By Michelle Nichols, Reuters, March 27, 2017 (further below: the Russian gov’t view on nuclear talks in New York)
The United States, Britain and France are among almost 40 countries that will not join talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty starting at the United Nations on Monday, said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Haley told reporters the countries skipping the negotiations are instead committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 and is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?” Haley told reporters.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December – 113 in favor to 35 against, with 13 abstentions – that decided to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” and encouraged all member states to participate.
“You are going to see almost 40 countries that are not in the General Assembly today,” Haley said. “In this day and time we can’t honestly that say we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them.”
The Trump administration is reviewing whether it will reaffirm the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, a White House aide said last week, referring to an aim embraced by previous Republican and Democratic presidents and required by a key arms control treaty.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said: “The UK is not attending the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament.”
Deputy French U.N, Ambassador Alexis Lamek said the security conditions were not right for a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
“In the current perilous context, considering in particular the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability,” Lamek said.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a statement: “It is disappointing to see some countries with strong humanitarian records standing with a government which threatens a new arms race.”
UN committee adopts landmark resolution to ban nuclear weapons; U.S. and allies vote no, news compilation on New Cold War.org, Oct 27, 2016
UN General Assembly approves historic resolution to ban nuclear weapons, by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Friday, Dec 23, 2016
United States and allies protest UN talks to ban nuclear weapons
By Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone, New York Times, March 27, 2017
UNITED NATIONS — Saying the time was not right to outlaw nuclear arms, the United States led a group of dozens of United Nations members on Monday to boycott talks at the global organization for a treaty that would ban the weapons.
“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States told reporters outside the General Assembly as the talks were getting underway. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”
Ms. Haley and other ambassadors standing with her, including envoys from Britain, France, South Korea and Albania, declined to take questions.
The talks, supported by more than 120 countries, were first announced in October and are led by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden. Disarmament groups strongly support the effort.
The United States and most other nuclear powers, including Russia, opposed the talks. They come against the backdrop of increasing worries over the intentions of a reclusive North Korea, which has tested nuclear weapons and missiles that could conceivably carry them. Defying international sanctions, the North Koreans have threatened to strike the United States and its allies with what that country’s state media have called the “nuclear sword of justice.”
Ms. Haley and Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of Britain emphasized their countries had vastly reduced the size of their nuclear arsenals since the height of the Cold War.
Mr. Rycroft said his country was not participating in the talks “because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament.”
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Ms. Haley questioned whether countries favoring a weapons ban understood the nature of global threats. Referring to nations participating in the talks, she said, “you have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people?”
Proponents of a nuclear weapons ban have acknowledged the challenges of reaching a treaty but have been encouraged by earlier efforts that led to landmark prohibitions on other types of weapons, including chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions. If a sufficient number of countries were to ratify a nuclear weapons ban, supporters contend, it would create political and moral pressure on holdouts, including the big nuclear powers.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a statement that the opposition expressed by Ms. Haley and her allies “demonstrates how worried they are about the real impact of the nuclear ban treaty.”
Ms. Fihn, whose organization is a strong supporter of the negotiations, said a treaty would “make it clear that the world has moved beyond these morally unacceptable weapons of the past.”
Russia’s view of nuclear disarmanent talks
Remarks by Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 23, 2017
The following are two excerpts of an address by Sergei Lavrov to a meeting of senior officers of the Military Academy of the General Staff, in Moscow on March 23, 2017
… Recently, there has been a push towards forcing the nuclear states to abandon their nuclear arsenals and banning nuclear weapons altogether. It is crystal clear that this is premature. Let me remind you that it wasn’t for nothing that the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty wrote into it that the nuclear arsenals had to be fully scrapped but only in the context of general and complete disarmament. We are prepared to discuss the possibility of further gradual reductions in nuclear capabilities but only if we take all the factors influencing strategic stability into account and not just the quantity of strategic offensive weapons. Another reason why we’re prepared to discuss this issue is the growing sense of urgency about making this process multilateral. The restrictions on nuclear capabilities which Russia and the United States have repeatedly accepted for many years have led them to a situation where, essentially, they cannot proceed doing this on the bilateral basis.
… Question: U.S. President Donald Trump, in a recent statement, unexpectedly proposed revisiting the issue of reducing strategic arms as a platform for bargaining. Should strategic nuclear forces today be a subject of negotiations with the Americans or would it be advisable at this point to put them outside the bounds of Russian-U.S. relations?
Sergey Lavrov: To a very large extent, President Trump’s position on the majority of key issues on the foreign policy agenda, including further steps to limit strategic nuclear weapons as you’ve mentioned, has yet to be finalised. By the way, if I remember right, Donald Trump mentioned the issue of cooperation with us in this field as an example. He was asked whether he would be prepared to lift sanctions on Russia. I believe that was the way the question was formulated. He responded by saying they should see if there were issues on which they could cooperate with Russia on a mutually beneficial basis in U.S. interests, in particular, mentioning nuclear arms control. At the same time, as you know, the U.S. president said the Americans should modernise and build up their nuclear triad. We need to wait until the military budget is finally approved under the new administration and see what its priorities and objectives are and how these funds will be spent.
As for our further conversation, I briefly mentioned in my address that we are ready for such a conversation but it should be conducted with acknowledgment of all strategic stability factors without exception. Today, those who propose implementing the so-called nuclear zero initiative as soon as possible, banning and destroying nuclear weapons and generally outlawing them absolutely, ignore the fact that since the nuclear bomb was made and this new kind of weapon began to be produced on a large scale in the USSR, the U.S., China, France and the UK, colossal changes have taken place in military science and technology. What is being developed in the U.S. under the codename Prompt Global Strike are non-nuclear strategic weapons. If they are developed (and this work is moving forward very actively, with the objective of reaching any point in the world within an hour), of course, they will be more humane than nuclear weapons, because there will be no radiation, no Hiroshima or Nagasaki effect. However, in terms of military superiority, my friends at the Defence Ministry tell me the effect will be more devastating than from a modern nuclear bomb.
What’s more, our American partners are not abandoning the programme of deploying weapons in outer space, and they are essentially alone in voting against the initiatives co-sponsored by us, China and many other colleagues to commit not to do so. The Americans refuse to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which is also an important strategic stability factor. And of course the global missile defence system has an absolutely direct impact on strategic stability.
Another point: imbalances in conventional weapons, which are also being modernised very quickly. We always begin our dialogue with NATO by stressing the need to restore normal relations. We propose normalisation and agreements on mutual verification measures but before that, it is necessary to sit down and look at what each of us has deployed in proximity to each other, as well as in the entire Euro-Atlantic region. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered if we want not simply to ban nuclear weapons as idealists, but to ensure peace and security in the world and ensure strategic stability that will be sustainable and based on global parity. Everything that I’ve mentioned needs to be discussed. I may have missed some other factors.
I should also add that restrictions imposed by Russia and the U.S. on each other have reached a point where it is hard to say that we will be able to do a great deal together anymore. All states that have nuclear weapons should be brought in – importantly, not only those that have them officially but also de facto. [End of answer to question.]
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