Lament for a Treaty (INF Treaty 1987-2019)

Originally published in the Cape Breton Observer

I did not weep, I turned to stone inside … Dante, Inferno

I rarely cry, but on the evening of 8 December 1987, glued to radio coverage of the signing of a nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Soviet Union, I wept with a relief I had never felt before, an ecstatic conviction that the Cold War, and with it the nuclear arms race, was ending.

It wasn’t so much the number of warheads the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, would scrap: over 2,500, tens of thousands of Hiroshimas but a small fraction of the Superpower’s gargantuan arsenals.

It wasn’t even that, for the first time in nuclear arms control history, an entire class of weapon would be banned – land-based missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers, capable of hitting their targets (cities) in minutes, and thus the cause of a major war scare in Europe since their deployment, first by Moscow, in the late 1970s.

It was more the doors the Treaty opened to further cuts, so deep and wide the goal set by the United Nations in its first-ever resolution in 1946 would finally seem within reach: Global Zero, a nuclear-weapon-free world.

In 1985, Reagan and Gorbachev had stated bluntly that “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” In 1986, Gorbachev unveiled a plan of phased multilateral reductions, counting down to ‘Zero’ by the year 2000. With the signing of the INF Treaty, his proposal – technically viable, demonstrably verifiable – became politically realistic: a “sapling,” as he said, had been planted “which may one day grow into a mighty tree of peace”:

//May December 8, 1987, become a date that will be inscribed in the history books, a date that will mark the watershed separating the era of a mounting risk of nuclear war from the era of a demilitarisation of human life.//

As I listened, I cried, in part because I had spent much of the previous year following the negotiations for my undergraduate dissertation at the only Peace Studies Department (University of Bradford) in the United Kingdom, a nuclear-weapon state which ‘boasted’ its own ‘independent deterrent’ (missiles leased from America) and which had – inviting its own self-destruction – hosted US INF weapons at Greenham Common, site of a truly heroic, routinely reviled Women’s Peace Camp, backed by millions of supporters in an antinuclear ‘Extinction Rebellion’ movement spanning Western Europe and North America.
Embracing the base, Greenham Common December 1982 At noon on December 12th 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the 6 mile perimeter fence of the former USAF base, in protest against the UK government’s decision to site American cruise missiles here. The installation went ahead but so did the protest – for 19 years women maintained their presence at the Greenham Common peace camp.

Embracing the base, Greenham Common December 1982: At noon on 12 December 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the 6-mile perimeter fence of the former USAF base, in protest against the UK government’s decision to site American cruise missiles here. The installation went ahead but so did the protest – for 19 years women maintained their presence at the Greenham Common peace camp.

And I cried, too, listening to the chat and music of the students in the University residence – most of whom had not been part of that movement and would never know what ‘INF’ stood for – for the dramatically saner, less menaced and more humane future they could now enjoy and explore.

I have more than once subjected Spectator readers to dense analysis of the post-Cold War decline of nuclear arms control in general, and the INF Treaty in particular.

In sum, with the fall of the Soviet Union the ‘Countdown’ Plan was consigned to oblivion by a NATO Alliance – suddenly the world’s only nuclear-armed alliance – determined not to disarm but expand, deep into former Warsaw Pact and Soviet territory, triggering a predictably nationalistic, we-love-our-nukes response in Moscow.

In 2002, US President Bush, to the delight of influential State Department official John Bolton, withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, radically limiting missile defenses to remove any temptation to ‘win’ a nuclear war by striking first and shooting down most of whatever missiles the obliterated enemy could still unleash. Not only, Russia believed, could American missile defenses in eastern Europe be used to intercept second-strike weapons, they could themselves be converted to offensive, first-strike weapons – with a range of, well, between 500-5,500 kilometers.

Bush’s move, allied to his illegal regime-change invasion of Iraq, eroded Russia’s faith in the INF Treaty, while both Moscow and Washington expressed alarm at a build-up of Chinese nuclear forces in the INF range. President Obama, while still trying to save the Treaty, accused Russia of at least flirting with non-compliance by researching and developing, if not deploying, new medium-range systems. President Trump, determined – at the urging of National Security Adviser Bolton – to scrap the Treaty, claimed the ‘red line’ of deployment had been crossed, giving Russia a deadline of August 2 this year to return to compliance. Compliance, that is, as adjudged by a US administration now itching for a justification to research, develop and deploy some of the new medium-range weapons lustfully eyed by Defense Secretary Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis in his hair-raising 2018 ‘Nuclear Posture Review.’

Just how dangerous this ‘new nuclear age’ now is was revealed by the brief, inadvertent posting (!) by the Pentagon this summer of its updated ‘Nuclear Operations’ manual (still available on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, thanks to the quick thinking of researcher Steven Aftergood ) which states confidently that:

“Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.”

