BASIC News: July-November 2011

The British American Security Information Council has been making fresh tracks to advance dialogue on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including at seminars in Malta and Moscow, and moving the London office to Whitehall.


WMD-free Zone in the Middle East
Principal funder: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK

BASIC organized a two-day session in September for a select group of regional experts to discuss topics for a 2012 conference on a Middle East WMD-free zone.  BASIC’s program director Anne Penketh and executive director Paul Ingram represented BASIC in Malta for the off the record workshop which was frank, lively and substantive.  Paul also completed a personal post-event website report, which surveyed the key issues discussed, including “possible conditional offers for the negotiating table”: Agenda issues before the 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone.

About one month later, BASIC’s Anne Penketh was widely quoted in the international media on the appointment of the Middle East WMD-Free Zone conference facilitator, Jaakko Laajava, a senior Finnish Foreign Ministry official.  BASIC also published a press release, saying that the low-key announcement on a Friday afternoon about Finland hosting the 2012 conference is “burying good news”. Future BASIC meetings are planned in Cairo (January) and Doha (March).

Washington, DC

NATO review of deterrence and defense
Principal funder: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

BASIC, in partnership with the Arms Control Association (ACA), brought together about 20 experts and NATO diplomats for a conversation at the German Embassy in Washington, DC on November 8.  Topics focused on developments under the Alliance’s ongoing Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), including addressing threats during budget austerity and maintaining political cohesion within the Alliance on the issue of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Europe.

BASIC joined the ACA in organizing a sign-on letter addressed to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in July. The letter urged NATO to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and allow for the removal of U.S. tactical warheads, and was signed by over two dozen experts and former senior officials, including Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former UK Conservative Defence and Foreign Secretary, and Gen. (ret.) Bernard Norlain, former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force.  Also read the related joint ACA-BASIC press release.


Paul Ingram presented a paper to a conference organized by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the NATO Defense College in Brussels concerning the issues at stake in NATO’s ongoing Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR).  The participants involved officials, diplomats and experts from think-tanks, discussing the wide range of issues affecting the negotiations on the review. It was clear from proceedings that there remained significant differences between the allies, and that progress was likely to be slower than many people would like. The official report is available here.


BASIC with ACA and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) held a roundtable event to examine ways to break the deadlock on bringing TNW onto the nuclear arms control agenda.  There was strong support to tackle TNW within the NATO-Russia Council. However some participants criticized NATO’s self-imposed condition of Russian reciprocity as hindering constructive progress. Almost all participants agreed that there is a need to go beyond traditional arms control measures to deal with TNW.  There were recurring appeals to civil society to get seriously involved in the discussion around TNW reductions to try to break out of traditional modes of thinking.
Read the event report on the website of IFSH here.

Further reading on NATO:


BASIC Trident Commission in the Palace of Westminster
Principal funders: Ploughshares Fund, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Polden Puckham Foundation and Nuclear Education Trust

BASIC Trident Commission held a panel discussion in the Palace of Westminster on October 31. Using the Question Time format, audience members were invited to submit questions on the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons posture and plans. The panelists were Baroness Shirley Williams; Dr. Julian Lewis, MP; Sir David Omand, former senior official, UK Ministry of Defence; Tim Hare, former director, nuclear policy, UK Ministry of Defence; and, Prof. Michael Clarke, RUSI.  Anita Anand, BBC presenter on Radio 4 and 5, was the Chair. Please read the full event summary on BASIC’s website.

BASIC consultant and Commission member Dr. Ian Kearns wrote a thorough research report surveying the status of nuclear weapons arsenals and modernization plans of countries other than the United Kingdom, whose conclusions were widely circulated in the media. The report summary and full publication are available on BASIC’s website: Beyond the UK: Trends in the Other Nuclear Armed States.

For more information, please visit the BASIC Trident Commission homepage. There you will find the biographies of the Commissioners, and the full text of evidence received from experts and advocates from across the political spectrum.  Some of the most recent submissions have come from Dr. Julian Lewis, MPBruce Kent, Vice-President of CND,  Lord Robertson, former UK Defence Secretary and former NATO Secretary General; the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)-UK, and Admiral the Lord Boyce.

