by Pol D’Huyvetter, Executive Advisor
First of all I would like to thank the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament for organizing this very timely discussion on NATO and the future role of nuclear weapons during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly here today in Berlin.
I am invited to talk about “Nuclear weapons and civil society”. As we all know every opinion poll has illustrated that a large majority of the world population is opposed to nuclear weapons and wants these immoral weapons to be dismantled.
Now with regards to the nuclear weapons deployed within NATO framework and NATO's nuclear deterrent we run into a very interesting situation.
Let me look to the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe, something which NATO will neither confirm nor deny. According to our information the US deploys nuclear weapons in Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey,
Well a Greenpeace International survey in 2006 showed that the public in the six concerned countries are not aware of the deployment of nuclear weapons on their territories. Only in Belgium did the survey find a majority of citizens being aware of such nuclear deployments.
What is supposed to be a well-informed Western audience is living in almost total ignorance of thousands of potential Hiroshima's stored in their backyards. The same survey showed that once informed about the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on their territory, a large majority of the public wants them to be withdrawn.
Let me now tell you briefly something about Mayors for Peace. Mayors for Peace is a global network established by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1982 at the UN Special Session for Disarmament. Today because of the outstanding leadership of Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, the actual Mayor of Hiroshima, over 2,226 mayors in 129 countries have joined the 2020 Vision which was launched in 2003. The 2020 Vision is a rallying cry for a world free of all nuclear weapons by 2020. The Mayor of Hiroshima is aware as few other Mayors of the devastating effects of the use of an atomic bomb. In 1945 alone over 140,000 people died in Hiroshima.
Many might think that nuclear weapons don't pose a danger. Well according to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists the approx. of 26,000 nuclear warheads in today's arsenals have a total yield of 6,822 Mt. When you know that “Little Boy”, the bomb used to destroy Hiroshima was about 15 kT this means that we have a total potential explosive power of 454,800 Hiroshima bombs. It is very difficult to contain these numbers but you can best picture our planet earth with a suicide belt around its waist.
For many years the UN has been calling for complete nuclear disarmament. Actually the very first resolution of the UN was one calling for nuclear disarmament. Every year the UN General Assembly reaffirms this call. Also last year. Let us for example look to the 13 nuclear disarmament resolutions tabled in October 2007 in the First Committee of the United Nations and later adopted in the UN GA. All of these resolutions in favor of nuclear disarmament were adopted with significant or even very large majorities when voted in New York. The resolutions dealt for example with calls for general nuclear disarmament, a Convention Prohibiting the Use of NW, or calling for NWFZ (amongst other in the Middle East and South-East Asia), the entry into force of the CTBT or decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons,
However there was one country which voted against every single resolution. Was this Iran? Or North-Korea? Well, no it was the USA. Remarkable as well in the voting pattern in the UN is how the NATO member states, all European except Canada and the USA, often seem to follow marching orders from Washington as they seem to take the side of the US in opposing the will of most governments to move firmly towards nuclear disarmament. Of course we should also take into account the influence of Paris and London, the 2 NWS within the EU who seem to oppose complete nuclear disarmament as the best remedy to counter proliferation.
This confronts us again with an enormous democratic deficit between what most western governments do and what the people want. Of course NATO officials will say that ordinary people should not get involved in international security issues.
This is where it becomes interesting to listen to the voices of the Mayors. Mayors are too often confronted with the results of international power games and military plans, with cities too often being the victims. Time has come for the voice of cities to rise. Cities can no longer be targets for military strategists.
In Belgium for example we witnessed a very interesting cooperation between Belgian Mayors and Members of Parliament. You should know that today 320 on a total of 589 Belgian Mayors have joined Mayors for Peace, or 54% who have subscribed to the Vision of a world free of nuclear weapons by 2020. Mayors do indeed have the responsibility to protect their cities and citizens. It was therefore not a surprise that the second World Conference of United Cities and Local governments decided to support the campaign of Mayors for Peace and stands with us to demand that “Cities can not be targets”.
