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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

Over 60 retired military leaders call for nuclear weapons abolition

On 5 December, 61 retired senior military officers, from 17 States including France, Russia, the UK and US, released a 'Statement on Nuclear Weapons' calling for urgent and deep nuclear disarmament, aimed at the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The previous day, in Washington, two retired senior US military officials - Generals Lee Butler (former US Strategic Commander) and Andrew Goodpaster (former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe) released a statement urging similar action, aimed at the same goal. See last issue for full texts of both statements.

Reacting to the statements, Deputy White House Press Secretary David Johnson stated on 5 December that nuclear deterrence would remain "the cornerstone of our strategy in protecting America's vital national interests," if not forever then at least "for some time into the future."

Editor's note: Launching his joint statement with General Goodpaster, General Butler delivered an address substantially the same as the one made at the recent 'State of the World' Forum - see issue No. 9. The address outlined a three-point plan of immediate action:

"First...for the declared nuclear-weapon States to accept that the Cold War is in fact over, to break free of the norms, attitudes and habits that perpetuate enormous inventories, forces standing alert and targeting plans encompassing thousands of aimpoints.

Second, for the undeclared States to embrace the harsh lessons of the Cold War: that nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, and militarily inefficient; that implacable hostility and alienation will almost certainly over time lead to a nuclear crisis; that the failure of nuclear deterrence would imperil not just the survival of the antagonists, but of every society; and that nuclear war is a raging, insatiable beast whose instincts and appetites we pretend to understand but cannot possibly control.

Third, given its crucial leadership role, it is essential for the United States to undertake as a first order of business a sweeping review of its nuclear policies and strategies. The Clinton administration's 1993 Nuclear Posture Review was an essential but far from sufficient step toward rethinking the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world. While clearing the agenda of some pressing force structure questions, the NPR purposefully avoided the larger policy issues."

Source: National Press Club Remarks, General Lee Butler, 4 December 1996. Transcript kindly provided by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).

Reports: Former top Generals urge nuclear disarmament, AP Datastream Washington News Wire, 4 December; Ex-Commander criticizes US nuclear policy, AP Datastream Washington News Wire, 4 December; Top General calls for weapons elimination, Inter Press Service International News, 4 December; Clinton administration downplays call top abolish nuclear weapons, Armed Forces Newswire Service, 5 December.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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