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Cooperative Security: A New Paradigm For A World Without Nuclear Weapons?

3. Four Steps Towards Cooperative Security
Cooperative security has been defined as: “a process whereby countries with common interests work jointly through agreed mechanisms to reduce tensions and suspicion, resolve or mitigate disputes, build confidence, enhance economic development prospects, and maintain stability in their regions.”3 In order to make progress towards the emergence of such a system and create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, four steps should be envisaged.

  1. The first one would be to disconnect the permanent membership of the UN Security Council from possession of nuclear weapons. Actually, from 1971 (when the People’s Republic of China joined the Security Council) to 1998 (when India became a nuclear-weapon state), there was a strict equivalence between the status of a Permanent Member (with veto power) and that of a nuclear-weapon state. Obviously, there are other reasons for the attractive character of this coincidence why other countries acquired nuclear weapons. However, if countries such as Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Egypt do become Permanent Members while they do not possess nuclear weapons, this attractiveness would be reduced. It would be demonstrated that it is possible to acquire power and influence over world affairs without a nuclear arsenal. The role currently played by Germany in the “P5+1” negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme or by Japan in the “Six-Party Talks” with North Korea (beyond both countries’ contribution to the funding of the UN or other organisations) can be a justification in advance for such a move.
  2. The second step would consist in vigorously addressing the regional conflicts which fuel nuclear proliferation:
    • In South Asia, it is true that India did not become a nuclear-weapon state because of Pakistan (but mainly because of China) while the reverse is true. Therefore, India and China should be encouraged to resolve their disputes including territorial ones, possibly with the mediation of the UN Secretary-General or his envoy, and consider a set of confidence-building measures to move towards cooperative security for their mutual benefit. This could lead to negotiated or unilateral but coordinated steps towards conventional and nuclear disarmament. Between India and Pakistan, although confidence-building measures such as direct communications links and an agreement on the non-attack of nuclear facilities are already being implemented, no major breakthrough can be expected until a negotiated solution to the Kashmir conflict (and other territorial disputes) is achieved. The US, which aggravated Pakistan’s frustration by granting India a nuclear cooperation agreement despite its non-NPT membership, has a critical role to play. Some compensation for Pakistan will need to be found, especially to encourage it to accept a multilateral negotiation on the prohibition of production of fissile material for weapons purposes (“Cut-off Treaty”). Beyond South Asia, it is also clear that persisting tensions between China and the US (mainly about Taiwan) as well as territorial disputes between China and Japan must be addressed to avoid escalation in the Chinese military build-up.
    • In the Korean Peninsula, the Six-Party Talks must be revived to ensure the implementation of the 1992 and the 2005 agreements on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Here too, the US has a crucial role to play to alleviate the fears of the North Korean regime stemming from a perceived policy of regime change and unqualified support to South Korea. With the needed support from China, Pyongyang should be convinced of the benefits it may derive from denuclearization that should outweigh the costs of the status quo, including sanctions and isolation. Beyond that aspect, both Koreas should get incentives for concluding a far-reaching normalization agreement.
    • In the Middle East, another volatile region, priority should of course be given to the central issue of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians allowing the recognition of the state of Palestine and consequently the mutual recognition of Israel and all Arab states. It is an illusion to think that anything will happen in the area of arms control or a fortiori disarmament unless this preliminary step is achieved. Beyond that essential milestone, threat perceptions and military asymmetries in the region will still need to be addressed, especially because they are affected by a perception of Western double standards in favour of Israel.4As for Iran, a parallel can be established with North Korea: until Tehran receives some form of recognition for its legitimate regional role from the US, amounting to a definitive abandonment of the regime change policy, Iran will continue to develop the capacity to deter what it perceives as a threat from the US and Israel. Some, like Gen. James Cartwright, go as far as suggesting that the US offer extended deterrence to Iran.5 Presumably, this would be part of a Grand Bargain whereby Iran would accept to forego nuclear weapons in exchange for continuing low enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes. Of course, the best way of ensuring an end to proliferation in the region will be an agreement on a WMD-free zone including Iran and Israel, with external guarantees.6
  3. The third step would be, assuming that regional conflicts are addressed to open the way to regional security architectures, to promote synergies between regional and global disarmament. Indeed, even if regional tensions can be reduced by confidence- and security-building measures and commonly agreed constraints on the most destabilizing armaments, one major incentive for regional disarmament should come from global disarmament efforts by the most heavily armed states. The idea is to move from the vicious circle of maintaining nuclear deterrence against current or possible proliferation to a virtuous circle of accompanying de-proliferation with reduced levels of armaments. Any pursuit of the status quo, where the developed nuclear powers keep their nuclear weapons because of the growing threat of developing states’ weapons, may amount to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, letting existing or potential proliferation crises develop may in the end justify maintaining nuclear stockpiles or even building them up, consequently encouraging the proliferating states in their endeavour. How is it possible to avoid a sense of double standards when India is told to disarm while China increases its arsenal? When Pakistan is told to disarm while India benefits from a US nuclear cooperation agreement? When Iran is told to stop its nuclear programme while nothing is done about Israel’s capability? When North Korea is told to disarm while South Korea enjoys US extended deterrence? On the contrary, the power of example may be strong and at minimum must be tried: if the US ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it could have a domino effect on the other key states missing (China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan) and allow the treaty to enter into force. At least the US would be credible in campaigning for this non-proliferation instrument. If the US and Russia returned to a Reykjavik-type approach (elimination of all ballistic missiles and 50% of all strategic weapons within 10 years), the onus would be on the other nuclear powers, including China, the UK, and France to follow suit in taking part in some negotiation. Obviously, all the contentious issues preventing a breakthrough in the negotiations between the US and Russia must be tackled: missile defence and in particular the European Adaptive Phased Approach (still perceived by Russia as a threat to its retaliation capability and thus to strategic stability); weaponization of outer space (related to missile defence capabilities with anti-satellite potential); conventional imbalances to the advantage of NATO, a reversal of the Cold War situation (and the related value of Russian tactical nuclear weapons); Russian fears about US conversion of submarine-launched nuclear-tipped missiles to conventional warheads or the development of new conventional weapons (such as the Prompt Global Strike)7that could be even more destabilizing than nuclear weapons especially if they substituted them in the future.In order to make progress in the adoption of a new paradigm of cooperative security, the US and Russia should revive and update their Cooperative Threat Reduction Program which has already contributed to a substantial elimination of surplus armaments in Russia. They should also offer their expertise and support to other countries, including the identified regional conflict areas, in jointly implementing arms elimination programmes following the experience of the G-8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Sharing in particular good practices and lessons learnt about on-site inspections within disarmament agreements may have a broad confidence-building effect.8
  4. The fourth step towards cooperative security to facilitate nuclear disarmament will be the adoption of new security doctrines by all current nuclear-weapon states, which they will be able to share with the rest of the world. This will be based on the explicit understanding that, in a 21st century globalised world, the concept of security has dramatically evolved. It has moved away from the sole protection of states(meaning often regimes or governments) against external threats by military means to ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals(some of whom may be threatened even by their own state or government), confronted by multi-faceted transnational challenges. These challenges facing both states and individuals can be traditional “hard security” threats such as terrorism, arms proliferation, organised crime or political violence, requiring effective law enforcement and occasional military instruments. But they are only partial security issues and encompass broader dimensions (social, economic, environmental) like pandemics, climate change, financial crises, uncontrolled migration, technological developments, uneven access to energy, food, water, or natural resources; such challenges necessitate comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approaches within states and, more importantly, multilateral or regional cooperation among states. In any case, none of the above-mentioned threats can be deterred or combated with nuclear weapons. Such weapons are thus increasingly condemned to irrelevance.

