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

4. The Conditions for a World without Nuclear Weapons
Once the process has started along these four tracks, it should be easier, especially for nuclear-weapon states and their allies benefiting from extended deterrence to consider that most of the “conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” mentioned in the UN Security Council resolution 1887 have effectively been fulfilled. In that sense, the nuclear-weapon states would not be credible if they continued to affirm that their ultimate security could still be achieved only with nuclear weapons. The above-mentioned “conditions” would then indeed appear as pre-conditions for moving ahead towards nuclear disarmament.

How to translate this situation into legally binding commitments that would ensure adher­ence by all the relevant states? Here again, two parallel tracks can be pursued.

  • A Convention banning nuclear weapons has been proposed and endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, but is so far rejected by the US, Russia and France. It is true that nuclear-weapon states can have the legitimate impression that one puts the cart before the horse while they conceive nuclear disarmament as an incremental and conditional process. However, in 2008, a worldwide poll showed support for a Convention by 76% of the respondents, including those in nuclear-weapon states.10   Without entering into the detail of the pro and con arguments, one can refer to the precedent of chemical and biological weapons despite the specific nature of nuclear weapons. There was first a prohibition of use in war in the 1925 Geneva Protocol; it was of course deemed insufficient and weakened by reservations, but there is no doubt that this prohibition played an important role in limiting the actual resort to such weapons. And the second, much later step was the prohibition of development and possession, in 1972 for biological weapons and 1993 for chemical weapons. It took time to elaborate effective mechanisms, especially for chemical weapons, to ensure confidence in the implementation of the obligations by all states parties. But in the meantime, the universal condemnation of use as well as decreasing military relevance of those weapons convinced most states not to acquire them or to renounce them. The same process could take place with regard to nuclear weapons: in the first phase, a general prohibition of use accepted by all nuclear-weapon states (including the non-NPT parties) would allow temporary possession until sufficient verification of elimination would be negotiated and put into place. International safeguards, for instance on de-alerting or non-deployment of weapons, could be introduced.
  • Revival of the concept of general and complete disarmament (GCD) is occasionally proposed.11 To the disarmament community, this concept may sometimes seem outdated or completely obsolete if not totally utopian. The fact is that, in Article VI of the NPT, all states parties “undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith” not only on “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” but also “on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” It is important to stress that this obligation covers both aspects and that there is no conditionality between the former and the latter. After unsuccessful negotiation attempts during the Cold War, the goal of GCD was put on the agenda of the UN General Assembly in 1959, and appeared in the US-Soviet proposal called the McCloy-Zorin statement.12 In that major document, GCD was defined as the goal of ensuring that states will have only “non-nuclear armaments, forces, facilities and establishments […] to maintain internal order and protect the personal security of citizens and to […] support […] a United Nations peace force.” This common goal was eventually adopted at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament in 1978.13 But the Cold War environment and disagreements as the sequence (disarmament first or peace first?) prevented actual negotiations on a single treaty and the route of “partial measures” or the piecemeal approach was chosen, leading to separate multilateral agreements (the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the NPT, the Seabed Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Environmental Modification Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – CCW, – the CWC, the CTBT). This whole construction complemented the bilateral and regional disarmament treaties (including the nuclear-weapon free zones, or the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty). In the multilateral framework, further progress was made in the adoption of Protocols to the CCW and the treaties banning antipersonnel and cluster munitions, as well as the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, some aspects of which have led to global or regional treaties. However important gaps remain: not all states are party to all instruments and some are non-compliant with their commitments, which may undermine the effectiveness of the treaties (e.g. in the case of the NPT); some critical armaments are not covered, such as missiles, which can be both conventional weapons and delivery vehicles of WMD but are subject only to voluntary transparency measures in the far-from-universal Hague Code of Conduct; military expenditures and arms sales continue to increase, often stimulated by the defence industry and/or state suppliers.

One advantage of reviving the concept of GCD would be to offer a comprehensive and holistic view of all the current and potential categories of weapons likely to be used for offensive or destabilizing rather than defensive purposes, and all the interrelationships between them. It could defeat the argument consisting in refusing to deal with one category of weapon because other categories are deemed more threatening or destabilizing. This would force cooperation between policy makers and practitioners as well as non-state stakeholders dealing with only one category or one aspect, which often leads to deadlocks. It would also allow all sorts of mutual conces­sions and gains across the spectrum of security tools. If Israel felt less threatened by missiles from Iran, it could envisage more easily giving up its nuclear capability; in return, Syria and Egypt could join the ban on chemical weapons and Iran could accept limits of its nuclear programme. Similarly, if Russia felt less threatened by NATO’s conventional superiority and missile defence capabilities, it would be encouraged to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons, and NATO Allies could in return agree to the withdrawal of US tactical nuclear weapons from Europe while continuing to benefit from extended deterrence in the transition towards nuclear disarmament.

Eventually, the GCD approach would also allow the UN Security Council to fulfil one of its roles according to Article 26 of the UN Charter, i.e. the “establishment of a system of regulation of armaments” “[i]n order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.” In sum, it would in fact amount to ensuring for all states defensive capabilities at the lowest possible level of armaments.

5. Conclusion
The world is already moving towards a new paradigm of cooperative security leading states, out of necessity, to cooperate to meet health, environmental and financial chal­lenges. Interdependence means that success by one or a few benefits all, and failure by some endangers many. For this reason, in order to achieve cooperative security, major changes in the governance of the international system will need to be accelerated. Regional security architectures will need strengthening and a long-overdue reform of the UN Security Council will finally render it capable of implementing the concept of collective security which is at the heart of the UN Charter, along with peaceful settlement of disputes and an end to the “scourge of war.”

Ultimately, in such a win-win situation, all states and all stakeholders (apart from the spoilers) would acquire a feeling of global security, much stronger and more sustainable than mere national security dependent on unilateral choices, some of which, like nuclear deterrence, would appear irrelevant or an aberration in cost-effectiveness. This would be the best way of bridging the gap between the realist approach based only on national interests and the multilateralist approach promoting common goods.

10. “Publics around the World Favor International Agreement to Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons,” World Public Opinion
11. “Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP),” Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy
12. Randy Rydell, “Nuclear Disarmament and General and Complete Disarmament,” in The Challenge of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, ed. David Krieger (New York: Transaction Publishers, 2009), 227-242
13. Ibid

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