(Part Two) Steps to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

The elimination of nuclear weapons must be a global endeavour involving all states. The impetus and driving force however must come from the nuclear weapon states and particularly the United States and Russia. A decisive signal from these longstanding nuclear powers that the risks associated with nuclear weapons far outweigh the presumed benefits would be of historic importance. Indeed, such a definitive commitment to a nuclear weapon free world would accelerate a course of events set in motion well before the Cold War ended.

Movement toward a nuclear weapon free world has begun. That movement rests fundamentally on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and was significantly advanced with the ratification of the Intermediate- range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The INF was unprecedented in that it was the first negotiated treaty to actually reduce nuclear weapons. More to the point of this report, it was also the first agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons. In more recent years the United States and Russia have agreed to deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals which today in total approximate 40,000 to 50,000 warheads. The START I and START II agreements require a two thirds reduction in US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals from pre-START levels of approximately 10,000 deployed strategic warheads each to 3000-3500 by 2003.

Both the United Kingdom and France have unilaterally reduced their nuclear postures by measures including withdrawal from deployment and elimination of elements of their nuclear forces. Tactical nuclear weaponry has been mostly withdrawn from deployment and removed from ships and sea-based aircraft. China has reiterated its support of the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, and its declaration of no first use of nuclear weapons. The experience the United States and Russia have accumulated through decades of negotiating and implementing nuclear arms control agreements will prove invaluable both as a basis for further bilateral reductions and as a store of knowledge that can be drawn upon by the other nuclear weapon states.

The first requirement for movement towards a nuclear weapon free world is for the five nuclear weapon states to commit themselves unequivocally to proceed with all deliberate speed to a world without nuclear weapons ­p; not as an objective for the far distant future, but as an objective which deserves action from the time the commitment is given. A commitment of this kind would transform the whole process.

The process followed must ensure that no state feels, at any stage, that further nuclear disarmament is a threat to its security. To this end nuclear weapon elimination should be conducted as a series of phased, verified reductions that allow states to satisfy themselves, at each stage of the process, that further movement toward elimination can be made safely and securely. Political commitment and allocation of adequate resources will be needed to overcome technical constraints such as the current slow rate of weapons dismantlement - around 2000 per year each by the United States and Russia.

The rate of present dismantlement should not be the factor which determines the rate of elimination. The important condition is to have agreed procedures for establishing new targets, which drive the process forward to the ultimate objective of total elimination.

While the nuclear weapon states have a special responsibility, all states must contribute to development of and support for an environment favourable to nuclear weapons elimination, including an end to nuclear testing and prevention of further horizontal nuclear proliferation.

The Commission reaffirms its strong conviction that immediate and consequential steps are possible. These would both convey a powerful signal of commitment to elimination by the nuclear weapon states, and enhance global security by widening the firebreak between the onset of a crisis engaging a nuclear weapon state and the risk of a deliberate or inadvertent nuclear detonation.

Progress towards a nuclear weapon free world should not be made contingent upon other changes in the international security environment. Successful nuclear weapon negotiations will benefit other security related negotiations and progress in regional and other political and security related negotiations will enhance the prospect of building a nuclear weapon free world.

Nuclear Weapon State Commitment to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

The nuclear weapon states should commit themselves unequivocally to the elimination of nuclear weapons and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement. This commitment should be made at the highest political level.

Non-nuclear weapon states should support the commitment by the nuclear weapon states and join in cooperative international action to implement it.

Such a commitment would constitute a concrete expression of the intention of the nuclear weapon states to implement the 'Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament' agreed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPTREC). It would receive the enthusiastic support of an overwhelming majority of states.

High level political commitment has proven time and again to be the crucial condition for the resolution of seemingly intractable situations and reconciling embittered foes. A declaration by the nuclear weapon states, in clear and unambiguous terms, would have a dramatic impact on the way the world thinks about nuclear weapons. It would change instantly the tenor of debate, the thrust of war planning, and the timing or indeed the necessity for modernisation programs. It would transform the nuclear weapons paradigm from the indefinite management of a world fraught with the twin risks of the use of nuclear weapons and further proliferation, to one of nuclear weapons elimination.