The cooperation in Belgium between Mayors and MP's resulted for example in a resolution being adopted in 2005 in the Belgian Parliament. Senator Vankrunkelsven who co-sponsored the resolution was also a Mayor for Peace, as were many of his colleagues.
The resolution asks the Belgian government to propose initiatives in NATO calling for the review of strategic nuclear doctrines; the gradual withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to help fulfill NPT Art. VI disarmament commitments; and the initiation of negotiations between NATO and Russia on tactical nuclear weapons.
Although this resolution was adopted 3 years ago we have not seen any substantial progress by the Belgian government, being confronted once again with a democratic deficit. Not only the will of the people but now also the will of the Belgian Parliament has been silenced.
For the past years Belgian Mayors continue to press their government to take action, for example by visits to the Foreign Minister, participation in the NPT Review process ... or even by participation in a non-violent blockade of the NATO nuclear base of Kleine Brogel.
One of the last remarkable initiatives was last year when European Mayors on whose territory US nuclear weapons are deployed demanded in a common position paper the withdrawal of the remaining US nuclear weapons from their municipalites.
The Mayors from Peer (Kleine Brogel - Belgium), Aviano and Ghedi (Italy), Uden (Volkel - The Netherlands), Incirlik (Turkey), and Buechel (Germany) signed a common statement in an attempt to restore democracy. Their appeal received the support from the Executive Cities of the Mayors for Peace, including the Mayors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Florence, Manchester, and Hannover.
The appeal of the European mayors runs counter to NATO-policy which neither confirms or denies the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe. The Mayors denounce this lack of transparency as this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to have an honest democratic debate.
"While our public is regularly provided alarming media reports of nuclear dangers in Iraq, North Korea or Iran, what is supposed to be a well-informed western audience is living in ignorance of the destructive power of thousands of potential Hiroshimas stored in our backyards" declared the mayors Stefano Del Cont (Aviano), Anna Giulia Guarneri (Ghedi), Theo Kelchtermans (Peer), Dr. Joke W. Kersten (Uden), Heinz Onnertz (Buechel) and Vedat Karadag (Incirlik).
The Op-ed coincided with the 20th anniversary of the historic INF treaty which was signed in Washington, D.C. on 8 December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty eliminated intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles. The INF Treaty marked the start of an era of détente between the Soviet Union and the West. The Mayors declared that 20 years later the time has come to take new steps for the implementation of Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which imposes A legal obligation on all nuclear weapon states to negotiate nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.
Another remarkable action is where Czech mayors organized themselves and even formed an association against deployment of the so called “National Missile Defense”. Today this results in increasing international tensions with Russia and China and it is generating a new arms race. When you look more in depth to the implementation of this US project, including the interceptor missiles in Poland, this clearly forms another important a further step towards the militarization and control of space. NMD is therefore a dangerous name. It is easier to explain to people as being part of the US plans for a space shield commonly known by the people as “Star Wars”.
Today two young Czechs, Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar, have been without food for 13 days in an effort to draw attention to this project. These Czech hunger-strikers receive the support from Mayors for Peace especially as we are working closely with Mayor Jan Neoral of the town of Trokavec who joined the hunger-strikers for one day last Saturday. Mayor Jan Neoral is heading an association of Czech Mayors against the deployment of the radar system in the Czech Republic. Here we should all know that two thirds of Czech citizens are against the proposed radar base and we should all supports the strikers' call for a referendum to decide on this important matter.
Today, after having a nice lunch, we ask all of you present here today to support these two young Czech people.
To end I would like to say that Mayors their concerns are clearly rooted deeply in the protection of their cities, their citizens as well as a protection of democracy itself. This probably declares why on average two cities join Mayors for Peace every single day.
And here Mayors and MP's have an extremely important role to work together to counter the growing democratic deficit with regard to nuclear policies of NATO. We don't need and want nuclear policies for our security. If NATO is truly here to protect democracies, time has come for NATO to work with us to outlaw these undemocratic, genocidal and illegal weapon systems.
Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign
City Hall, Grote Markt 34, 8900 Ypres, BELGIUM
Phone: +32-57-38 89 57 Mobile: +32-495-28 02 59
Fax: +32-57-23 92 76 Skype: poltanner