This has been a whirlwind month of international events involving nuclear diplomacy, running up to next week\’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.
It started with the long-awaited publication of US President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on 6 April (see BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram’s comment piece in The Guardian), followed two days later with the signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the US and Russia. The following Monday and Tuesday, Washington hosted its largest gathering of world leaders ever, to discuss nuclear security at a global summit meeting. The following weekend Iran held an international conference on nuclear disarmament, at which Paul Ingram was due to deliver a paper advising the Iranian government on their nuclear strategy, but planes were cancelled the day he was due to fly. Volcanic ash also forced the cancellation of the prestigious Lennart Meri conference that would have been held alongside the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Tallinn, Estonia. BASIC had organized a panel discussion there on NATO’s nuclear deterrence and disarmament policy, an event that held significant promise in influencing the first conversation between foreign ministers in NATO on the issue of nuclear policy.
- BASIC has been involved in extensive consultations with diplomats over the last month and is in the middle of publishing several papers in preparation for the NPT Review Conference. We are also in discussions with the European Leaders’ Network (ELN), that involves senior mainstream parliamentarians and retired military officers, on projects to promote multilateral nuclear disarmament within Europe.
- Paul took part in a conference in Warsaw (25-26 March) on NATO’s nuclear deterrence and disarmament possibilities. With a strong representation from Eastern Europe, this was an excellent opportunity to canvass opinion and deepen our understanding across Europe.
- Since late March, BASIC Patron Rory Bremner has been taking his Election Battlebus Tour around Britain. BASIC Chair Trevor McCrisken was in attendance on 9 April at the Oxford Playhouse when Rory was joined on stage by BASIC Board Member Brian Eno, as well as journalist Will Hutton and Jill Kirby, director of Centre for Policy Studies. Brian and Rory spoke extensively about recent moves forward on the nuclear disarmament agenda and talked about the role of BASIC. Brian concluded by arguing that we are at a crucial stage of politics in this new century where transformative thinking by publics, opinion shapers, and policy makers could move us closer not only to resolving the issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation but also other global problems such as climate change, poverty and hunger.
- On 20 April, Trevor participated in an Open Conference Call on “Nuclear Initiatives” with the international consultancy group Oxford Analytica. Trevor and the other panelists discussed the prospects for New START ratification, the future development of US policy toward Iran, the issue of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe, the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and the forthcoming NPT Review Conference.
- Ian Kearns, BASIC Research Director, wrote a report to coincide with the Nuclear Security Summit (Washington, 12-13 April), which generated a lot of media interest, and he was constantly on radio and television for the best part of that week.
- We have received quite extensive media coverage over this last month. Paul was interviewed on Russia Today on three different occasions and was on Press TV on 14 April and BBC Radio Wales on 7 April; Ian was on BBC World Service on Tuesday 12 April and BBC Radio Scotland on 13 April and also authored The Future of nuclear security hangs on this week summit on The Independent. Anne was on the Indi with her Edging towards a nuclear-free world later on run by Le Monde.
- President Obama brought 47 nations to Washington on 12-13 April to announce measures aimed at keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.The Nuclear Security Summit was sandwiched between the Nuclear Posture Review and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and came just after the signing of the New START treaty in Prague. It’s no wonder that people are calling it Obama\’s “nuclear spring”. Anne Penketh, BASIC’s Washington Program Director, attended an international non-governmental organization (NGO) parallel conference organized by the Fissile Materials Working Group, which raised awareness on a range of issues including the danger of highly enriched uranium in civilian nuclear power plants.
- We also invited Susan Burk, the chief US negotiator at the NPT Conference, to lunch at the Cosmos club with US board members for an exchange of views. She was most receptive to pieces of paper handed across the table, and promised to follow up with colleagues.
- Chris Lindborg and Nicholas Meros co-wrote a paper with recommendations for the nuclear weapons states ahead of the NPT Review Conference. Chris will be writing another one with recommendations for non-nuclear weapons states. She also authored a briefing, “Considering NATO’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons after the US Nuclear Posture Review”.
Looking forward – The month ahead is going to be busy for BASIC!
This Thursday we will be holding a joint roundtable with the Arms Control Association and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Brussels to continue the conversation on tactical nuclear weapons, in the light of building pressure from some European partners to reassess nuclear deployments.
We are also preparing for the NPT Review Conference in New York which will be attended by 189 countries and last for the whole of May. Our Washington Program Director Anne Penketh will be there for the duration, and will be joined in the second week by BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram, BASIC Chair Trevor McCrisken, and Board members Ambassador James Goodby and Bill Hartung. President Obama may be present to open the conference. We will hold two seminars in New York on the issue of NATO’s nuclear disarmament responsibilities in Europe in the second week, as well as a strategy meeting with European NGOs.
We are also organizing a post-UK election event on 7 May in DC at which Paul Ingram and Jo Spear, a BASIC board member who runs the Elliot School’s Security Policy Program at George Washington University, will be panelists.
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