further sessions being planned for South Africa and New Zealand. The P5 declined invitations to the first meeting. In addition to tilting the balance between disarmament and nonproliferation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)…the underlying agenda of some of the participants is to delegitimize nuclear weapons as contrary to international humanitarian law, thereby undercutting the deterrence provided by P3 nuclear capabilities for NATO and non-NATO allies and partners [emphasis added]. We recommend that the P3 (or, ideally, the P5) consider whether declining again presents the best response. P3 deterrence policy has long recognized that major war between nuclear powers involves the possibility of nuclear escalation, which would have devastating humanitarian consequences. The deterrence and assurance provided by P3 nuclear capabilities has contributed to the prevention of major power war and has arguably been the most successful nonproliferation mechanism of all time. Attending the Mexico conference would enable the P5 to offer an alternative strategic narrative, countering the nuclear delegitimization campaign by asserting positively the contributions of nuclear deterrence to international security and stability. Therefore, we recommend that the P3 consult urgently, first among themselves and then with Russia and China, on whether to decline invitations to the Mexico conference or to attend in order to moderate the outcome by offering an alternative strategic narrative, policy approach, and agenda.”

In case you missed that, the CSIS is counseling the P3/5 not to repeat the boycott of Oslo, but to go to Nayarit for the purpose of derailing the agenda, which it correctly understands as dismissing the dangerous and anachronistic language of deterrence in favor of humanitarian principles that will put the disarmament train onto a fast track. If the P3/5 do come to Nayarit to pursue this shameful agenda, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame for the opprobrium they will encounter.

Rather than trying to stop such a movement before it gets started, the nuclear-armed states should come to Nayarit to participate constructively in the effort to increase public and governmental knowledge about the medical, environmental, and humanitarian catastrophe that would follow any use of nuclear weapons, and to lead a process that will ban and eliminate them.

One Comment
  1. January 27, 2014 2:24 pm

    Very interesting—we should welcome the P3 desire to provide the “alternative strategic narrative,” bring ’em on…

    Of note in the full piece is the mulling over of allowing the consideration of nuclear “deterrence” of attacks on defined strategic assets such as space-based systems, computers, whereby to date it has been nuclear weapons powers most involved in such hacking of assets, most prominently in my view the Stuxnet attack by US/Israel overtly opening the Pandora’s box on this, always “defense” on “our” side of course, Bob.

    >________________________________ > From: IPPNW peace and health blog >To: >Sent: Monday, January 27, 2014 10:09 AM >Subject: [New post] The P5 are on the run…but toward or away from Nayarit? > > > > >John Loretz posted: “Thanks to our friend John Burroughs at the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy for tipping us off to the latest piece of evidence that the humanitarian framework for nuclear disarmament is causing indigestion and sleepless nights for the P5, its allies, a” >

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