28 September 2010
In a meeting with NATO, Churches advocate ending the role of tactical nuclear weapons in NATO’s new Strategic Concept
On 24 September, a delegation of the Church and Society Commission (CSC) of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met with NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning, Dr. Jiří Šedivý, who was accompanied by Mr Guy B. Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary for WMD Policy, and Mr Robert F. Simmons, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Security Cooperation and Partnership. The CSC delegation included representatives of the World Council of Churches and the Dutch ecumenical peace organization IKV Pax Christi.
The meeting resulted from an appeal addressed to NATO by the CSC earlier this summer, in which NATO was asked to reconsider its nuclear policy in its new Strategic Concept, to be adopted at a NATO summit in November in Lisbon. In its statement, which stresses the churches’ support for President Obama’s policy goal of a world without nuclear weapons and contains specific proposals for NATO, the CSC in particular urges the withdrawal of the last remaining ca. 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from five non-nuclear NATO countries in Europe. According to CSC, keeping these former "battlefield nuclear weapons" still reflects a Cold War logic. Instead, NATO should rethink its deterrence concept and security cooperation in Europe, and decrease reliance on nuclear weapons as a contribution to their eventual elimination.
In the meeting, Assistant Secretary General Šedivý called the CSC statement “refreshing” and welcomed the opportunity for the two sides to discuss the role of nuclear weapons in NATO’s future strategy. He also affirmed the new commitment of NATO to arms control and disarmament. (In a declaration adopted by NATO at its 60th anniversary in April last year, NATO committed itself to reinforcing arms control and promoting both nuclear and conventional disarmament). However, whereas NATO does not see a paradigm change in world affairs which would require the Alliance to radically revisit its nuclear policy (with few changes since 1991), the churches hold a different view. They believe that two decades after the Cold War a new policy is required as the world faces new nuclear threats while at the same time a new political momentum has been provided by the U.S. policy towards zero. NATO should no longer stand with one leg in Cold War attitude and the other in post-Cold War cooperation in Europe in which tactical nuclear weapons have become irrelevant.
While sharing NATO’s concern about the larger number of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, the CSC delegation said that these are to be addressed in broader talks about Europe’s future security. It would be a disappointment if the Alliance would not match its new commitment to disarmament with ending its current nuclear sharing arrangements, either in the Strategic Concept or in more detailed follow-up plans. The removal of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe would reduce the number of countries in the world with nuclear weapons on their territory from the current 14 to 9 and thereby send a strong signal in the support of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime.
The discussion was appreciated by both sides and is likely to be continued later this year.
For over a year, the Conference of European Churches and its Church and Society Commission have criticized institutions like the European Union and NATO for not sufficiently endorsing President Obama’s new policy. Moreover, the churches are concerned that NATO’s attachment to nuclear weapons as a means to maintain security undermines its non-proliferation policy and may stimulate other countries to acquire nuclear weapons with a similar rationale.
CSC statement on NATO’s nuclear policy.
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 120 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, and of 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.
The Church and Society Commission of CEC provides a platform for the CEC membership to reflect on socio-ethical issues ecumenically and to involve them in common action and advocacy in relation to the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations (in European matters). CSC operates as a forum for action, dialogue and ecumenical training in European affairs.
For more information, please contact:
Church and Society Commission of CEC
Phone: +32 499 17 93 93