Wow, talk about an invitation to proliferate: who wouldn’t want such a magic wand? Indeed, given this impressive up-side to ‘going nuclear,’ it’s hardly surprising, to quote Obama’s Under Secretary of State Thomas Countryman, that “sadly, no US official today is able to repeat” the Reagan-Gorbachev ‘must never fight, can never win’ formula.

And so, on August 2, the INF Treaty was formally pronounced dead, leaving just one bilateral US-Russia arms control agreement still standing: the 2010 New START (Strategic Arms Reduction) Treaty, limiting long-range warheads to 1,550 each side. Due to expire in 2021, New START could be extended to 2026 by mutual consent. Bolton, though, has told Trump New START – an Obama achievement, after all, like the Iran nuclear deal – is old hat, tired thinking, tying America’s hands, etc. And even though Trump recently said of Bolton that “if it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time,” the President agrees.

No Treaty, of course, can really ‘die’. But the demise of the INF Treaty is sure to impact the lives, even help seal the fate, of millions of people. Including, perhaps, the children of the students I listened to that unforgettable night, 32 years ago, as the ‘sapling’ was planted.

But this time, I couldn’t cry.

Sean Howard

Sean Howard is adjunct professor of political science at Cape Breton University and member of Peace Quest Cape Breton.

Setsuko Thurlow video interview

Setsuko Thurlow, in a conversation with Canadian Pugwash members, June 2019:

(1) she takes us through her experiences in Oslo, receiving the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN, and
(2) she describes the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto.

You can follow the discussion in the 22-minute video on this page (YouTube, embedded):

Conference on “Global Markets, Inequality and the Future of Democracy”

The Canadian Pugwash Group is sponsoring the Group of 78 (G78) Annual Policy Conference on “Global Markets, Inequality and the Future of Democracy” to be held at the University of Ottawa on September 27-28 2019. Members of the Canadian Pugwash Global Issues Project participated in the research and planning of this Conference. You can find a brief background on the Global Issues Project at https://pugwashgroup.ca/global-issues-project,

The focus of the G78 Conference is on the proposition that the roots of the current nightmare of economic inequality and economic insecurity in democracies around the world can be traced to three interrelated causes: a) the rise of a global financial system that is no longer regulated in the public interest; b) the rise of an international trading system that has dramatically undercut the ability of labour to share in productivity gains; c) the enshrinement of a deeply individualistic ideology that has weakened democracies and thereby greatly increased the power of corporate capital to act with virtual impunity. The conference objective is to explore the most promising avenues for resistance to the powerful interests that have poisoned efforts to address these causes in an informed and free public debate.

The G78 is an informal association of Canadians seeking to promote global priorities for peace and disarmament, equitable and sustainable development and a strong and revitalized United Nations System. You can see the G78 Conference outline, program and registration forms at https://group78.org/event/2019-g78-annual-policy-conference/

New UN Technology

Two of the fundamental objectives of Pugwash are to reduce the negative applications of technology, such as use and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, and to increase the positive applications, such as support of UN peace activities like arms control, peace operations, etc. The UN Secretary-General released in September 2018 a “Strategy on New Technologies,” outlining important principles for technologies in general. More particularly, the United Nations is making significant progress in implementing new technologies in its peace activities. For instance, peace operations technologies have expanded more in the past five years than the previous twenty-five, according to the experience and observations of Walter Dorn, who has been following this subject for over 30 years.

CPG member and former CPG Chair Dr. Walter Dorn (www.walterdorn.net) served a member of the UN’s Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping that produced the 2015 report “Performance Peacekeeping.” Since the mid-1980s, he has been seeking to assist the United Nations in using technology for its peace initiatives. He now co-chairs, with CPG member Robin Collins, the CPG project on New UN Technologies.

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How to build an architecture of peace, when destruction can rain down in mere minutes

Contributed to The Globe and Mail | Published July 7, 2019

The existence of 13,865 nuclear weapons held by nine countries has not been enough, seemingly, to demonstrate political power. Now science and technology are giving us faster, more precise methods of destroying “the enemy.” The name of this new danger: “hypersonic” missiles.

The United States, Russia and China are leading the way on the development of hypersonic missiles, purportedly capable of travelling at more than 15 times the speed of sound and striking any target in the world in a matter of minutes. They will be powerful enough to penetrate any building with the force of three to four tonnes of TNT.

Although hypersonics are intended to carry conventional explosives, as distinct from nuclear, that’s not the main threat right now. Hypersonic missiles, conventional or nuclear, will be capable of striking at an adversary’s nuclear arsenal. Given the very short warning times of such attacks, states with nuclear weapons will have to assess how to respond to such threats quickly, and may be tempted to bypass political consultation. Their systems will also be placed on even higher levels of alert, increasing paranoia and pressure.

