Friday, 29 February 2008

A very distinguished group of Peers and MPs, and a few lucky onlookers, had an opportunity yesterday to hear George Shultz (US Secretary of State under President Reagan) and Senator Sam Nunn (Democrat Senator from Georgia 1972-96, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee - His legislative achievements have included the important Department of Defense Reorganization Act 1986, (where he was a key player in the Senate's adoption of this legislation often referred to as the Goldwater-Nichols Act) , and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which provides assistance to Russia and the former Soviet republics for securing and destroying their excess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) address the issue of moving "Towards a Nuclear-Free World"

The point was made that " The accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material has brought us to a nuclear tipping point. We face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.

The steps we are taking now to address these threats are not adequate to the danger. With nuclear weapons more widely available, deterrence is decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous

Senator Nunn set out eight necessary steps, which he stressed were not necessarly sequential

1 Increase the warning time needed before a nuclear strike could be ordered (he pointed out that currently the Russian President has only 5 minutes to react if advised of reports of an 'attack' reach him)

2 Ensure that the numbers of nuclear weapons are diminished over time

3 Missile Defence - must be coordinated with Russia

4 There needs to be transparency about the holding of tactical nuclear weapons, with moves towards their ultimate elimination

5 The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty must be ratified

6 There must be multi-lateral work done on the use of nuclear energy - focusing on the control of enriched material

7 Regional issues which fuel conflicts and mutual suspicion must be dealt with

8 There must be verification - and also enforcement.

Further information can be found on the website of the Nuclear Threat Initiative http://www.nti.org/


Helen said...

Whilst I can appreciate where they are comming from the focus is in the wrong place. The decommissioning of nuclear weapons is a laudable aim but will do very little in today's climate to reduce the risk of a nuclear attack. The countries which own the tactical weapons are very unlikely to actually launch them whereas low level dirty bombs are a much higher likelyhood. Unless they propose to ban all use of nuclear technology (which would result in throwing the baby out with the bath water) this low level threat will still exist.

A further question is how do they propose to dispose of these highly radioactive materials? Would they be held in as secure an area as a fully functioning ICBM? Indeed would the extraction of the fissionable material from whereever it would be held require as much expertise? In both cases I suggest that the materials would become far easier for terrorists to access again increasing the risk of low tech dirty bombs.

Overall an interesting debate and a topic which will need to be dealt with at some point but I'm not convinced either of the proposed solution or that it is one of the most pressing problems in today's society.

Harry Barnes said...

Are you aware of the 150 page document below, which according to a Guardian report is due to be debated at Nato between 2 and 4 April? It calls for having a pre-emptive nuclear capability. But this might be a bargaining position to give away in order to advance their main objective which I interpret as being to further the building of a NATO, EU, US co-ordination with NATO and the US being the main boys with the toys. For in practical terms it would ensure NATO and the USA dominance in taking miltary initiatives over the EU. I first raised the issue in a thread on my blog on 23 January.Those who responded provided useful links. I have now read the full document and hope to post something on it - except I am into an ever growing series on Iran at the moment.

J David Morgan said...

Thanks Helen - you've raised questions that are being struggled with - and I hope as many people as possible will work together to answer them