We approach the end of 2010 on the verge of a vote in the U.S. Senate on the new START treaty, brought to the floor on December 15th, and for a possible vote as early as tomorrow, December 22nd. Its ratification is significant for verification measures, as well as for the global nuclear disarmament agenda if only because it lays an important foundation stone for future initiatives between the United States and Russia, and helps to open the way for the Administration to bring the test ban treaty to the Senate.
This marks the end of a crucial year for the disarmament agenda, its highlight being the much anticipated NPT Review Conference in May – the first opportunity in a decade for governments to positively negotiate on disarmament in the absence of a skeptical Bush Administration – where states parties agreed an Action Plan that includes a commitment to hold a conference on a WMD free zone in the Middle East in 2012. Earlier we saw the publication of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, which outlined a doctrine with much reduced dependence on nuclear weapons, and the very first nuclear security summit with a record number of world leaders meeting – more than any previous summit since the establishment of the United Nations. It is important that the momentum is maintained next year. BASIC played an active supporting role in this process, reported on in our regular BASIC News updates. Here we update you on our activities in November and December.
Developing our capacity to influence the British nuclear weapons debate, BASIC organized a Parliamentary roundtable in London with the support of the Top Level Group of Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament to discuss the alternatives and implications of current U.K. nuclear weapons policy. Well attended by a dozen parliamentarians and many other experts, the roundtable involved a constructive debate amongst experts, policy makers, academics and members of the scientific community, with one former Cabinet Minister claiming that he had never experienced such a measured, instructive dialogue on the issue in all his career. This level of interest reflected the importance of the issue and a commitment to learning more, and a sense of possible change in policy, indications that the BASIC Commission on Trident next year will be received with a great deal of interest. Click here to read a report from the roundtable.
Paul Ingram attended two UK stately home conferences in December to discuss the prospects for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation with senior officials and diplomats – at Ditchley Park and Wilton Park – giving presentations at both. These conferences offered uniquely important opportunities for considered discussion of the issues at length with the decision-makers at the heart of negotiations.
BASIC co-hosted the NATO Shadow Summit II on November 15/16 in Brussels, in collaboration with NATO Watch, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, and International Security Information Service (ISIS), Europe. A two-day civil society shadow conference coinciding with NATO’s Lisbon Summit to explore civil society perspectives on NATO’s New Strategic Concept; this was a great opportunity for BASIC to place NATO’s nuclear posture in the context of its review. A report on the Shadow Summit will be released on BASIC’s website soon. BASIC and the Arms Control Association issued a joint press release expressing disappointment with the new Concept and the official Summit Declaration, which appeared to be establishing a cast-iron linkage between the U.S. nukes and Russian tactical weapons. Paul Ingram and Anne Penketh were quoted in U.S. media. During the coming months, the Alliance will conduct a strategic deterrence and defense review, which is intended to address nuclear issues more thoroughly. BASIC staff in Washington and London continue to meet privately with embassy officials to engage on the Alliance’s nuclear posture, and we have a number of roundtables planned for 2011. You may read Anne Penketh’s comment on NATO Strategic Concept here.
BASIC hosted an off-the-record event on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Sanctions and Beyond, with keynote speaker Robert Einhorn, Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control from the US Department of State. Panelists included Jim Walsh from MIT, author Avner Cohen, Woodrow Wilson scholar Michael Adler and BASIC’s Executive Director Paul Ingram. BASIC Board member, Ambassador Robert Barry moderated a lively discussion with a high level audience of officials, diplomats and policy experts around the options for engaging Iran.
Continuing our extensive consultations around the 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, there are finally indications of movement. The main players are engaging in order to come up with a facilitator and host government for the event, which would involve both Iran and Israel, and discussions are under way on an agenda. The issue is starting to gain traction in Washington think tanks. Anne, our Washington Program Director, took part in a seminar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies which was briefed by the Egyptian Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N.
Taek Jin Han, who served as an intern in BASIC’s Washington office this fall, authored this Backgrounder on recent developments around North Korea’s nuclear program in which he looks at the options for U.S. policy.
Coming Next in early 2011 – The BASIC UK Trident Commission launch event is planned for early February. The Trident Commission, co-chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Lord Browne of Ladyton (Des Browne) and Sir Menzies Campbell, will over 2011 be looking at Britain’s nuclear weapon policy and options facing the government.
We are planning a series of roundtables in the first half of 2011 looking at NATO’s nuclear posture – in Finland, Estonia, Italy, Brussels, Paris, Moscow, London and Washington
Anne Penketh will be travelling to Israel and other Middle Eastern capitals in January/February to lay the ground-work for our work on the WMD Free Zone in the Middle East.