Dutch Defend Nuclear Sharing in New York

In a surprising statement this morning at the disarmament committee of the NPT Review Conference, the Dutch Delegation defended nuclear sharing practices.  Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast saidSome have raised the issue of nuclear sharing. This issue was addressed when the NPT was negotiated. At that time basing arrangements existed and were made clear to negotiating delegations and were made public.” Unfortunately, this is not accurate.

In February 1969, six months after the NPT signing ceremony, the then deputy director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), Adrian Fisher, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Questions on the Draft Non-Proliferation Treaty asked by US Allies together with Answers given by the United States  “were made available to key members of the ENDC [Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee]. They have now been made available to all members of the UN, and an indication that this is the way the United States proposed to proceed. There has been no indication of objections.”.

At the most, the Questions and Answers were shown to a limited number of nations prior to the opening of the Treaty for signature. Although, they were published later in the volumes on US Senate hearings on ratification of the NPT, many countries may not have been made aware of these interpretations before agreeing to the Treaty.  Therefore they would have been unable utilise this information in the negotiations, or to consent or object to the interpretation. The suggestion that this issue was addressed at the time of negotiation is a false re-interpretation of history.

The outcome documents from previous NPTs, notably the 1985 outcome document, specifically reject the claim that nuclear sharing is acceptable. Belgian, Dutch, German, and Italian pilots continue to train to accept command and control of nuclear weapons, to drop nuclear bombs. That acceptance of control, regardless of arrangements put into place before this treaty entered into force, are a direct violation of both articles I and II of the treaty. It is also unfortunate that the Dutch are attempting to justify a policy that clearly contradicts the 2010 agreement under Action 1 of the consensus outcome “All States parties commit to pursue policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Dutch public has overwhelming rejected nuclear weapons in repeated opinion polls, and the Dutch parliament has repeatedly agreed on motions to reduce Dutch reliance on nuclear weapons, it’s time for the government to listen.

Additional comments by Wilbert van der Zeijden:

In addition to the comments of Susi Snyder, I would like to add two points myself on the surprising Dutch attempt to defend its nuclear sharing practices.

The main argument the Dutch statement offers, that nuclear sharing is not in violation of articles I and II of the NPT  because “basing arrangements existed and were made clear to negotiating delegations and were made public” rests on a very static interpretation of the NPT. Most experts, as well as diplomats recognise that the NPT is a deliberately vague and short set of Articles that requires continuous evaluation, and review. Hence these Review Conferences. It is usually considered a strong feature of the NPT: It allows the Treaty to remain relevant and applicable to a changed context. And the context has changed. This is not the bipolar world of 1970 but a world in which only the US still deploys nuclear weapons on the territories of others. The five year review cycle is meant to review the Treaty and shape a common understanding of the implications of the various articles. So, in stead of hiding behind a questionable understanding of what the interpretation may have been of Articles I and II in 1970, the Dutch should recognise that many (not “some”) countries raise the issue that in the current context, US deployments of nuclear bombs in Europe should no longer be regarded as being in line with Articles I and II of the Treaty. Ignoring this in favour of an 1970 interpretation undermines the flexibility and therefore the applicability of this Treaty.

The Dutch Statement says that “Weapons assigned to NATO remain under national control of a nuclear weapon state at all times and are never transferred”. This is either completely new policy or – more likely – not true. In times of nuclear war these B61 bombs will be transferred to Dutch, Belgian, German and Italian pilots and crews who will hang them under the wings of Dutch, Belgian, German and Italian planes and drop them on targets. The total explosive power transferred to these non-nuclear weapon states is enough to cause between 160 and 200 nuclear explosions the size of Hiroshima, or bigger. The Dutch, Belgian, German and Italian crews are trained routinely to use nuclear weapons and as such preparing and practicing for what is explicitly prohibited under articles I and II of the NPT. Many countries are telling the Dutch their interpretation of Articles I and II is  no longer an acceptable . It is – as my colleague Susi already concluded – time that the Dutch government listens.