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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 65, July - August 2002

News Review

NATO and Russia Confirm New Relationship, Stress Non-Proliferation Cooperation

In Rome on May 28, the heads of state and government of NATO and Russia issued a declaration "opening a new page in or relations", and pledging a "new quality" of cooperation and coordination on a range of issues of common concern, including threats from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The structural centrepiece of the relationship henceforth will be a new NATO-Russia Council, replacing the Permanent Joint Council (PJC). According to the Rome Declaration:

"The NATO-Russia Council will serve as the principal structure and venue for advancing the relationship between NATO and Russia. It will operate on the principle of consensus. It will work on the basis of a continuous political dialogue on security issues among its members with a view to early identification of emerging problems, determination of optimal common approaches and the conduct of joint actions, as appropriate. The members of the NATO-Russia Council, acting in their national capacities and in a manner consistent with their respective collective commitments and obligations, will take joint decisions and will bear equal responsibility, individually and jointly, for their implementation. Each member may raise in the NATO-Russia Council issues related to the implementation of joint decisions.

The NATO-Russia Council will be chaired by the Secretary General of NATO. It will meet at the level of Foreign Ministers and at the level of Defence Ministers twice annually, and at the level of Heads of State and Government as appropriate. Meetings of the Council at Ambassadorial level will be held at least once a month, with the possibility of more frequent meetings as needed, including extraordinary meetings, which will take place at the request of any Member or the NATO Secretary General."

The Declaration goes on to detail the "initial steps" agreed between the two sides with regard to priorities for joint work. These include:

" Non-Proliferation: broaden and strengthen cooperation against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery, and contribute to strengthening existing non-proliferation arrangements through: a structured exchange of views, leading to a joint assessment of global trends in proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical agents; and exchange of experience with the goal of exploring opportunities for intensified practical cooperation on protection from nuclear, biological and chemical agents.

Arms Control and Confidence-Building Measures: recalling the contributions of arms control and confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) to stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and reaffirming adherence to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) as a cornerstone of European security, work cooperatively toward ratification by all the states parties and entry into force of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, which would permit accession by non-CFE states; continue consultations on the CFE and Open Skies Treaties; and continue the NATO-Russia nuclear experts consultations.

Theatre Missile Defence: enhance consultations on theatre missile defence (TMD), in particular on TMD concepts, terminology, systems and system capabilities, to analyse and evaluate possible levels of interoperability among respective TMD systems, and explore opportunities for intensified practical cooperation, including joint training and exercises."

The Council held its first meeting at the defence ministerial level in Brussels on June 6. The ministers "tasked the NATO-Russia Council at the Ambassadorial level" to "create urgently, in the area of non-proliferation, an ad hoc working group charged with developing a joint assessment of global trends in the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical agents and as a first step initiate a structured exchange of views following up on the ongoing missile proliferation discussions; and exchange experience with the goal of exploring opportunities for intensified practical cooperation on protection from NBC [nuclear, biological and chemical] agents". In addition, the ministers urged the ambassadors "as a matter of importance, to develop concrete plans and timetables for consultation and cooperation in the area of theatre missile defence", and "to continue to implement, in the area of arms control and confidence-building measures, the relevant sections of the 2002 PJC Work programme, inter alia with a view to developing the NATO-Russia Nuclear Experts' Consultation Work Plan".

Such an agenda clearly opens new space for a review of NATO's current nuclear weapons posture and thus the Alliance's potential contribution to international arms control and disarmament. Writing in The Globe and Mail on June 3, former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy urged that the opportunity be vigorously seized:

"'The Cold War is officially over', declare the presidents of Russia and the United States. Good! To signify that historic event, all the NATO leaders gathered in Italy last week to inaugurate a new Russia-NATO Council where co-operation and mutual interest will prevail. That, too, is good. Now, then, is the time to translate these words and declarations into meaningful action demonstrating that this is truly a new era. It's time for the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization to fundamentally change its nuclear policy."

Referring to tensions over the issue in recent years, Axworthy continued: "Canada and Germany both tried at the time of the 1998 NATO summit in Washington to have a review initiated. There was grudging acceptance by the nuclear weapons states (the United States, Britain and France) to consider what we termed 'options for confidence-building and arms control and deeper consultations with the Russians on the reduced salience of nuclear weapons'. We succeeded in setting up a panel of senior officials to follow through, but that ground to a halt when the Bush administration came to power. If there was logic then to a revision of nuclear policy, surely there is even greater logic today. What possible justification is there for NATO to continue to store tactical nuclear weapons in Europe that are designed to meet the Soviet threat, when the threat has ceased to exist and the Russians are now a NATO partner? Why should NATO not make a 'no first use' declaration regarding nuclear weapons, with a reciprocal commitment from Moscow? Such an example could have a salutary effect on the campaign to limit the spread and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It would also go a long way to meeting public expectations around the world for concrete efforts to reduce the nuclear risk."

On June 6, however, the communiqué issued by Alliance Defence Ministers after a meeting of the Defence Planning Committee (DPC) and Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), showed no signs of movement beyond customary justifications for nuclear possession at the lowest prudent level:

"We recalled that NATO's sub-strategic nuclear forces have been reduced by over 85% since 1991, and are maintained at the minimum level sufficient to preserve peace and stability. In this context, we provided guidance to further adapt NATO's dual-capable aircraft posture. We reaffirmed that the fundamental purpose of the nuclear forces of the Allies is political: to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any kind of war. We continue to place great value on the nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO, which provide essential political and military linkage between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. In this regard, we note that deterrence and defence, along with arms control and non-proliferation, will continue to play a major role in the achievement of the Alliance's security objectives. We reaffirmed our determination to contribute to the implementation of the conclusions of the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and welcomed the full discussion of issues at the Preparatory Conference for the 2005 Review Conference in April this year. We continue to support the existing moratoria on nuclear testing."

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: NATO-Russia Relations - A New Quality, Declaration by Heads of State and Government of NATO and Russia, Rome, May 28; NATO-Russia Council, Statement by Heads of State and Government of NATO and Russia, Rome, May 28; It's time to ban the bomb, by Lloyd Axworthy, Globe and Mail, June 3; Final Communiqué, Ministerial Meeting of the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group held in Brussels on 6 June 2002, NATO Press (2002)071, June 6; Statement, NATO-Russia Council at the level of Defence Ministers, Brussels, June 6, (http://www.nato.int).

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.