Thursday, 4 December 2008

NATO's Retreat from Arms Control Continues

Another last hurrah for Dick Cheney. NATO asserts that "that arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation will continue to make an important contribution to peace, security and stability, as part of a broader response to security issues", and I couldn't agree more.

It's just that in this communique, as in others over the past few years, the Bush administration's hostility to the concept of arms control and non-proliferation shines through. Cheney famously remarked after the Moscow Treaty was signed (in itself the most feeble piece of arms control ever) that 'that's the end of arms control'. And then proceeded to put that doctrine into action.

NATO offers no support in this communique for the CTBT, for the NPT, for START I (about to expire) or for any other nuclear, chemical or biological weapons Treaty. This pattern has developed since 2000. A sop to the Europeans where NATO claims these things are important, and then a refusal to endorse any actual arms control or disarmament measures. Now even references to support for the NPT have been dropped.

Only the CFE Treaty gets the nod, but since NATO is refusing military-to-military cooperation with Russia at the moment, and Russia has suspended its participation in the Treaty as a reaction to proposed US BMD deployments, this is meaningless.

NATO has the luxury at present of being in a situation where it faces few if any present WMD threats, except from Russia. Russia is not treated as an enemy, but as a partner, so in listening to Russian security concerns, NATO can manage nuclear and other matters with Russia as it has done for decades.

Such threats as could emerge elsewhere are currently susceptible to elimination through a sustained programme of engagement between Allies and their neighbours. This would include a dialogue on mutual threat perceptions and how to eliminate possible threats. The problem for NATO is that this would likely include the removal of US nuclear weapons from Europe, and an end to NATO's insistence that nuclear weapons are 'essential' for the defence of the Alliance. Something, they have not yet shown a willingness to do.

No comments: