Obama announces less nuclear weapons world wide, but new ones in the Netherlands

Obama announced today in Berlin that the U.S. will dismantle a third of its nuclear arsenal. IKV Pax Christi is enthusiastic about Obama’s new promise of cuts that go far beyond what he had already agreed to in the New START treaty. It shows political will – and guts – to further diminish the threat of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, it means that the U.S. will keep about 1,000 warheads ready for use. That is still enough to annihilate Earth many times over.

Obama’s speech held a disappointment as well, in the sense that he failed to use the opportunity to announce the removal of American nuclear weapons from the Netherlands and Europe. Instead, he repeated the vague intention to ‘work with Allies’ to ‘develop proposals’ for reductions that can then be ‘discussed with Russia’. That’s in direct opposition to the majority position of political parties and the population in the Netherlands, who have made it abundantly clear that it is time the American nuclear weapons now deployed on Volkel AB, vanish.

IKV Pax Christi campaigner Krista van Velzen: “If Obama really wants to do something about the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, he should have announced the decision not to modernise these weapons. Instead, the US Congress is now discussing his proposal to invest over 10 billion US$ in renewing these weapons. This ‘modernisation’ process will mean that the weapons are returned to the U.S., where they will get a complete upgrade which makes them precision guided. After that they will be redeployed in Holland and ready for use for decades to come. All this goes directly against Obama’s stated objective of a world without nuclear weapons’.

Besides reductions, Obama marked a couple of important moments on the calendar when he wants to organise debates on nuclear disarmament and nuclear safety. In 2014, he will attend the next Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague and he announced a sort of grand finale conference on nuclear safety and security for 2016.

It makes sense for the Dutch government to appraise Obama for his courageous disarmament plans, and we believe the Netherlands can do this best by clearly stressing that the American nuclear weapons that are now in the Netherlands are no longer needed – nor wanted – and do not need to be modernised.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans will present in July his long anticipated policy letter to Parliament on nuclear disarmament. This would seem the perfect moment to announce a revision of the bilateral agreements between the Netherlands and the U.S., ending the deployment of B61 nuclear bombs in Volkel AB.