Former US chief nuclear negotiator in London calls for zero nuclear weapons

Getting to Zero is an essential objective if we are to avoid the descent into nuclear proliferation

At a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation at Westminster earlier today Ambassador Max Kampelman reiterated an earlier call in January this year by US Secretaries Shultz, Kissinger, Perry and Senator Nunn to step back from the brink of nuclear anarchy.

Amb. Kampelman is in London this week at the invitation of BASIC to talk with officials and MPs about the growing movement of former senior US officials and politicians with a shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Gordon Brown has also indicated that he intends to make the issue of securing global nuclear disarmament a strong foreign policy priority. Margaret Beckett, the former UK foreign secretary, has already spelt out details of how Britain wants to become a “disarmament laboratory”, unveiling concrete steps to champion multilateral nuclear reductions in a recent speech in Washington.

BASIC is working with Max Kampelman to advance the idea of Getting to Zero in both the United States and Britain. In his speech at Westminster today Amb. Kampelman said:

We must keep in mind that the indispensable initial ingredient for action is leadership in reasserting the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons – the “ought”. Only by clearly committing to the “ought” can we change the “is” of our day and achieve our shared vision of a better world for our children and grandchildren.”

Kampelman has been credited with shaping US policy in the arena of human rights relations with the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, and as helping to create the diplomatic conditions that preceded the end of the Cold War. Amb. Kampelman was also later responsible as head of the US negotiators for steering through the crucial reductions in nuclear arms in the INF and START treaties. It was for these achievements that Amb. Kampelman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the US\’ highest civilian award) and a Library of Congress “Living Legend” award. He is acutely aware of the challenges of negotiating arms control agreements in periods of deep distrust.

Amb. Kampelman was intimately involved in the evolution of President Reagan\’s proposal for moving to zero, a discussion the President had on several occasions with Mikhail Gorbachev in the lead-up to their ground-breaking summit at Reykjavik in 1986. Reagan insisted that nuclear weapons were “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.”

Amb. Kampelman and the other former US former senior statesmen and military officers are motivated by the fear that our reliance on nuclear weapons for security is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. Without new thinking on the part of the nuclear powers further nuclear proliferation is a near-certainty, and the window of opportunity to stop it is closing fast. A key message is that Getting to Zero is not some idealistic goal, but an essential objective if we are to avoid the otherwise inevitable descent into nuclear proliferation and the release by accident or design, sooner or later, of nuclear weapons.

For further information or interviews with Max Kampelman please contact:

Dr Ian Davis, Co-Executive Director: 07887 782389
Paul Ingram, Senior Analyst: 07908 708175
BASIC, The Grayston Centre, 28 Charles Square, London N1 6HT
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 4680
Fax: +44 (0)20 7324 4681


Notes for Editors

1. Max Kampelman was US Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; from 1985 to 1989 he was Ambassador and Head of the United States Delegation to the Negotiations with the Soviet Union on Nuclear and Space Arms in Geneva; and from 1987 to 1989 Counselor of the Department of State. For a more detailed bio see here:

2. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation is an officially recognised group open only to MPs and Peers from all the political parties represented at Westminster. It operates chiefly (although not exclusively) by holding private speaker meetings in Westminster on defence, disarmament and security issues, for MPs, Peers and their staff. A good number of the meetings focus on transatlantic security issues and US speakers (of all political persuasions) often feature.

3. The 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was a “grand bargain” involving 189 countries. The treaty committed nuclear weapons states to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament, in return for commitments by other states not to acquire nuclear weapons. But lack of progress in fulfilling this bargain on the part of nuclear powers is fraying this consensus, leading to the possibility of nuclear \’breakout\’ by as many as 10 or 20 states, many of them fragile. We are at an important juncture in the nuclear debate:

  • Putin has just met with Bush – nuclear arsenals and missile defence were on the agenda, but no progress was made (START I treaty is due to lapse in 2009, with severe consequences for nuclear verification and oversight);
  • North Korea has begun shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor;
  • The Iran nuclear stalemate is ongoing;
  • This week debate is expected to continue in the US Congress on the 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (which provides funding for nuclear weapons programs). Differences in the Senate and House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees should be resolved. At stake is the future of a new generation of US nuclear weapons.

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard