The Government’s long-awaited Strategic Defence Review (SDR) was unveiled on July 7th: despite the claim that ‘the Government wishes to see a safer world in which there is no place for nuclear weapons’ and some important moves towards greater openness and accountability, the document is firmly the product of Cold War thinking with ‘nuclear deterrence’ uncritically retained as central to defence strategy.
The announced cut in Trident warhead numbers still leaves Britain with three times the killing power it possessed at the height of the Cold War: Trident will still be three times more powerful, have twice the range and be four times more accurate than Polaris. The SDR fails to suggest any possible scenario in which Britain would actually consider using its nuclear weapons, and fails to respond to the ever-increasing nuclear proliferation threat highlighted by the recent Indian and Pakistani tests.
Britain is not fulfilling its obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and an opportunity has been missed for really significant moves towards global abolition.
William Peden, CND Parliamentary officer, has produced an excellent and detailed critique of the SDR — copies available from Joanna (543-0362). Meanwhile we reproduce his pithy summary. Please do what you can to expose the truth behind the gloss of the SDR!
In 1899 the first International Peace Conference was held at The Hague, initiated by Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Groups of ordinary citizens from around the world will be invited to the centenary conference in May 1999 dedicated to the de-legitimisation of war. Key agenda items will be disarmament, including nuclear abolition, strengthening international humanitarian law and institutions and the peaceful settlement of disputes, including conflict prevention and peace building.
The Organising Committee is made up of groups from many sectors of society — disarmament groups, women’s groups, environmental campaigners, development and human rights groups. Francisca von Holthoon, disarmament coordinator at the Appeals Office in The Hague, writes “Humanity has wasted a significant portion of this century’s genius by channelling it into the development of weapons of unthinkable cruelty and immense destructive capability. Now, every conflict risks setting in motion a process of escalation that can threaten the lives of all human beings.
“On the other hand, remarkable successes have been achieved in the field of the abolition of landmines, chemical and bacteriological weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention has now been ratified by more than 100 states, while the Ottawa Treaty on the abolition of anti-personnel landmines was signed by over 120 states in the fall of 1997.
“These achievements show that substantial disarmament measures can be achieved and that citizens have a major rôle in creating the political climate which encourages — or even forces — governments to take those measures.
“The Hague Appeal hopes to use the model of such successes to create a meaningful agenda for disarmament in the next century.... We are committed to introducing the idea of the abolition of war to the world’s agenda.
“Governments have not done enough to exploit the post-Cold War environment in order to advance the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. [We] will analyze the reasons and significance of this failure to realize the ‘Peace Dividend’.”
The Appeal aims to influence the parallel intergovernmental series of high-level meetings during 1999 in The Hague and St Petersburg, and to inspire a series of local events throughout the world. It will be an important focus of WDC/CND campaigning throughout the next six months.
We now have a stock of copies of this excellent booklet prepared by Bruce Kent, on sale at the Peace Table (or from Joanna) at 50p each.
Quotations range from Wilfred Owen to Gorbachev, and from Thucydides to Martin Luther King. Suggestions for using the quotations include:
Of course the booklet is equally valuable for private reflection and inspiration and is highly recommended.
Kenwood Chef food mixer, £30 o.n.o.