Canada's Role at the 2000 NPT Review

A Paper Submitted to
Government Consultation with Civil Society on Nuclear Issues

Government Conference Centre, Ottawa

February 3-4, 2000

By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative

The course of nuclear weapons in the opening years of the 21st century will be determined by the outcome of the 2000 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The well-being of the NPT is at the heart of Canada's policies on nuclear weapons. Canada has led the way in the current NATO review of nuclear weapons and wants a new Statement of Principles and Objectives for the NPT at the 2000 Review Conference. The Government should be congratulated for its efforts to move the nuclear disarmament agenda forward, and for convening this consultation with Canadian non-governmental organizations to provide their contributions to an ongoing dialogue.

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The Critical Situation

It would be unrealistic to start a consultation on the eve of the NPT Review Conference without recognizing that the non-proliferation regime is in critical condition. The U.S. Senate has rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the U.S. is preparing to deploy a missile defence system over the objections of Russia and China; India is preparing to deploy nuclear weapons in air, land and sea; Pakistan, which has successfully tested nuclear weapons, is now ruled by the military; meaningful discussions at the Conference on Disarmament are deadlocked; the preparatory conferences for the 2000 Review of the NPT have failed; the Russian Duma has not ratified START II. The gains made in the past decade on reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons are being wiped out.

The world is staring into an abyss of nuclear weapons proliferation. The danger of the use of nuclear weapons is growing. The publication Disarmament Diplomacy asks: "Are we sleepwalking towards nuclear war?" In the light of the gravity of the present situation, it is disappointing that the leaders of the NATO countries could not bring themselves to vote at the U.N. last fall that the Nuclear Weapons States make an "unequivocal undertaking" to engage without delay in negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear disarmament advocates have offered logic, law, and morality to government leaders as reasons for them to move forward on nuclear disarmament. We are tempted, at this moment, to despair that we will ever be heard. That is the wrong reaction. We are being heard as never before, and the proponents of the status quo are being forced to invent the most preposterous reasons to justify their slavish adherence to weapons that have justly been called "the ultimate evil." We do not have the luxury of despair at this moment. We must continue, with all our growing might, to speak truth to power.

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The NATO-NPT Connection

After recognizing the gravity of the moment, the next step of this consultation should be to support the Government's constructive moves to advance nuclear disarmament. Canada has gone out in front in pushing the NATO leadership to review NATO's policies on nuclear weapons. Foreign Affairs Minister Axworthy has taken a leadership stance. Canadians - government and civil society - should be united in continuing to push NATO with clear, substantive reasons why it is in the interests of the NATO countries as well as the world community for NATO to move away from the Cold War doctrine of nuclear deterrence.

There is little hope for cooperation between civil society and government on this matter if Canadians are kept in the dark about the nature and quality of the NATO review. It is not enough for NATO to keep saying that nuclear weapons are "essential." Essential by what standards? NATO needs to openly address the powerful and substantial arguments made by the legal, military, political, religious and NGO communities that negotiations must be held toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Canadians need to hear and participate in this debate. By what right does NATO continue to bury these subjects in secret discussions? Canadians must demand an open debate on nuclear weapons. Since polls in Canada have shown that a vast majority of Canadians would prefer a nuclear-weapons-free world, NATO has no right to subvert the democratic process by forcing Canadians to live under a nuclear umbrella. Canadians must help our Government to have the courage to withstand the old NATO ploy of charging dissenters with disloyalty. Transparency and democracy in global security questions go hand in hand.

It will certainly not be good enough for any NATO State to argue at the NPT Review Conference that the fact that NATO has consented to a review is enough to ensure that Article VI of the NPT is being complied with. The record since the 1995 indefinite extension of the NPT of nuclear States' compliance with the terms of the extension is anything but salubrious.

The Principles and Objectives adopted in 1995 called for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996, the "early conclusion" of a convention banning the production of fissile material, and "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons." Looking at the record since 1995, it is no wonder the Canadian Government wants a new set of Principles and Objectives.

Without the NATO review, the NPT Conference would be headed for certain disaster. But the NATO review itself is not enough to give us breathing room. The stakes are now too high - since leading Non-Nuclear Weapons States have let it be known that their support for the NPT will diminish and the Treaty will erode absent an unequivocal commitment by the NWS to compliance with Article VI.

