Ending Terrorism: What Can G8 Countries do?

Alternative Policy Seminar
University of Calgary, May 3-4, 2002
By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.

I am participating in my capacity as Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), an international non-governmental organization composed of eight prominent international organizations specializing in nuclear disarmament matters.

I wish to address that part of the G8 Kananaskis Summit dealing with: fighting the scourge of international terrorism.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that, terrible as the attacks were, how much worse they would have been had the terrorists used nuclear weapons. The Secretary-General said:

…we must now strengthen the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This means, among other actions, redoubling the efforts to ensure universality, verification and full implementation of key treaties related to weapons of mass destruction…

It is MPI's submission to you today that, far from "re-doubling" our efforts, the reverse is occurring. In the case of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the largest and most important arms control and disarmament treaty in the world, it is not multiplication of effort we are witnessing, but subtraction.

This brings me directly to the G8. The Group of Eight rich and powerful industrialized countries includes the United States, the U.K., France and Russia, which all possess nuclear weapons; and Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. This Group, which accounts for 51 percent of world economic output and thus dominates the international economy, has the following track record. The G8:

In other words, this group that is supposed to be setting economic and political standards for the rest of the world maintain nearly all the nuclear weapons in the world, account for most of the world's spending on the military, are the principal arms traders, and the stingiest in providing aid to the poor.

Prime Minister Chretien, who chairs this year's Summit, should be commended for putting renewed focus on aid to Africa, a continent that contains 36 of the 48 poorest countries in the world. But Canada will have to overcome the G8 policies of militarization to find enough money among its partners to truly advance the social agenda in Africa. If the G8 would even limit the sale of arms to African countries, that would go a long way toward building the conditions for human security throughout the continent.

It is in their reliance on nuclear weapons that the G8 – both the nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear weapons states which all live under a nuclear umbrella – show their recklessness.

All these states are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which stipulates that good faith negotiations are to be held leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Moreover, at the NPT 2000 Review, the nuclear weapons states made an "unequivocal undertaking" to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and embodied that commitment in a program of 13 Practical Steps.

At the NPT meeting at the U.N. April 8-19, 2002, the nuclear weapons states walked back from that commitment. The U.S. said that it "no longer supports" the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Further, the U.S. said that its new approach consists of a mix of nuclear and non-nuclear offensive systems, which is in direct violation of the historic decision in 1996 of the International Court of Justice.

Some may say: what has this got to do with the G8 agenda dealing with fighting the scourge of international terrorism?

The attacks of September 11 provided a wake-up call to face the threat of nuclear terrorism. It is prudent to assume, especially after the highly coordinated, surprise attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that terrorists are seeking, and may already have acquired, the know-how for building nuclear weapons. The International Task Force on the Prevention of Terrorism has warned that the probability of nuclear terrorism is increasing because of, among other things, the vulnerability of weapons-usable nuclear materials to theft.

The continued presence of nuclear weapons materials in a growing number of countries is an invitation to steal this material to make suitcase nuclear weapons. It is a known fact that there have been instances of missing plutonium and enriched uranium in Russia. India and Pakistan's stocks of nuclear weapons materials are not safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA is currently trying to implement a plan of action to improve protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear materials and other radioactive materials. But the IAEA is severely under-funded, and has to rely on voluntary contributions to fund its anti-terrorism program. Thus there is continuing uncertainty about the effectiveness of full safeguards systems.

The IAEA says the responsibility for preventing the theft of a nuclear weapon lies with the states that possess nuclear weapons. It ill avails the world to take a wide range of anti-terrorism measures while leaving the door open to the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

The G8 is properly concerned with stopping terrorism. But as long as the G8 remains indifferent or passive in fulfilling its responsibilities to reduce its dependence upon, and then totally eliminate, nuclear weapons, the threat of nuclear terrorism will remain.

The principal point that the G8 leaders must understand is: the only certain way to save the world from nuclear terrorism is to eliminate all nuclear weapons – which they have committed themselves to do under the terms of the NPT. Properly funded verification systems operating under international law can ensure compliance of all states. Nuclear materials must be put under the most stringent international safeguards. The G8 must work toward this goal. The longer they delay fulfilling their responsibilities, the more dangerous the world will become.

The G8 have a special responsibility to set a model for other countries in adhering to international law and truly building a safer, more stable world. Canada may not be able to turn the G8 around in one meeting. But our country is instrumentally placed to use its access to the G8 nuclear powers and insist that world safety today requires demonstrable progress on all 13 Practical Steps NPT parties said they would take. And, in turn, this Policy Seminar could help to respond to Prime Minister Chretien's invitation to "bring a uniquely Canadian perspective to global issues," and bring this matter forward to the Summit planners.