Wilton Park

Wilton Park is the UK Foreign Office prestigious conference center that brings together high-level diplomats and experts to discuss the pressing international issues of the day. BASIC has been steadily building up a very positive working relationship with the center, and looks forward to the possibility of holding a couple of joint meetings with Wilton Park in 2012. This year, Paul Ingram presented a paper to the Wilton Park conference on ‘The nuclear non-proliferation regime: bridging the North-South divide’ in early October. He will also be presenting a paper next week at the annual week-long Wilton Park conference for senior nuclear diplomats and experts on \’Non-proliferation on the future for nuclear reductions’, as well as facilitating a break-out group.


Next steps in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation
Principal funder: Ploughshares Fund

Paul Ingram travelled to Moscow with Dr. Ian Anthony of SIPRI at the end of November to gather Russian perspectives on the next steps in nuclear arms control. Paul presented to participants made up of officials and expert think-tankers at seminars organized by the PIR Centre and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow to discuss the obstacles to progress in arms control and disarmament between Russia and NATO. He was able to explore the underlying concerns, and to communicate the need to engage.  On his final day, he presented a paper on the different approaches to Iran’s nuclear program between Russia and the West in a session organized by the Center for Energy and Security Studies. All three seminars were held in a frank and open manner, at a time when relations between NATO and Russia are in a difficult place, following the expression of frustration from President Medvedev over the lack of progress in talks over missile defense cooperation, and the political pressure experienced by the United Russia party as a result of the Parliamentary elections.

Other publications from BASIC:

BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram and Program Director Anne Penketh continued to appear on international media channels and were quoted in the press on many occasions throughout the period.

BASIC changes

  • The London office made a big move in mid-November.  Our new home is located in the heart of Britain’s foreign policy and national security establishment:3 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EL, +44-(0)207 766 3461/5
  • We are also excited to announce that Rachel Staley has just joined BASIC as a program support officer in London. Previously, she has worked with the Women\’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Global Security Institute. Rachel holds an MA in Non-Proliferation and International Security from King\’s College London and a BA in International Affairs and Anthropology from Northeastern University.
  • Everyone at BASIC would like to send out a huge thank you to Kim Waller, finance and communications coordinator (with BASIC for over 7 years), and program officer Laura Spagnuolo (with BASIC for 3 years), who both wrapped up their time with BASIC during the past several months.  Laura is now working in the health charity sector, and Kim is completing training for the humanitarian aid and development sector. We are grateful to Marco Marilli, who has been working temporarily with BASIC London in a support function and who played a central role in the office move. We would also like to thank the dedicated interns who have worked with BASIC these last six months, including: Naomi Falkenburg; Brett DuBois, Suzzette Lopez Abbasciano, Emily Gade; Charly Gordon; Julie Ronbeck; and Ben Thomas.
  • We also would like to express our appreciation for the services of Board members Malcolm Savidge and Dr. Daniel Nelson, whose terms have expired.  But we are pleased that they will remain with BASIC as Advisers. We will be welcoming Stuart Warner to the board as Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and for now Susan Kincade will continue as the U.S. Treasurer.
  • Amb. Thomas Pickering has become a new BASIC Adviser.  His distinguished career spanned five decades as a U.S. diplomat, as undersecretary of state for political affairs, ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, Nigeria, Jordan, and El Salvador. He also joined BASIC for a private dinner in Washington in November, when he met members of BASIC’s Board of directors.

Coming Up in the New Year

Principal funder: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK

BASIC is collaborating with the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs in holding a conference for the new Egyptian political elite in January 2012. The topic is regional nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including the proposed 2012 conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. This event is sponsored by the British Foreign Office. The following day, Paul will discuss non-proliferation and disarmament with government officials, and separately with students at the International School in Cairo.
Principal funders: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, and Qatar Foreign Ministry

BASIC will be holding a conference in Doha, Qatar, in March 2012 considering progress on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament steps laid down in the Action Plan of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The conference aims to raise the profile of the Gulf Cooperation Council states on these critical issues.
NATO seminars and shadow summit
BASIC is also organizing alongside the Arms Control Association and IFSH (Hamburg) its final seminars in advance of the NATO Summit in Chicago, in Moscow and in Paris. We will also be organizing with NATO Watch and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a Shadow Summit in Washington and Chicago to discuss a variety of NATO issues, including the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review.
Please click below to view this report in PDF.


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