In short, the NPT Conference cannot and will not wait for the outcome of the NATO review. Steps must be taken at the NPT Conference itself to bolster the confidence of the world community that the proliferation of nuclear weapons - vertical as well as horizontal - can be stopped.

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Chairman Reyes' Plan

The Chairman of the Third NPT PrepComm, Ambassador Camilio Reyes of Colombia, has led the way in sending to the 2000 Review a 61-paragraph Chairman's paper, which blends a lengthy list of States' proposals. Though States could not agree on documentation to be sent to the 2000 Review, and thus Chairman Reyes' Paper does not possess the status of an official document, the paper is the single best presentation of ideas to strengthen the NPT and should be supported by Canada.

The Chairman's Paper includes: a call for negotiations on the elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons; de-alerting, de-targeting and de-activating all nuclear weapons and removing nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles; an expression of "deep concern" that Israel continues to be the only State in the [Middle East] which has not yet acceded to the [NPT] and refuses to place all its nuclear facilities under the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA; a legally-binding negative security assurances regime; an ad-hoc committee at the Conference on Disarmament "with a negotiating mandate to address nuclear disarmament."

The two subjects - comprehensive negotiations for nuclear disarmament and Israeli compliance with the NPT - are the thorniest issues the 2000 Review will face. Many States have pressed for subsidiary bodies to be attached to the regular main committees in 2000 for the purpose of giving detailed attention to nuclear disarmament and the Israeli situation. The U.S. has vigorously objected to subsidiary bodies for this detailed work - but the objection is unreasonable.

Canada could help itself by persuading the U.S. that subsidiary bodies offer the potential for progress in the most difficult areas. Canada itself has not yet taken forward positions on comprehensive negotiations for nuclear disarmament and Israeli compliance with the NPT. Neither subject can be fudged any longer.

In giving full support to the ideas in the Chairman's Paper, Canada will find itself in the company of leading Non-Nuclear Weapons States.

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Supportable Principles and Objectives

At the Third PrepComm, Canada, building on its new policy statement on nuclear weapons, said that all members of the international community have "a binding obligation" to pursue nuclear disarmament under Article VI, even though for the foreseeable future the primary responsibility for the negotiation of nuclear reductions rests with the U.S. and Russia, with the engagement of the other three NWS "in the near future." Canada proposed a new set of Principles and Objectives, to be adopted at the 2000 Review, which would press for acceleration of the START process, de-alerting, entry-into-force of the CTBT, a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, and discussion of nuclear disarmament issues at the Conference on Disarmament.

These are praiseworthy proposals, but insufficient in light of the gravity of the non-proliferation crisis. Canada's currently suggested Principles and Objectives are confined to the step-by-step approach, which in the thirty years of the existence of the NPT has produced a situation where there are virtually as many nuclear weapons now as when the NPT came into existence.

As an example of what Canada should espouse, we need look no further than the paper submitted by the New Agenda Coalition to the Third PrepComm.

The NAC paper expressed "profound concern" at the lack of evidence that the NWS are living up to their commitments to Article VI. "On the contrary, the continued possession of nuclear weapons has been re-rationalized. Nuclear doctrines have been reaffirmed...The indefinite extension of the NPT does not sanction the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons. That must be absolutely clear. ...It is imperative to secure a clear and unequivocal commitment to the speedy pursuit of the total elimination of these weapons." The NAC called for the pursuit of the START process, the "seamless integration" into the process by other NWS, de-alerting, reduction of reliance on tactical nuclear weapons, and a legally-binding Negative Security Assurances.

When Canada's response to the SCFAIT report was given on April 19, 1999, the Government pledged to work with the New Agenda Coalition in pursuing shared nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. Though it abstained (for the second time) on the NAC resolution at the UNGA in 1999, Canada praised NAC again. The time has come for Canada to toughen its stand and confirm the validity of the NAC position by making NAC's arguments Canada's own at the NPT Review.

The NGO community in Canada should encourage the Government to submit a new set of Principles and Objectives with teeth in them.

The centrepiece of the new Principles and Objectives must be, as set out in the resolution adopted by Canadian Parliamentarians for Global Action, the agreement of the Nuclear Weapons States "to make an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the speedy and total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, and to engage without delay in an accelerated process of negotiations, thus achieving nuclear disarmament to which they are committed under Article VI of the NPT."

With such action, the Canadian Government will feel a new surge of support from the widespread NGO community.