COMMENT by Joanna Bazley

It is hard to get back to reality after the summer break but now the summer seems finally to have ended in dramatic fashion with the storms and thunder of recent weeks (seasonal gales or a more sinister reminder of global warming?..) we have daily reminders of the urgency of our new campaign.

The tragedy of East Timor and the now openly exposed rôle of the British arms exporters follows years of barely-heard protest by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. George W. Bush in his bid to gain the US presidency produces a speech on defence straight out of the Reagan era promising to build a national anti-ballistic missile defence and spend 20 billion dollars on new weapons systems.

The fact that the United Nations is now playing an essential rôle in East Timor offers hope for the future, even if it formerly proved powerless to prevent the violence from escalating. The UN-designated Year 2000 ‘International Year of the Culture of Peace’ must be the focus of a global campaign to continue the impetus of the 1999 Hague Peace conference.

The New Agenda Coalition is a powerful new voice in the debate against nuclear weapons. Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, Brazil and New Zealand comprise a group of independently-minded influential governments expressing their impatience with the nuclear weapons states who are still failing to meet their legal obligations to disarm.

“We can no longer remain complacent at the reluctance of the nuclear weapons states and the three nuclear weapons-capable states to take that fundamental and requisite step, namely a clear commitment to the speedy, final and total elimination of their nuclear weapons capability and we urge them to take that step now.... The international community must not enter the third millennium with the prospect that the maintenance of these weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future.”

Fifty years of brainpower and government money has gone into the development and continuance of nuclear weapons. Nobody pretends that dismantling all this will be quick or easy, but powerful forces are beginning to argue that the technicalities can be overcome if political willpower is committed to a common goal.

‘Security and Survival’ (see end of newsletter) is a new publication by international lawyers and scientists which explores political, legal and technical aspects of complete nuclear disarmament. Because it pays attention to realities and practicalities it is difficult for any nuclear weapons state to dismiss — without making the admission that they have no intention of ever progressing towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The UK opposed the 1998 UN resolution “Towards a nuclear weapons-free world: the need for a new agenda”, because it “advocates measures which we on the national basis... concluded... would be at the present time inconsistent with the maintenance of a credible minimum deterrence.”

‘Security and Survival’ puts it like this: “Once one is on the path, reaching the destination is easier than if one had not begun the journey, but there would still be checks and resting points along the way, were confidence and security not sufficiently developed to advance to the next step. For example the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention proposes a series of phases for reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons. Before commencing a phase of reductions, states would have the opportunity to affirm their confidence that other states have implemented their obligations under the previous phase....”

A recent letter from the MoD perhaps displays the smallest chink of light in UK government thinking: “As its drafters have made clear, the Model Convention is not a draft treaty or a negotiating text. It is rather designed to set out the issues that any such Treaty will have to address. On this basis it makes a useful contribution to the international debate on how to make progress towards the goal of global elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We welcome in particular the emphasis the Model Convention places on the fundamental issues of how to verify an nuclear weapons convention and how to ensure compliance if states try to cheat.... We have ourselves set work in hand in the Strategic Defence Review to develop the UK’s nuclear verification capabilities so that when conditions are right to negotiate a global nuclear weapons convention we will be ready to make a major contribution in this area.”

This is the first letter I have ever had from the MoD which is prepared to make a positive comment on any of our proposals.

Forum for UN Renewal

Lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 20th October 2–5 pm

Calling on the Government to act as follows to strengthen the United Nations:

Meeting 2·30 – 4·30 pm.

Speakers include Janet Bloomfield, Scilla Elworthy, Malcolm Harper, Alan Simpson M.P.

Please contact Joanna (543-0362) if you want further background information. We shall meet at the House of Commons, St Stephen’s entrance, at 2pm.

A Disarmament Rôle for Aldermaston?

The Scientists for Global Responsibility Newsletter (Summer 1999) is a useful nuclear issues edition. [SGR 0181 871−5175 for further copies].

We read that for the last few years the Rowntree Trust has been funding a British Pugwash Group project on a possible rôle for AWE Aldermaston in verifying nuclear disarmament. The Defence Committee of the House of Commons has already said that Aldermaston must diversify its work to justify its current funding, and Tom Milne, a member of the study group (which includes three Fellows of the Royal Society) writes “Those whose primary concern is for nuclear disarmament should be reassured that the UK has not set in place an aggressive stewardship programme like the Americans; that the verification work would be paid for by a Labour government committed to international nuclear disarmament; and that reforming Aldermaston along these lines would involve the UK in nuclear disarmament in a tangible way at a time when the process is largely bilateral US-Russian.”

