by David McKenzie • Trump has confirmed that the US will unilaterally pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This is a bi-lateral treaty between the US and Russia and bans the deployment of nuclear missiles with a range of between 300 and 3400 miles.
The INF was agreed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987 in mutual recognition that weapon systems like the US Pershing and the Soviet SS 20 dangerously reduced the threshold for all-out nuclear war.
A key feature of these systems is their mobility and the resultant secrecy around their deployed location.
The US stated its concerns with the INF even before Trump, because as a US/Russia treaty it left any similar moves by others unbanned and the US seems to identify China as a more serious global competitor/enemy than Russia. The US also claims that Russia is developing Cruise-type systems.
While the nuclear arms control treaty fabric (INF, START, etc) has led to a significant reduction in the numbers of nuclear weapons worldwide the remaining arsenals are still vast and more than enough to finish us all off.
The mere numbers also disguise the aggressive modernisation programmes, particularly those by the US initiated under Obama. This is a nuclear arms race in which quality is valued more than quantity.
While the arms control regime has been a whole lot better than nothing it has not made us safe given the uninterrupted threat from error, both human and technological, the uncertainly around the delegation of attack decisions and the emergence of maverick and unpredictable leaders in the nuclear-armed states.
Trump’s decision also makes it plain that any arms control regime is open to fluctuation and radical uncertainty. The risk is constant and real. Only complete elimination will do. The focus is now firmly on the horrific humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Cue the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of states at the UN last year.
In the Preamble, it reads:
“Deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons, and recognizing the consequent need to completely eliminate such weapons, which remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances… [and] Determined to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control…”
The “P5” top nuclear-armed states are not happy and are doing what they can to rubbish the new Treaty, claiming in particular that it contradicts and undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It doesn’t.
It is in fact the necessary mechanism for advancing Article V1 of the NPT, the obligation of the nuclear-armed states to make progress in good faith towards disarmament. Indeed, back in the 1960s, the US was strongly critical of the Irish proposal to introduce the NPT, which it now declares to be the true path to disarmament. The US pressures NATO states to have nothing to do with the TPNW.
Intriguingly the TPNW brings a new element into the NATO question. The hateful NATO first-strike nuclear policy is just that, a policy, and is not an article of the Treaty itself. So a NATO member state can in fact sign and ratify the TPNW without breaching the terms of the NATO treaty.
You might be uneasy about such pragmatism in regard to US hegemony but it is worth noting that this fine wedge might well be driven in further, to the point where some member states, in recoil from the ever more blatant domination of the alliance by the US, will seek a re-balancing or an exit. This has sharp relevance for Scotland.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the May government came to the US heel on the INF with the usual grovelling alacrity, disregarding Scotland’s position and underlining just how dishonest the UK is when it talks about multilateral disarmament.
The Treaty itself continues to make good progress with 69 signatures and 19 ratifications with another 20 or so in the pipeline.
So what should we be doing in Scotland? Start by reading the TPNW right through. It is clear, comprehensive and inspiring.
It will give you the radical global perspective we so urgently need.
See the dedicated website nuclearban.scot then, if you haven’t done so already, join one of the anti-nuke groups active in Scotland—Scottish CND, Trident Ploughshares, Nukewatch, WILPF—and tune in to their activity. Find out the stance of your MPs and MSPs and get on their case. If your elected rep is in a party that already rejects the UK’s nuclear weapon policy there is a special message:
“An independent Scotland is the obvious and quickest route to getting rid of nukes not only from Scotland but from the UK, but we must not rest on our good intentions in the meantime.
“There is much that we can do to align with the TPNW right now and these efforts to align will aid our struggle for independence by underling our exceptional stance within the UK.
“Alignment efforts now will also critically smooth the path to disarmament once we achieve our independence. There are four practical areas to focus on.
“We can make sure that there is knowledge and understanding of the Treaty available to educational institutions at all levels.
“We can continue to highlight and challenge the transport of nuclear weapons across the country.
“We can make our facilities and academic expertise available to support international conferences on disarmament and we can open a proper examination of the legal status of the UK’s nuclear weapons under Scotland law.”
It’s a sleeves-up moment.
• See nuclearban.scot