Finally, much as the end of the Cold War greatly accelerated the broad agenda of arms control, a commitment now to eliminate nuclear weapons would generate the necessary political momentum and give a new coherence to the entire spectrum of non-proliferation, disarmament and arms limitation efforts currently being pursued at global and regional levels.

The Commission recommends that negotiation of the nuclear weapon states' commitment to a nuclear weapon free world should begin immediately, with the aim of first steps in its implementation being taken in 1997.

Additional Immediate Steps

The commitment by the nuclear weapon states to a nuclear weapon free world must be accompanied by a series of practical, realistic and mutually reinforcing steps.

There are a number of such steps that can be taken immediately. They would significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war and thus enhance the security of all states, but particularly that of the nuclear weapon states. Their implementation would provide clear confirmation of the intent of the nuclear weapon states to further reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security postures. These steps would also signal that the nuclear weapon states were unequivocally of the view that continued possession of nuclear weapons was incommensurate with the risks they pose.

The recommended steps are:

* Taking nuclear forces off alert
* Removal of warheads from delivery vehicles
* Ending deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons
* Ending nuclear testing
* Initiating negotiations to further reduce US and Russian nuclear arsenals
* Agreement among the nuclear weapon states of reciprocal no first use undertakings, and of a non-use undertaking by them in relation to the non-nuclear weapon states.
* Taking Nuclear Forces Off Alert

The continuing practice of maintaining nuclear-tipped missiles on alert, whether on land-based or sea-based platforms, is a highly regrettable perpetuation of Cold War attitudes and assumptions. It needlessly sustains the risk of hair-trigger postures. It retards the critical process of normalising United States-Russian relations. It sends the unmistakable and, from an arms control perspective, severely damaging message that nuclear weapons serve a vital security role. It is entirely inappropriate to the extraordinary transformation in the international security environment achieved at such staggering cost. Taking these missiles off alert is a natural counterpart to the stand-down of bombers from nuclear alert which was implemented in late 1991.

Terminating nuclear alert would reduce dramatically the chance of an accidental or unauthorised nuclear weapons launch. It would have a most positive influence on the political climate among the nuclear weapon states and help set the stage for intensified cooperation. Taking nuclear forces off alert could be verified by national technical means and nuclear weapon state inspection arrangements. In the first instance, reductions in alert status could be adopted by the nuclear weapon states unilaterally.

Removal of Warheads from Delivery Vehicles

The physical separation of warheads from delivery vehicles would strongly reinforce the gains achieved by taking nuclear forces off alert. This measure can be implemented to the extent that nuclear forces can be reconstituted to an alert posture only within known or agreed upon timeframes, much as is the case with bomber forces today. Adequate response to nuclear threats would remain certain, but the risk of large scale preemptive or surprise nuclear attack and the imperative for instantaneous retaliation would be obviated. Further, the barriers against inadvertent or accidental use would be greatly strengthened. The range of verification procedures which are already in place between the United States and Russia could likely be applied as the basis of a regime to ensure that no state would have a meaningful advantage in terms of the ability to reassemble its nuclear force for a first strike capability.

Ending Deployment of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

The nuclear weapon states should unilaterally remove all non-strategic nuclear weapons from deployed sites to a limited number of secure storage facilities on their territory. This would be a logical follow-on to the 1991 unilateral declarations of the United States and the Soviet Union, whereby each pledged to remove all non-strategic nuclear weapons from ships and submarines and store them on shore. As regards NATO, with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and all that has followed in its wake, the nuclear threat long felt by the alliance has evaporated. United States tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe serve no security purpose. To the contrary, they send a subtle but unmistakable message that Russia is still not to be trusted, thus feeding the fears that NATO harbours aggressive designs against it. These nuclear weapons can be returned to US territory and stored so that, much like strategic forces removed from alert, they can not be readily redeployed.

Ending Nuclear Testing

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be a major impediment to the development of new generations of nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapon states. It will perform an equally vital non-proliferation function by inhibiting nuclear weapons development by potential new nuclear weapon states, including the undeclared nuclear weapon states and nuclear threshold states. Most important, the CTBT obligation permanently to cease or forgo nuclear testing sets the psychological stage for moving toward elimination of nuclear weapons. Pending universal application of the CTBT, all states should observe at once the moratorium it imposes on nuclear testing.

