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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 10, November 1996

Pro-Nuclear-Weapon-Abolition statements by Retired Generals & Admirals

Please see next issue for more details. The Editor is grateful to the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) for supplying the texts of the statements.

4 December Butler-Goodpaster statement

'Joint Statement on Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Arsenals: Declining Utility, Continuing Risks,' 4 December 1996

The statement was released in Washington by retired Generals Lee Butler (Commander-in-Chief, US Strategic Commander, 1992-94) and Andrew Goodpaster (NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, 1969-74).

Full text

"As senior military officers, we have given close attention over many years to the role of nuclear weapons as well as the risks they involve. With the end of the Cold War, these weapons are of sharply reduced utility, and there is now much to be gained by substantially reducing their numbers and lowering their alert status, meanwhile exploring the feasibility of their ultimate complete elimination.

The roles of nuclear weapons for purposes of security have been sharply narrowed in terms of the security of the United States. Now and in the future they provide an option to respond in kind to a nuclear threat or nuclear attack by others. In the world environment now seen, they are not needed against non-nuclear opponents. Conventional capabilities can provide a sufficient deterrent and defence against conventional forces and, in combination with defensive measures, against the threat of chemical or biological weapons. As symbols of prestige and international standing, nuclear weapons are of markedly reduced importance.

At the same time, the dangers inherent in nuclear weapons have continued and in some ways increased. They include risks of accidents and unauthorized launches - risks which, while small, nevertheless still exist. Seizures or thefts of weapons or weapons materials and threats or actual use by terrorists or domestic rebels, are of additional concern. Moreover, despite the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nuclear weapons could spread to additional nations, with the risk of their use in crisis or war. And if they should spread, the risks of accidents and of unauthorised, inadvertent, or deliberate use will spread as well.

We believe the nations that possess these weapons should take the necessary steps to align their nuclear weapons policies and programs to match the diminished role and utility of these weapons, and the continuing risks they involve, joining in reducing their nuclear arsenals step by step to the lowest verifiable levels consistent with stable security, as rapidly as world conditions permit. Taking the lead, US and Russian reductions can open the door for the negotiation of multilateral reductions capping all arsenals at very low levels. Added safety and an enhanced climate for negotiations would be achieved by removing nuclear weapons from alert status and placing the warheads in controlled storage. These arrangements should be applied to all nuclear weapons, discarding the distinction between tactical and strategic weapons, limiting nuclear warheads rather than launchers, and subjecting all weapons to inspection and verification measures.

The ultimate objective of phased reductions should be the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from all nations. No one can say today whether or when this final goal will prove feasible, but because the phased withdrawal and destruction of nuclear weapons from all countries' arsenals would take many years, probably decades, to accomplish, time will be available - for work on technical problems, for political progress in ameliorating the conflicts and political struggles that encourage countries to maintain or acquire nuclear weapons, and for building confidence in the system of safeguards and verification measures established to support the elimination regime.

We believe the time for action is now, for the alternative of inaction could well carry a high price. For the task that lies ahead, there is need for initiatives by all who share our conviction as to the importance of this goal. Steady pursuit of a policy of cooperative, phased reductions with serious commitments to seek the elimination of all nuclear weapons is a path to a world free of nuclear dangers."

5 December statement by 61 retired Generals and Admirals

'Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals,' 5 December 1996

The statement was released in London.

The statement was signed by 61 former Generals and Admirals, from 17 States: Canada (1), Denmark (1), France (1), Ghana (1), Greece (3), India (2), Japan (2), Jordan (2), Netherlands (1), Norway (1), Pakistan (1), Portugal (1), Russia (18), Sri Lanka (2), Tanzania (1), United Kingdom (4), and the United States (19). The nuclear-weapon State signatories were as follows:


Admiral Antoine Sanguinetti, former Chief of Staff, French Fleet.


General Vladimir Belous, General Makhmut Gareev, General Boris Gromov (former Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia), Major General Victor Koltounov, Major General Valentin Larionov, Major General Alexander Lebed (former Secretary of Russia's Security Council), Major General Youri Lebedev, Major General Vadim Makarevsky, Lt. General Vladimir Medvedev, Colonel General Georgy Mikhailov, Major General Eugeny Nozhin, Lt. General Lev Rokhlin (current Chair of the Duma's Defence Committee), Lt. General Ivan Sleport, Major General Rair Simonyan, General Boris Surikov, Colonel General Nikolai Tehervov, Lt. General Mikhail Vinogradov, Rear Admiral Radiy Zoubkov.

United Kingdom

General Sir Hugh Beach, Field Marshall Lord Carver (former Chief of the General Staff), Brigadier Michael Harbottle, Air Commodore Alistair Mackie.