In other words nuclear disarmament might give the atomic scientists something useful to do.

Notes from CND Conference

I thought the Conference was very successful and the debates mostly of a high standard. Dave Knight — Chair — opened proceedings and gave us items of information.

We now have a company to deal with fund raising.

Lobby of Parliament on October 20 on U.N. renewal most important. To be followed by meeting with Bruce Kent, Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn.

Resolutions passed:

  1. Emergency: Support CAAT (action now out of date)
  2. Weapons in Space: to keep Space for Peace and liaise with other groups.
  3. NATO: there were 4 resolutions and considerable discussion. Some wanted a better (?) rôle for NATO but Conference voted for the dissolution of NATO.
  4. Depleted Uranium: to call for immediate end of manufacture of D.U.
  5. Armed Conflict: to highlight the potential for armed conflict to escalate into Nuclear War.
All were passed — though there were many amendments of which some were not passed.


200 M.P.s now receive monthly briefings.

50 CND Labour M.P.s meet regularly.


Jackie Cabasso from US Peace Movement.

She told us that 8–10 nuclear submarines now patrol seas. Bombs can be launched in minutes. 4½ billion dollars spent on nuclear arms — more than in Cold War.

Felicity Arbuthnot spoke on Iraq and Serbia. Very moving.

Jeremy Corbyn was just back from East Timor where he was a member of the Parliamentary delegation to monitor the referendum. He spoke of unimaginable horrors in East Timor. 200,000 people killed during Indonesian occupation — !/3 of the population.

We have no Treasurer as Matthew Pelling (the best speaker from the delegates, in my view) is now Vice-Chair with Rae Street (also an excellent speaker) and Tom Cuthbert.

All candidates for Council were elected unopposed.

Helen Jones

Appealing to Blair

World Court Project UK Chair, Rob Green, is proposing a worldwide letter-writing campaign, primarily by Commonwealth citizens, to Tony Blair in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Durban, South Africa, between 12–15 November, the Y2K computer bug kicking in, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in April 2000.

You could use any or all of the points in the frame. Rob Green asks us to be positive and to concentrate on the opportunities open to the UK in the Commonwealth context.

  1. This is a vote-winner. A MORI poll last March found that 68% of the people asked agreed with the statement “I would think more highly of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, if he were to take a lead in negotiations to remove nuclear weapons world-wide”. This builds on the poll in 1997 in which 87% wanted the UK to help negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Blair could therefore count on public approval if he were to announce such a move at CHOGM in time to influence the UN New Agenda Coalition (NAC) resolution vote, Y2K bug response, and save the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  2. South Africa, CHOGM host and current Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, co-sponsored with New Zealand and other states the ‘New Agenda Coalition’ UN Resolution last December which called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. 45 of the 54 Commonwealth countries supported this. When this Resolution is re-introduced in the UN General Assembly in mid-October this year, Britain should support it, not oppose it.
  1. Blair’s government has already unilaterally made limited but significant disarmament moves without being criticised by the US or France. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review cut the nuclear arsenal by a third, increased the notice to fire Trident missiles from minutes to days, and published details of its stocks of fissile materials.
  2. However, two Commonwealth states, India and Pakistan, became overt nuclear weapons states in 1998. India, in particular, claimed that nuclear weapons were needed to guarantee its security and enhance its influence as a great nation. Clearly, it was following the example of the UK. A move in the opposite direction by our country could do more than anything else to encourage India and Pakistan to think again.
  3. Tony Blair is in an exceptionally powerful position, with a huge majority, strong control over his party and Parliament, and growing influence in Europe and the USA. If he took the lead on this issue it would have a sensational impact.

Security and Survival; the case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

The elimination of nuclear weapons through a nuclear weapons convention has been endorsed by the United Nations, European Parliament, over 1,300 nations in the Abolition 2000 network, and by the general public in most countries including the nuclear weapons states.

“Security and Survival” tries to make the case for a nuclear weapons convention. This new publication is an essential tool for everybody working for a nuclear weapons-free world. It explores the political, legal and technical aspects of complete nuclear disarmament. It includes a model treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

“Security and Survival” is published by International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Price: £9 (inc postage). Cheques to: Abolition 2000 UK, 88 Islington High St, London N1 8EG

CND Return to Newsletter index