And, of course, it is highly unlikely that hypersonic weapons will stay “conventional.” Indeed, Russia is already boasting that it can place nuclear warheads on its hypersonic missiles. We’re looking at a world where catastrophic destruction is possible – and with unimaginable speed.

If the world is getting to be a better place, as so many indicators of progress reveal, how can we tolerate the constant modernization of the killing process? Is our struggle ultimately against particular weapons systems, or is it against humanity’s more fundamental lust for perfecting the art of killing?

These are questions that are made relevant again with the emergence of what The New York Times Magazine recently called “unstoppable hypersonic missiles.” As Times writer R. Jeffrey Smith reminds us, there are no international agreements on how or when hypersonic missiles can be used, nor are there any plans to start such discussions. Instead, he says, the world now faces a new arms race with Russia and China – “one that could, some experts worry, upend existing norms of deterrence and renew Cold War-era tensions.”

The issue of hypersonic weapons should highlight the growing urgency of reconstructing a reliable nuclear-arms control regime. Such a system should place a legal obligation on all countries to pursue and complete comprehensive negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Stunningly, the reverse is happening: The U.S. and Russia continue to violate their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as they abandon other treaties.

Immediate steps are necessary. At a minimum, keep nuclear warheads off hypersonics; remove all nuclear systems from high-alert status to prevent false alarms from triggering nuclear catastrophe; commence negotiations to control hypersonic weapons before the emerging hypersonic arms race swings into a no-holds-barred contest among a small but widening circle of countries.

Of course, the dismal state of nuclear disarmament in this chaotic period of world history sometimes raises doubts about the effectiveness of the nuclear disarmament movement. But the arrival of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which buttresses the nearly 50-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, highlights the deepening humanitarian concern about the massive evil of nuclear weapons. Focusing only on nuclear disarmament is not enough to ensure sustainable world peace, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, there can be no world peace.

The new age of hypersonics reminds us that the agenda for peace is very long. It already includes curbing global warming, controlling cyberwarfare, promoting sustainable development, and continuing to learn that human rights include the right to be free of warfare.

Hypersonic marks another milestone in the development of instruments of warfare. We must respond by building a new architecture for peace. And one cornerstone of that architecture remains the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Ernie Regehr is chairman of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Douglas Roche is a former senator and the former Canadian ambassador for disarmament.

U.S. joint chiefs release alarming nuclear operations document

The Hill Times | July 1, 2019

On June 11, the U.S. joint chiefs released a document simply entitled ‘Nuclear Operations,’ the first such doctrine paper in 14 years, and one that marks a major shift in U.S. military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war.

On June 19, The Guardian and a host of other media reported that on June 11 the U.S. joint chiefs released a document simply entitled “Nuclear Operations,” the first such doctrine paper in 14 years, and one that marks a major shift in U.S. military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war. The document states that “nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

The Nuclear Operations document was taken down from the Pentagon online site after a week, and is now available only through a restricted access electronic library. Before it was withdrawn, it was downloaded by Steven Aftergood, who directs the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood said the new document “is very much conceived as a war-fighting doctrine, not simply a deterrence doctrine.”

This falls in the wake of the United States Nuclear Posture Review released in February 2018 that expands the role of nuclear weapons by identifying new circumstances in which they could be used, namely in response to “strategic non-nuclear attacks” including cyber-attacks. The Nuclear Posture Review also outlined U.S. plans to mount lower-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-based missiles, increasing the possibility that they might actually be used. Other nuclear-armed states, including India and Pakistan, are following suit.

Many have noted that this change in doctrine and practice runs directly counter to a commitment in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies in order to facilitate disarmament, and to the legal commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament, in good faith.

And of course, all of this is happening as the U.S. and Iran edge closer and closer to war, a war that could draw in Russia, China and other nuclear powers; as the U.S. and Russia are about to formally withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Weapons Forces (INF) Treaty; amidst a new nuclear arms race led by the U.S. with an allocation upwards of $1.5-trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years; and technological developments including the aforementioned lower yield nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles that travel at 15 times the speed of sound, missiles roundly considered to be virtually unstoppable.

I feel like the guy wearing an old-style sandwich-board that reads “The End is Near!” But in truth, without being unjustifiably alarmist, it could well be. When the top military commanders of the, militarily, most powerful country on Earth suggest that “nuclear weapons could create the conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” we should all be worried sick and ask ourselves, what can we do—individually and collectively—to prevent this insanity from continuing.

Earl Turcotte is chair of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.