By Jamshed Baruah
BASEL (IDN) – Preserve the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty! Prevent a new nuclear arms race in Europe! Undertake measures to reduce the risk of a nuclear conflict! Support global nuclear disarmament!
This is the crux of an impassioned appeal by mayors, parliamentarians, policy experts and civil society representatives from forty countries – mostly Europe and North America – in an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump and to the leaders of the Russian and U.S. legislatures. [2019-01-31]
The signatories and endorsers of the Basel Appeal for Disarmament and Sustainable Security say they are "extremely concerned" about the deteriorating security environment in Europe and world-wide during 2018 because of the erosion of the INF Treaty, and the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
They are also troubled by unresolved conflicts between Russia and the West including over Crimea and Syria, and between nuclear-armed states in other regions including South Asia and the South China Sea. They are worried about further development and modernization of nuclear weapons and related military systems, and provocative war games and nuclear threat postures.
The INF Treaty is an historic agreement reached in 1987 between the United States and the then Soviet Union to eliminate all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres, and to utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification of the agreement.
Subsequent to President Trump's announcement on October 20, 2018 of his intent to withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty, the State Department has signalled that the U.S. will suspend implementation of the treaty beginning February 2, 2019 and commence the six-month withdrawal process.
If the Treaty were abandoned, it would further stimulate the current nuclear arms race. In particular, it would open the door for intermediate-range, ground-based nuclear-armed missiles returning to Europe and for U.S. deployment of such missiles in Asia.
"Conflicts over the INF Treaty should be resolved through the Treaty, not by abandoning it. And other conflicts should be resolved through diplomacy and common security mechanisms such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)," said Christine Muttonen, who recently served as the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. "They cannot be resolved by elevating nuclear threats and ratchetting up the arms race."
"Mayors and parliamentarians, especially those of us from Europe, will not sit idly on the side while the U.S. and Russia erode our security," said Thore Vestby from Norway, Vice-President of Mayors for Peace and a former member of the Norwegian parliament. "Cities and parliaments are therefore taking action to support nuclear arms control treaties such as the INF and START treaties, promote additional measures such as no-first-use and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and to put an end to city and state investments in nuclear weapons corporations."
"Legislators in nuclear armed States have a specific role to prevent authorization and funding for new more sophisticated and usable nuclear weapons that increase the risk of destruction of humanity by accident, miscalculation or intent," said Paul Quiles (France), Mayor of Cordes sur Ciel, President of Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire, and Former Defence Minister of France.
"The fact that the President of the US Conference of Mayors is among 18 U.S. mayors who endorsed on short notice is a significant indicator that 'Main Street USA' opposes the Administration's destabilizing and expensive nuclear weapons program and supports proactive efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world," said Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa and Vice-President of Mayors for Peace.
"Nuclear weapons and climate change pose an existential threat to current and future generations," says Dr Andreas Nidecker MD of Switzerland, President of the Basel Peace Office. "The massive amount of spending in nuclear weapons – over $100 billion per year – should instead be spent in areas which increase our security – such as diplomacy, climate protection and the Sustainable Development Goals."
While referring to a several menacing developments, the Basel Appeal applauds the Korean peace and denuclearization process, and lends full support for continuing diplomacy to ensure success.
"Diplomacy is starting to work on the Korean peninsula with North and South building cultural, sporting and other contacts despite their political differences," said Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator and Member of the World Future Council.
"We give full support to the Korean peace and denuclearization process and we call on U.S., NATO and Russia to follow a similar diplomatic approach with regard to their conflicts, and to help achieve global nuclear disarmament," he added.
In order to reduce "the risk of nuclear weapons use by accident, miscalculation or escalation," the signatories and endorsers of the Basel Appeal – who include the current Pugwash president Sergio Duarte and his predecessor Jayantha Dhanapala: both former UN Under Secretary-Generals for Disarmament – call on Russia, the U.S. and NATO "to re-affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be launched, and to implement such a declaration by adopting policies to never initiate the use of nuclear weapons ('no-first-use' policies)."
They also urge Russia and the U.S. to rescind their 'launch-on-war' policies and to end their high operational readiness to use nuclear weapons.
They highlight the universal obligation to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world, and welcome the commitment made by NATO and the U.S. to create the conditions to realise this goal.
They call on them to implement this commitment through: enhanced dialogue and engagement with other nuclear-armed States; developing an action plan for the comprehensive phase-out of nuclear deterrence and its replacement by common security; and undertaking initial steps by reducing nuclear stockpiles, cancelling nuclear weapons modernisation programs, cutting nuclear weapons budgets and reallocating these funds to support sustainable development.
Furthermore, NATO and the U.S. should join with other nuclear-armed and reliant States to negotiate a global nuclear weapons convention – to eliminate all nuclear weapons – as already supported by China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and most non-nuclear countries. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 January 2019]
Image credit: Basel Peace Office
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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