Zero: Creating the conditions for abolishing nuclear weapons

David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, gave a speech yesterday at IISS, London, for the presentation of a governmental survey on the conditions for abolishing nuclear weapons. Overall, it was not a groundbreaking speech. However, it is worthwhile noting that the Secretary of State stressed two main points:

1  The need to open up a public debate – this is a fairly new approach, given the secrecy usually surrounding nuclear policy issues.
2  That the goal of Global Zero is achievable ; it is a matter of how to create the conditions – steps – for it. The steps he outlined are as follows:

Step 1: Stopping proliferation and tightening security and implementation measures;
Step 2: Working with the IAEA to help states which want to develop civil nuclear power;
Step 3: Re-start US-Russia talks;
Step 4: CTBT ratification;
Step 5: Start discussions and negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty;
Step 6: Promote ground-breaking work on verification measures.

The presentation lasted roughly 10 minutes. The ground was then opened up to discussion and questions.

Not surprisingly, when asked about Trident replacement, the Secretary of State dodged the question by simply stating that he does not believe in unilateral disarmament, and that the UK has already reduced his nuclear arsenals. Regarding Iran, Miliband said that it is a matter now of raising the stakes (both in terms of costs and benefits), and, as regard NATO controversial spreading to the East, while acknowledging Russia’s concerns and perceptions, he also mentioned that the Alliance expansion does not imply expansionism.

To promote dialogue, the UK has taken the initiative and offered to host a Conference in 2009 of the Five NWS aimed at building confidence and discussing some of the challenges of nuclear disarmament, including technical verification measures.

Weirdly enough, at this very point, an ex-Defense Minister in office during the Cold War stood up and bluntly said that he does not believe in nuclear disarmament, that we all should thank God that the Americans and not the French or the Germans invented nuclear weapons because they saved our lives, including Japanese people’s lives.

Perceptions matter.

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