28 April 1998

NATO Nuclear Weapons Transfers
Statement Coordinatr: Oliver Meier, Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security (BITS)

Mr. Chairman, we would like to draw attention to a case of nuclear proliferation that has been moving up the diplomatic and political agenda since 1995. Under NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, 150-200 US nuclear weapons remain deployed in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Under NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, these countries are involved in consultations on the possible use of these weapons and training for employment of these weapons of mass destruction. It is also clear that the other member states of the Alliance - Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, and Spain pursue diplomatic policies which support the nuclear policies of the three nuclear weapon states in NATO, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. The three candidate members, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, have adopted the same approach.

We believe that these arrangements - which enable some non-nuclear weapon states to be actively involved in the nuclear weapons policies of the Western nuclear powers - are contradicting the intent and possibly the letter of Articles I and II of the NPT. It is therefore timely and appropriate for these issues to be addressed in the NPT Review Process. NATO nuclear weapons and the associated arrangements represent a major hurdle to further and substantial steps toward nuclear disarmament.

The continued deployment of these weapons in Europe and the continued practice of nuclear sharing harms the nonproliferation regime in several respects:

First, it runs counter to the NPT’s main purpose of limiting access to nuclear weapons. It actually widens access to nuclear weapons for training purposes in peacetime and use during wartime. NATO’s system of nuclear sharing enlarges the number of states who participate in nuclear planning. Currently, all NATO member states who wish to do so can participate in discussions on nuclear planning and doctrine. With the planned enlargement of the Alliance, the number of states eligible to participate in these arrangements will increase.

Further, in case of war, the United States still plans to transfer control over nuclear weapons to Allied countries. Current NATO policy increases the number of countries with the capability to wage nuclear war. Six states, which claim non-nuclear status under the NPT have that capability. As the distinguished delegate from Turkey said yesterday in his prepared statement, "Turkey...apart from the nuclear umbrella of NATO Alliance, does not possess nuclear weapons."

Secondly, NATO nuclear sharing arrangements are also harming the NPT because they represent a dangerous precedent. Upon signing the NPT, the US and several European states argued that the treaty could not be interpreted in such a way that it could hamper European integration.

Already, some in Europe are arguing that NATO nuclear sharing is a precedent for joint nuclear sharing arrangements in a future EU state. At the same time, European Union member states are postponing the question of what will happen to French and British nuclear weapons, when the process of European integration continues. Up to now, the European Union has not stated that it wants to become a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT.

Further, the Amsterdam Treaty states in Article J.7 that "The policy of the Union in accordance with this article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realized in NATO, under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework." This close linkage of the common foreign and security policy of the EU to NATO’s defense politics means in fact that the Europeans would be forced to organise any common defence inside NATO and inside a nuclear framework. Thus, the EU will not become non nuclear unless NATO becomes non nuclear. This makes denuclearisation of NATO politics even more urgent.

Mr. Chairman, we believe that the political arguments made in support of NATO nuclear sharing are unsound and that the legal arguments are highly questionable. Politically, NATO nuclear sharing, including a first use option, is an anachronism. Legally, it can be questioned whether the reservations made by the United States and other Western states at the time of the signing of the NPT are sufficient to construct an exception to the general prohibition of nuclear sharing under the NPT.

We therefore believe that the NPT Review Process should openly discuss whether NATO nuclear sharing violates the spirit and intent of the NPT. NATO nuclear sharing is an appropriate topic for this year’s PrepCom because the mandate includes discussions on such issues as negative security assurances. In addition, NATO nuclear sharing is an obstacle for the fulfillment of Art. VI commitments.

Including NATO nuclear sharing in the work of the NPT Review process is especially timely, because NATO is in the process of entirely revising its strategy. This process is taking place in secret. NATO’s new Strategic Concept is supposed to be finished in April 1999 shortly before the Third PrepCom for the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT. Statements from NATO countries indicate that there are no plans to change the key nuclear aspects of the Alliance’s policy: nuclear deterrence, nuclear sharing arrangements and the first use policy. If NATO will not change the nuclear paragraphs of its current Strategic Concepts, current NATO nuclear policies will be extended for the foreseeable future. NATO’s strategy will not reflect the on-going changes in Europe, nor the commitments made at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. In particular, the expansion of NATO, and the extension of the nuclear guarantee that implies, are antithetical to the commitment to pursue "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons" as agreed in 1995 in the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

This PrepCom and the coming twelve months represent unique opportunities to influence this process of reformulating NATO’s nuclear policies. States should seize this opportunity to discuss and seek consensus on the status of NATO nuclear sharing and expansion under the NPT.

Making NATO nuclear sharing a high priority of the work of the NPT Review process is especially urgent, because there is a danger that the role of nuclear weapons will be expanded again. The Alliance is moving increasingly toward planning to use nuclear weapons to counter the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Overcoming this trend is one prerequisite for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapon states’ commitment under the NPT.

Mr. Chairman, there are a number of ways in which NATO nuclear sharing can and should be addressed in the Review process.

First, we think it is timely for the NPT to explicitly and clearly state that the treaty remains in force in times of war. By doing this, one major ambiguity about the interpretation of treaty clauses could be closed. The PrepCom could build on the results of the 3rd Review Conference, where it was agreed that "the strict observance of the terms of Articles I & II remains central to achieving the shared objectives of preventing under any circumstances the further proliferation of nuclear weapons".

Secondly, the PrepCom should urge EU members to declare that eventually the EU will become a non-nuclear member to the NPT. By doing so, the development of European nuclear forces through integration of French and British nuclear forces would be excluded.

Whether NATO nuclear sharing arrangements are compatible with Articles 1 & 2 of the NPT is one of the open questions that must be dealt with in the Review Process. This issue has repeatedly been addressed by a number of states before and after the 1995 decision to extend the NPT indefinitely. Questions were raised about the legality of these arrangements and criticisms leveled for extending nuclear privileges to some non-nuclear weapon states. The issues at the heart of the debate have never been resolved. We believe that now is the time to clearly state that ending nuclear sharing would be step that would strengthen the NPT.

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