Hawks in doves' clothing
Police remove Greenpeace 'Stop Star Wars' banner from Danish foreign ministry. Danish participation is strategic for US Star Wars plans.
They speak the peaceful words of the post-Cold War era. NATO
member states say they are committed to the international nuclear
non-proliferation and disarmament regime. And NATO has reduced the
types and numbers of its sub-strategic nuclear forces over Europe
What they don't say is that the vast majority of those
eliminated were out of date, unsafe and militarily useless. Others
eliminated, such as Cruise and Pershing were deemed politically and
publicly unacceptable by many European countries even during the
Unfortunately NATO remains politically and symbolically
committed to nuclear weapons, and Europe's turf still bristles with
them. Seven European NATO members (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany,
Greece, Italy, Turkey and the UK) currently have an estimated 150
US air-launched nuclear bombs based on their territories. The NATO
nuclear weapons states (USA, France and the UK) posses a combined
force of over ten thousand nuclear weapons.
Grim tango of risk takes new twist
But with the tensions of the Cold War over, surely we are moving
away from the risk of actually using nuclear weapons, right?
Wrong. The US Bush administration seems bent on reviving the
spectre of nuclear war so vivid in the Reagan era -- but with a new
This year marked a frightening new shift in why and how US
nuclear forces could be used. Previously the US described nuclear
weapons as purely "defensive weapon[s] of last resort". But in the
2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), they have been named as
'offensive' weapons that could be used pre-emptively.
Mission impossible: hitting a bullet with a bullet
A major cornerstone of the NPR is "Star Wars", the son of the
failed Reagan-era missile defence system. Likened by critics to
"hitting a bullet with a bullet" the system is unlikely to be truly
effective, but carries the massive price tag of an estimated $US 60
to 200 billion. The Star Wars program can only lead to a
re-ignition of the arms race and a return to the "Cold War".
It's no wonder the new US strategy of the NPR caused a storm
when it was leaked to the public in March this year. Whilst US
State Department officials have attempted to dismiss it by saying
it is not formally adopted policy, the US Department of Defense
report to the US president and congress describes the NPR as a
This new warlike stance is a direct strike on peace and
disarmament. It defies the policy agreed in 1995 by all five of the
world's nuclear weapons states. At that time, the policy was that
only nuclear weapons states or those in alliance with a nuclear
state risked nuclear attack from a nuclear weapons state. Under the
new US policy, any state could be attacked with nuclear
Will NATO clone US policy? Again?
Worse, extracts from the NPR reveal that the US is seeking to
change NATO policy. NATO has a long history of marching obediently
in the military footsteps of the US. With President Bush's nuclear
doctrine shifting to an emphasis on first-use of nuclear weapons -
even in a conventional conflict or before a military conflict has
begun - NATO doctrine will be under pressure to do likewise. The
question is: will NATO governments publicly endorse the new US
nuclear policy? Or will there merely be a tacit acceptance of
In fact, they should do neither. "In the post-Cold War era it is
time for NATO to seriously review its addiction to nuclear
weapons," said Greenpeace campaigner William Peden, "not to attempt
to find new justifications for their continued possession."
The US is also using the Prague summit to tell NATO it should
have its own version of Star Wars. They want NATO to begin
feasibility studies and to start developing a NATO-wide system. But
the immense drawbacks of the scientific and political fantasy that
is Star Wars remain. Bafflingly, those who voiced opposition in the
past appear to be warming to this idea.
NATO must go public
These changes to NATO policy would be decisions of huge
significance. They must therefore be publicly debated in all NATO
countries, and that includes debate in all parliaments.
Ultimately, NATO leaders must reject the frightening new US
stance set down in its NPR because it is no basis for NATO policy.
NATO leaders must clearly pledge not to support a pre-emptive or
first-use of nuclear weapons.