Pax Christi International- Deterring Deterrence

On 16 March 2012, Pax Christi International issued a new statement on nuclear disarmament which is published on the occasion of the Colloquium « Le Désarmement nucléaire demain? » organized by Institut Catholique de Paris, Justice et Paix and Pax Christi France, Paris, 16 – 17 March 2012.

As we approach the beginning of another Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review cycle in May 2012, Pax Christi International is disappointed by governments who continue to rely on nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of their security strategies, at risk of inspiring others who perceive their own national security gap, to try and fill that with nuclear arms

As we approach the beginning of another Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review cycle, we are disappointed by governments who continue to rely on nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of their security strategies, at risk of inspiring others who perceive their own national security gap, to try and fill that with nuclear arms. NATO leaders in particular missed the opportunity presented by the 2010 NATO Strategic Concept Review to demand that France, the United States and the United Kingdom uphold their NPT obligation “To further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies”. Instead, NATO committed to “remain a nuclear Alliance” as long as nuclear weapons exist. NATO has an opportunity to meet its disarmament obligations by planning the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe at the upcoming NATO Chicago Summit.

NATO is currently undergoing a Defence and Deterrence Posture Review, wherein the alliance will define the appropriate mix of weapons it needs to defend against 21st century threats. Examining the role of nuclear weapons, conventional weapons and missile defence, this posture review includes a fourth element: nuclear disarmament. NATO has the opportunity to seize the opportunity it missed in 2010 by choosing to remove U.S. weapons from European soil as a first confidence building and security enhancing measure. This would send a positive signal to the Russian Federation, who should be encouraged to also remove all of its tactical weapons to centralized storage, and out of the European continent. Our Catholic tradition recognizes that nuclear deterrence is an ineffective strategy to counter future security threats, and we seek a shift away from indefinite deterrence.

The Holy See expressed this in unequivocal terms at the 2005 Review Conference of the Non-proliferation Treaty: “When the Holy See expressed its limited acceptance of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, it was with the clearly stated condition that deterrence was only a step on the way towards progressive nuclear disarmament. The Holy See has never countenanced nuclear deterrence as a permanent measure, nor does it today when it is evident that nuclear deterrence drives the development of ever newer nuclear arms, thus preventing genuine nuclear disarmament.”

21st century security challenges cannot be met by nuclear weapons. Europe needs nuclear free security architecture – starting with the complete removal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. This applies to both the tactical nuclear weapons of the U.S. stationed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey as well as the Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

Continued reliance on nuclear weapons for security by countries such as the US, UK and France send a message to others that even the world’s biggest military spender, with some of the most advanced military technology, needs nuclear weapons to feel secure. H.E. Msgr. Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations in New York, in his statement to the 2010 NPT Review Conference reinforced this sentiment when he said “as long as nuclear weapons exist they will allow and even encourage proliferation” and “The military doctrines which continue to rely on nuclear weapons as a means of security and defence or even measure of power, de facto slow down nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation processes”.

When nuclear weapons possessors spend millions on modernising and maintaining their nuclear arsenals, they send the message to non-nuclear weapons states that nuclear weapons are necessary for security. The rhetoric calling for a world free of nuclear weapons is not enough, and actions must demonstrate commitments to create such a world. The forthcoming NPT cycle is a perfect opportunity for States to report on the actions they have taken to create a secure nuclear weapons free world.

It is disingenuous to think that continued nuclear weapons possession has no relationship to potential nuclear weapons aspiration by other states. The nuclear divide cannot be mitigated by small steps anymore. Now is the time for nuclear weapons states to make a grand gesture to reinforce the grand bargain embedded in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Now is the time for real irreversible, verifiable and multilateral nuclear disarmament.

About Pax Christi International

Pax Christi International was started in 1945 as an organisation of Catholics in Europe who wanted to promote reconciliation at the end of the Second World War. Pax Christi International is committed to non-violence and to demilitarization and disarmament, human security, human rights and the rule of law as the basis of peaceful societies. As a movement and a global network (more than 100 member organisations active worldwide), Pax Christi International brings together people from many different backgrounds and cultures as they shape and act upon their shared vision of peace, reconciliation and justice for all. For decades Pax Christi International has reflected the overwhelming desire of Catholics and lay persons around the world calling for an end to nuclear weapons. Pax Christi International has issued countless statements, held numerous conferences, and continues to engage with member organizations to promote disarmament, dialogue and peace.