United States

Lt. General Julius Beeton, Major General William F. Burns, Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Lt. General John H. Cushman, General John R. Galvin (former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe), Admiral Noel Gayler, General Charles A. Horner, Rear Admiral Robert James, General Robert C. Kingston, Vice Admiral John M. Lee, General William E. Odom, General Andrew O'Meara (former Commander of the US Army, Europe), Lt. General Robert E. Pursley, Vice Admiral William L. Read, General Bernard W. Rogers (former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe), Lt. General George M. Seignious (former Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency), Vice Admiral John J. Shanahan, General William Y. Smith, Vice Admiral James B. Wilson.

Full text

"We, military professionals, who have devoted our lives to the national security of our countries and of our peoples, are convinced that the continuing existence of nuclear weapons in the armouries of nuclear powers, and the ever present threat of acquisition of these weapons by others, constitutes a peril to global peace and security and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect.

Through our variety of responsibilities and experiences with weapons and wars in the armed forces of many nations, we have acquired an intimate and perhaps unique knowledge of the present security and insecurity of our countries and peoples.

We know that nuclear weapons, though never used since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, represent a clear and present danger to the very existence of humanity. There was an immense risk of a superpower holocaust during the Cold War. At least once, civilization was on the very brink of catastrophic tragedy. That threat has now receded, but not forever - unless nuclear weapons are eliminated.

The end of the Cold War created conditions favourable to nuclear disarmament. Termination of military confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States made it possible to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, and to eliminate intermediate range missiles. It was a significant milestone on the path to nuclear disarmament when Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine relinquished their nuclear weapons.

Indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995 and approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the UN General Assembly in 1996 are also important steps towards a nuclear-free world. We commend the work that has been done to achieve these results.

Unfortunately, in spite of these positive steps, true nuclear disarmament has not been achieved. Treaties provide that only delivery systems, not nuclear warheads, will be astride. This permits the United States and Russia to keep their warheads in reserve storage, thus creating a 'reversible nuclear potential.' However, in the post-Cold War security environment, the most commonly postulated nuclear threats are not susceptible to deterrence or are simply not credible. We believe, therefore, that business as usual is not an acceptable way for the world to proceed in nuclear matters.

It is our deep conviction that the following is urgently needed and must be undertaken now:

* First, present and planned stockpiles of nuclear weapons are exceedingly large and should now be greatly cut back;

* Second, remaining nuclear weapons should be gradually and transparently taken off alert, and their readiness substantially reduced both in nuclear-weapon States and in de facto nuclear-weapon States;

* Third, long-term international nuclear policy must be based on the declared principle of continuous, complete and irrevocable elimination of nuclear weapons.

The United States and Russia should - without any reduction in their military security - carry forward the reduction process already launched by START: they should cut down to 1,000 or 1,500 warheads each and possibly lower. The other three nuclear States and the three threshold States should be drawn into the reduction process as still deeper reductions are negotiated down to the level of hundreds. There is nothing incompatible between defence by individual countries of their territorial integrity and progress toward nuclear abolition.

The exact circumstances and conditions that will make it possible to proceed, finally, to abolition cannot now be foreseen or prescribed. One obvious prerequisite would be a worldwide program of surveillance and inspection, including measures to account for and control inventories of nuclear weapon materials. This will ensure that no rogues or terrorists could undertake a surreptitious effort to acquire nuclear capabilities without detection at an early stage. An agreed procedure for forcible international intervention and interruption of covert efforts in a certain and timely fashion is essential.

The creation of nuclear-free zones in different parts of the world, confidence-building and transparency measures in the general field of defence, strict implementation of all treaties in the area of disarmament and arms control, and mutual assistance in the process of disarmament are also important in helping to bring about a nuclear-free world. The development of regional systems of collective security, including practical measures for cooperation, partnership, interaction and communication are essential for local stability and security.

The extent to which the existence of nuclear weapons and fear of their use may have deterred war - in a world that in this year alone has seen 30 military conflicts raging - cannot be determined. It is clear, however, that nations now possessing nuclear weapons will not relinquish them until they are convinced that more reliable and less dangerous means of providing for their security are in place. It is also clear, as a consequence, that the nuclear powers will not now agree to a fixed timetable for the achievement of abolition.

It is similarly clear that, among the nations not now possessing nuclear weapons, there are some that will not forever forswear their acquisition and deployment unless they, too, are provided means of security. Nor will they forego acquisition if the present nuclear powers seek to retain everlastingly their nuclear monopoly.

Movement toward abolition must be a responsibility shared primarily by the declared nuclear-weapon States - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States; by the de facto nuclear States, India, Israel, and Pakistan; and by major non-nuclear powers such as Germany and Japan. All nations should move in concert toward the same goal.

We have been presented with a challenge of the highest possible historic importance: the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free world. The end of the Cold War makes it possible. The dangers of proliferation, terrorism, and a new nuclear arms race render it necessary. We must not fail to seize our opportunity. There is no alternative."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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