Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission
Panel Discussion at the World Peace Forum
-available in pdf-
sponsored by Global Action to Prevent War
and The Simons Foundation
Wednesday, June 28, 2006, Morris J. Wosk Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
John Burroughs, Executive Director
Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York (www.lcnp.org)
Good morning. The Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP)
and its international body, the International Association of Lawyers
Against Nuclear Arms, are members of Global Action to Prevent War.
In addition, LCNP hosts the coordinator for Global Action to Prevent
War, Waverly de Bruijn, and Professor Saul Mendlovitz, a Global
Action founder, is LCNP vice-president. Personally I have worked
closely with Global Action. My remarks here, however, reflect in
particular LCNP’s perspectives on issues relating to nuclear
The Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy together with the Western
States Legal Foundation and Reaching Critical Will, in partnership
with the Arms Control Association, has a program of assessment and
outreach regarding the Blix report. We're planning to do an in-depth
analysis, probably available by the fall, but you can see our preliminary
responses at www.wmdreport.org.
One of the things we like about the Blix report is that it reflects,
to some degree, what civil society groups like ours have been saying
and doing for the past decade or 15 years. On page 109 there is
a reference to a nuclear disarmament treaty. In the mid-1990s, my
organization and others drafted a model nuclear weapons convention
to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, just as the Chemical
Weapons Convention does for chemical weapons. Also on page 109 there
is a reference to the unanimous holding of the International Court
of Justice in its 1996 advisory opinion that there is an obligation
to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading
to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. There was a major civil
society campaign, in which the Lawyers’ Committee was deeply
involved, in the early 1990s to support the General Assembly’s
request for that opinion. It was one of the best things that occurred
in the 1990s; among other things, it highlighted the goal of achieving
a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Indeed, one of the greatest strengths of the Blix report is its
emphasis on the importance of international law. It explains very
clearly how nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons can be and
are being controlled through treaty regimes. It explains that treaty
regimes bring stability. It explains that they involve implementing
agencies and review processes. It explains that states around the
world buy into these regimes and buy into the rules on non-use,
non-possession of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons.
This may all seem rather basic, but it needs to be understood. It
needs to be understood, that there are functioning, effective treaty
regimes, and that there is a system of international law which applies
to NBC weapons.
The report also very effectively gets across that regimes work
when there is reciprocity and cooperation. Certainly what I've learned
at the UN and the NPT is that for states to accept the Additional
Protocol as the standard for compliance with their obligations regarding
civilian nuclear power under the NPT and the safeguards agreements,
they need to see some action on the disarmament side of the regime.
That's an example of how reciprocity and cooperation works.
The report is refreshingly frank about the lack of reciprocity.
On page 94, it says quite clearly, "It's easy to see that the
nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT have largely failed to
implement” their NPT nuclear disarmament obligation.
The principles of verification and irreversibility affirmed by
the 2000 NPT review conference were not applied in the Moscow Treaty
There has not been a diminishing role of nuclear weapons in security
policies-another of the commitments made in 2000. President Chirac
of France earlier this year signaled that nuclear weapons could
be used in response to a terrorist attack on France. This month
the U.S. Department of Energy was planning on blowing up 700 tons
of ammonium nitrate fuel oil at the Nevada test site in order to
model the effects of a low-yield nuclear attack on underground structures.
Fortunately, local opposition from Western Shoshones and anti-nuclear
activists and down-winders has led to the indefinite delay of that
test, but it's certainly illustrative of the dynamic of U.S. policy.
The report also touches on the need to comply with UN Charter requirements
on resort to war and effectively rejects the Bush doctrine of preventive
war as a means of counterproliferation.
In its emphasis on the importance of international law and treaty
regimes, the Blix report parallels the Global Action to Prevent
War program statement. The statement says that Global Action goals
of demilitarization and conflict prevention, of the abolition of
war, are ambitious, but “they have a basis in the existing
treaty obligations of most countries,” in the NPT, the UN
Charter, and other instruments.
Let me now compare some of the specifics of the Blix report and
the Global Action program regarding nuclear abolition. The Blix
report focuses mostly on near-term measures, like bringing the CTBT
into force, negotiating a treaty banning production of fissile materials
for weapons, implementing verified deep reductions of U.S.
and Russian arsenals, standing down or “dealerting”
nuclear forces now poised for immediate launch (just as during the
Cold War), and bringing all nuclear weapon possessing countries
into the disarmament process. But it also states clearly the imperative
of “planning for security without nuclear weapons,”
and as I mentioned earlier, says that a “nuclear disarmament
treaty is achievable and can be reached through careful, sensible,
and practical measures. Benchmarks should be set; definitions agreed;
timetables drawn up and agreed upon; and transparency requirements
The Global Action program is not inconsistent with the approach
of the Blix report, but seeks to delineate more precisely the path
to abolition over several decades. In the first phase, U.S. and
Russian arsenals would be reduced to no more than 1000 total warheads
each, and the arsenals of other states would be capped. In the second
phase, arsenals in each country would be reduced to no more than
100 warheads. In the third phase, remaining stocks would be immobilized
in internationally monitored storage. Also, there would be a global
treaty for control of missiles, aircraft, and other means of delivering
WMD. In the fourth phase, elimination of nuclear weapons would be
completed through destruction of remaining warheads and delivery
systems and the infrastructure to produce them, and a treaty to
ban their possession or use would be brought into force.
