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Time for NATO to leave the nuclear dinosaur age?

Press Release: For publication May 24
Contact: Uta Zapf, MdB +49 30 227 7 49 73 

Parliamentary leaders and nuclear non-proliferation experts today challenged members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and other countries ‘defended’ by nuclear weapons to abandon the outdated doctrine of nuclear deterrence and redirect nuclear weapons budgets to meeting social and development goals.

“Most people in NATO countries don’t realise that their governments continue to sanction the use of nuclear weapons,” said Uta Zapf, chair of the Bundestag Subcommittee on Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Security, and Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). “Nor do they realise that some NATO countries – Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey - still host US nuclear weapons on their soil for use if conflict breaks out.”

“Nuclear weapons, like landmines and cluster munitions, are indiscriminate, inhumane, immoral and illegal. They must all be prohibited and eliminated,” said Ms Zapf.

PNND is appealing to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which is in session until May 27, to respond to parliamentary and public appeals urging NATO countries to end the hosting of US nuclear weapons, abandon NATO’s policies to threaten and use nuclear weapons and start negotiations that would create a nuclear weapons free zone in Europe.

“We reject the views of the senior NATO military officials who said recently that “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction"” “This policy is a recipe for disaster,” said Uta Zapf. “NATO should be leading the world towards a nuclear weapons free future, not back into the nuclear inferno. It is time for NATO to emerge from the nuclear dinosaur age.”

A joint statement of the five international Co-Presidents of PNND – all women - released today to commemorate International Women’s Disarmament Day, argues that “The continuing possession of nuclear weapons stimulates proliferation and makes possible the acquisition and use by a terrorist group – something much more devastating than the destruction of the World Trade Centre in 2001. Even more frightening would be the use of multiple nuclear weapons between States - whether by accident, miscalculation or intent. Such use would dwarf the horrors of previous world wars and would generate environmental destruction far worse than either the Chernobyl accident or the potential impact from global carbon emissions.”

Hans Kristensen from the Federation of American Scientists, believes that there is a growing understanding amongst policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic that the only way to prevent nuclear proliferation is to work towards to total prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. “It is not sustainable to maintain nuclear weapons policies and weapons for some countries, and expect that others will not desire or acquire nuclear weapons themselves.”

“The world is rapidly become more globalised in finance, communications and political structures,” believes Martin Butcher from Acronym Institute. “Cold War policies of mutually assured destruction no longer make sense. They do not provide security from today’s threats, and they hinder the global cooperation required to meet today’s challenges of poverty, climate change and civil conflicts.”

“Citizens and cities in Europe and around the world are rejecting the idea that their security can be found by threatening to destroy cities and being threatened in return,” said Pol D’Huyvetter, Coordinator for the Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign, which envisions the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020. “The first step is to remove all nuclear weapons from foreign deployment, something called for by the mayors of all the European territories in which US nuclear weapons are sited – the only remaining foreign deployment sites in the world.”

Kristensen predicts that the US nuclear weapons in Europe will be phased out within a decade. “We have already seen US nuclear weapons removed from Greece, and NATO countries are unlikely to add nuclear capability to their next-generation aircraft. It is only the inertia of Cold War thinking and nuclear career bureaucrats in NATO that are holding us back. It is time for NATO to finish the withdrawal of nuclear weapons that was begun in1991.”