Further US/Russian Bilateral Reductions

The nuclear arms race was driven by competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The United States and Russia must continue to show leadership in reversing the nuclear accumulations of the Cold War. Their purpose should be to move toward nuclear force levels for all the nuclear weapon states which would reflect unambiguously the determination to eliminate these weapons when this step can be verified with adequate confidence.

The immediate steps discussed above deal with the manner in which residual nuclear forces are deployed that diminish to the greatest possible extent both the risk of inadvertent or accidental use and the adverse political signals transmitted by poised nuclear forces. With respect to the size of arsenals, there are two notional targets. First, the United States and Russia should, in consultation with the other nuclear weapon states, establish the relative force levels that would allow all five nuclear weapon states to proceed in concert with reductions beyond that point. Second, the five nuclear weapon states should agree on the minimum residual forces to be retained until the stage had been set for complete elimination.

The Commission considers it inappropriate to try and forecast the stages involved in reaching these targets. Clearly, there will have to be at least one further reduction agreement on the part of the United States and Russia. It should be noted in this context that the entry into force of the START II agreement is in some doubt because Russia may be required to invest in new nuclear weapon systems in order to reach parity. To obviate this undesirable development, and to facilitate the ratification of START II, lower ceilings could be promptly negotiated in a START III agreement. President Yeltsin has already proposed the figure of 2000 (compared with the 3000 - 3500 the agreement currently specifies) but lower levels should be considered to hasten the achievement of force levels that would bring all the nuclear weapon states into the process.

Similarly, the Commission considers it presumptuous to try and specify from its present vantage point the minimum residual forces that the nuclear weapon states would regard as the appropriate final way-station pending complete elimination. It would observe, however, that the considerations that the nuclear weapon states would bring to bear in determining this level would be profoundly different from those that have shaped these negotiations to this point.

While of signal importance, the existing START agreements do not require that withdrawn warheads be disassembled and destroyed. Hence actual stockpiles of warheads in the United States and Russia post- START II are likely to be much higher than the figures set by the agreement. Nor do the START agreements address disposition of the fissile material content of warheads removed from deployment. This material represents the core element of a 'virtual arsenal' existing outside the START framework, and which would be available to the United States and Russia if ever a political decision were taken to reassemble dismantled warheads.

This concern was mitigated in part by agreements reached at the 10 May 1995 US/Russian summit to develop procedures for ensuring that excess nuclear warheads are dismantled and the reduction process made irreversible. The 1996 Moscow Nuclear Safety and Security Summit also underscored a need to identify appropriate strategies for the management of fissile material designated as no longer required for defence purposes. The summit undertook to convene by the end of 1996 an international meeting of experts to examine available options and identify possible development of international cooperation in the implementation of national strategies. The knowledge gained from implementation of these undertakings should prove valuable for development of systems for verification of warhead dismantlement and fissile material control. The Commission considers arrangements for the control and verification of the dismantlement to be essential for the stability and sustainability of the process of reducing nuclear weapons.

The security benefits of the START agreements and their value as a staging point to wider nuclear disarmament would be increased if START III or a separate agreement required the verified dismantlement of warheads withdrawn under past and future US/Russian bilateral reduction agreements, tactical warheads withdrawn unilaterally and reserve warheads. This would establish warhead numbers (strategic and tactical, active and in reserve) as the basic unit of account in US/Russian reductions and provide a common basis for considering relative force levels when nuclear disarmament moves beyond the bilateral phase.

Agreements on No First Use and on Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons

In the post-Cold War world the only conceivable residual role of nuclear weapons is to pose a threat of retaliation against nuclear aggression. It follows that a joint no-first use undertaking would be at no strategic cost to the nuclear weapon states. Indeed as a significant confidence building measure it would in fact enhance their security.

As one of the immediate steps, the nuclear weapon states should agree and state that they would not be the first to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against each other and that they would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons in any conflict with a non-nuclear weapon state. The Commission considers that such an agreement should be brought into operation as soon as possible.

Canberra Commission Report Continued

Proposition One