One clear difference between the two documents is that the Global
Action statement is absolutely clear on the requirement of control
of missiles and other long-range delivery systems. In contrast,
the Blix report describes the problems posed by ballistic and cruise
missiles and notes that there have been discussions on missile control,
but makes no clear recommendations for missile disarmament. It does
say that states should not deploy missile defenses without first
attempting to negotiate the removal of missile threats.
The WMDC was too cautious on this matter. Historically U.S./Soviet
arms control was accomplished through limitation and reduction of
bombers and missiles. It is true that verified warhead dismantlement
now needs to be undertaken, as was contemplated in the START process
rejected by the Bush administration. But it is also true that the
delivery systems must be controlled, not only as between the United
States and Russia, as in the past, but globally. This is well illustrated
by the current crisis over North Korea’s development of long-range
missiles. The focus on Iran is also driven in part by its development
of intermediate-range missiles.
In the vocabulary of specialists, missiles, like NBC warheads,
are “strategic” weapons that must be controlled. When
sufficient sophistication is achieved, they can be used for delivery
of non-nuclear warheads, whether conventional, biological, or chemical.
This was dramatically illustrated by recent reports of the Pentagon’s
interest in the destabilizing substitution of conventionally-armed
ballistic missiles for nuclear-armed ones on four Trident submarines.
The U.S. is also investigating other delivery systems that could
be used for all kinds of warheads. As Western States Legal Foundation
has reported, the U.S. is researching new kinds of weapons with
global reach, including gliding, maneuvering reentry vehicles that
could carry a variety of weapons and that could be delivered by
re-useable launch vehicles, somewhat like smaller, cheaper unmanned
versions of the space shuttle.
Missiles and other delivery systems will almost certainly have
to be controlled to get to low levels of nuclear weapons and their
elimination. It is unlikely that states will want to give up their
nuclear weapons if they are subject to being struck by long-range
delivery systems that could carry conventional warheads or, if verification
of nuclear warhead dismantlement has not been successful, nuclear
warheads that another state was not supposed to have.
The same considerations apply to space-based systems, especially
those capable of striking targets on the ground. However, with the
possible exception of anti-satellite systems, it is not clear that
such space-based systems are likely to be deployed due to their
great cost and problems of technical feasibility. In contrast, improvements
in missiles and other non-space based delivery systems are definitely
feasible and are vigorously being pursued and implemented.
A strength, then, of the Global Action program statement is that
it clearly recognizes the need to control on a global basis long-range
delivery systems that can have nuclear, biological, chemical or
conventional payloads. A more detailed study on this topic in recent
years is Beyond Missile Defense, by researchers from the International
Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation and Western
States Legal Foundation.
The Global Action statement goes beyond the point about delivery
systems, which is rooted in the U.S./Soviet experience of arms control,
to say that “neither nuclear disarmament nor far-reaching
conventional disarmament can be fully implemented without the active
contribution of the other.” By far-reaching conventional disarmament,
Global Action means phased, treaty-based reductions of tanks, aircraft,
artillery – all the means of fighting major conventional war.
It is certainly true that demilitarization and institutionalization
of conflict prevention would, as Global Action says, “create
an environment more conducive to the enduring elimination of all
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.” The Blix report
gestures in the direction of the Global Action analysis in its final
section, saying that “the perspective of a world free of WMD
must be supplemented by the perspective of a world in which the
arsenals of conventional weapons have been reduced drastically.”
However, we must be wary of positing achievements in these areas
as preconditions for nuclear reduction and elimination. Based on
observing their performance at the NPT, I can assure you that that
position would be seized upon by states determined to maintain their
nuclear arsenals. The Blix report rightly does not imply any such
preconditions. It is also the case that, consistent with the Global
Action statement, as reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals
proceed, states will be forced to adjust their security relationships
in other respects, for the better.
In closing, let me say that the timing of the Blix report is superb.
It comes at a time when the urgent need to revitalize the disarmament
process is widely appreciated. Together with the Global Action statement
and the model nuclear weapons convention, it can make a great contribution
to our understanding of how to achieve a nuclear weapon free world.