The other dimension of the new security environment compared to the one having led to the development of nuclear weapons is the fact that it is less state-centric and relies more on the contributions of non-state actors or factors that can be positive (civil society organi­sations, private sector, academic or scientific institutions) but also negative (criminal or terrorist organisations, traffickers, industry involved in irresponsible arms trade, uncontrolled private security companies, etc.). Today, there would not be treaties banning antipersonnel landmines or cluster munitions, and tomorrow hopefully an Arms Trade Treaty, without the initiative of and a decisive push from civil society organisations. The implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) would be impossible without the cooperation of the world chemical industry. To prevent the use of biological agents as weapons, cooperation between states, the industry and the scientific community is being developed. In order to launch national debates in nuclear-weapon states on the irrelevance of nuclear deterrence, it is good that former high-ranking military and political leaders now campaign in that direction and express credible views based on experience; more of such debates are needed especially in the countries where nuclear policy has been kept away from public scrutiny.9 In the end, civil societies will demand more and more transparency, empowerment, and oversight, as can be seen in the countries undergoing revolutions and transitions. This will be an important component of decision-making towards nuclear disarmament: any particular lobby, whether in the political sphere or the military-industrial establishment, must be aware of the will of the vast majority of people nationally and internationally and should give up the arrogant ambition of ensuring uneducated or uninformed people’s security against their own will. Of course, the real challenge is to convince as a priority the civil society of the nuclear-weapon states and their allies, since in the other states, a majority is already persuaded of the irrelevance and dangers of nuclear deterrence. Needless to say, wherever lobbies have vested interests in maintaining nuclear deterrence, such interests will have to be catered to, by conversion to conventional or civilian work as it was largely done in the Russian industrial-military complex or in South Africa. Costs of such conversion could be shared internationally in the spirit of the G-8 Global Partnership, the results being in the interests of the whole international community.


3. Michael Moodie, Cooperative Security: Implications for National Security and International Relations. Volume 14 of Cooperative Monitoring Center occasional paper (Livermore: Sandia National Laboratories, 2000)
4. Christian Weidlichet al., “The First Two Steps to Cope Constructively with Military Asymmetries at the Middle East Conference (I) – Security Concepts and Motives behind Weapon Programs in Egypt, Israel, and Syria,” Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East Policy Brief No. 13 http://academicpeaceorchestra.com/download.php?downloadid=50
5. Diane Barnes, “Ex-Strategic Command Chief Floats Extended Deterrence Offer for Iran,” Global Security Newswire, 7th February 2013 http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/cartwright-iran-nuclear-deal/
6. Ayman Khalil and Marc Finaud, eds., “The Conference for a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone – A Synopsis of Engagement of International and Regional Organisations, and Civil Society,” GCSP Report http://www.gcsp.ch/Emerging-Security-Challenges/Publications/GCSP-Publications/Books-and-Edited-Volumes/The-Conference-for-a-Middle-East-Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction-Free-Zone
7. Amy Woolf, “Conventional Global Prompt Strike Long-range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues,” Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/R41464.pdf
8. International Group on Global Security, “On-site Inspections: A Major Arms Control Verification Tool,” GCSP Report http://www.gcsp.ch/Emerging-Security-Challenges/WMD-Disarmament/Publications/GCSP-Publications/On-Site-Inspections-a-Major-Arms-Control-Verification-Tool
9. Hans Born, “National Governance of Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities and Constraints,” DCAF Policy Papers, no. 15 (2006) http://www.dcaf.ch/Publications/National-Governance-of-Nuclear-Weapons-Opportunities-and-Constraints


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