In the United States, debate appears to be raging over President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request, which includes 7.6 billion USD for nuclear weapon modernization, an increase of 1.2 billion USD over the 2010 enacted level (complete budget request here). President Obama has repeatedly committed his administration to pursuing this increased funding, here, here, and here. (Thanks to Jackie Cabasso from Western States Legal Foundation for compiling those links.) In addition, the “defense” budget request for 2012 (which does not include nuclear weapons) is an enormous 670.9 billion USD (including 117 billion USD for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq), despite promises of Defense Secretary Gates to cut the Pentagon’s funding in the face of an economic crisis.
At the same time that it pours billions of dollars into its military, the United States has supplied billions of dollars of military aid and/or arms sales to the regimes in the Middle East and North Africa now facing popular resistance and revolution. As William Hartung points out:
According to lists of arms sales notifications compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Assistance Agency, in the last decade alone, the Department of Defense has brokered over $11 billion in U.S. arms offers to the Egyptian regime on behalf of weapons makers like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Electric. Aside from some leftover Soviet equipment from the pre-Camp David era (before 1979), the Egyptian military is virtually made in the USA. Fighter planes (Lockheed Martin F-16s), tanks (General Dynamics's M-1A1s), missiles (Harpoon, TOW, Hellfire, and Stinger, made by Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin), howitzers (United Defense), aircraft engines (General Electric) have all been purchased for the Egyptian armed forces with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The biggest winners have been Lockheed Martin ($3.8 billion); General Dynamics ($2.5 billion); Boeing ($1.7 billion); Raytheon ($750 million); and GE ($750 million).
Other Western countries have benefited from arms sales to these countries as well. The UK has supplied Libya with millions of dollars worth of military licences and equipment, including wall and door breaching projectile launchers, crowd control ammunition, small arms ammunition, tear gas/irritant ammunition, and training tear gas/irritant ammunition. Journalist Simon Jenkins points out, “Britain has tried to cover its publicity flank by ‘revoking 52 export licences’ to Bahrain and Libya for weapons used against demonstrators, in effect admitting its guilt. This merely locks the moral stable after the horse has fled, while also being a poor advertisement for British after-sales service. What is the point of selling someone a gun and telling him not to use it?”
In a statement released by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the group notes that the UK is not alone:
Italy granted €107.7 million of licenses to Libya for military aircraft, including assault craft and associated equipment. France granted €17.5 million worth of military licenses and Portugal €14.5 million.Portugal also granted €4.6 million of permits for drones. The planes strafing civilians were Mirage jets. French ones. Other licenses of note include: €4.4 million of Belgian permits for anti-personnel chemicals used to quell riots and €2.6 million of Italian licenses for bomb fuses.
In a world suffering from massive economic inequalities, poverty, unemployment, and lack of adequate access to food, water, and sanitation, the amount of money spent on weapons and war is growing increasingly outrageous. The hypocrisy of the major arms producers and exporters has been as starkly revealed as ever as citizens around the world struggle for democracy, freedom, human rights, and the satisfaction of basic human needs.
WILPF looks forward to the continuation of the arms trade treaty process next week and to working with other civil society organizations and diplomats to ensure that the treaty is the strongest it can be to protect human rights and social and economic justice.
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director
1) Discussions continue in the Conference on Disarmament
Under the Canadian presidency, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) engaged in substantive debate of the four core issues on the CD’s agenda—nuclear disarmament, a fissile materials treaty, prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The discussions, in which a great number of member states participated, provided some concrete suggestions for moving forward but also highlighted the continuing divergences between state perspectives both on what is possible and necessary in the near-term future.
Meanwhile, there is still no consensus on a programme of work, meaning the CD will continue to struggle to engage in negotiations or productive work during this first part of its 2011 session. For details, please see RCW’s CD resources, including its guide to the 2011 session.
2) Arms trade treaty process continues on Monday
The second session of the preparatory committee for the UN Conference on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will meet at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 28 February–4 March 2011. The purpose of the PrepCom is to make recommendations on the elements that would be needed to attain an effective and balanced legally-binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. The ATT is to be negotiated in July 2012.
RCW will be monitoring and reporting on the PrepCom in a blog and daily printed digest in coordination with Global Action to Prevent War, Oxfam International, and the International Action Network on Small Arms. Once the PrepCom begins, you’ll be able to access the digest and blog on the RCW website.
3) International Women’s Day seminar on women and disarmament
8 March will mark International Women’s Day, a celebration of women’s efforts for equality and a reminder of challenges yet to be overcome. Each year, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom holds a seminar in Geneva to mark the occasion and work with women on the most important issues the world faces today. This year, WILPF and its projects Reaching Critical Will and PeaceWomen have organized a seminar on “Women, disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation,” which will focus on implications of and follow-up to the UN General Assembly resolution of this name adopted in December 2010.
The seminar aims to bring together international experts and grassroots activists on gender and disarmament in a constructive debate on the role of women as actors for disarmament and disarmament negotiations and how women’s movements and networks can move these issues forward. It also aims to provide a forum for stimulating discussions and education on the relationship between women and disarmament for the disarmament community at the United Nations in Geneva.
The event will be held in the Palais des Nations, Room IX, at 13:00–15:00 on Monday, 7 March 2011. It will be followed by an NGO strategy session at 15:00. Please contact [email protected] for more information.
4) Global Day of Action on Military Spending
In 2009, global military spending reached 1.5 trillion USD—a real-terms increase of 6 per cent over 2008 and of 49 per cent since 2000 (SIPRI). The USA’s military spending accounted for 43 per cent of the world total in 2009. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is set to unveil the largest budget in its history next week, despite promises by Defense Secretary Gates to “trim” the budget over the next five years.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is supporting the organization of a Global Day of Action on Military Spending on 12April 2011 to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual report, which will take into account the new figures on military expenditures. On this day, people all over the world will join together in joint actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities. To read more about the campaign, visit www.demilitarize.org.
RCW will provide more information about RCW and WILPF activities in the March edition of the E-News.
5) Disarmament Dialogues
Global Action to Prevent War has created a new discussion forum on Facebook, called Disarmament Dialogues, which seeks to re-engage youth in discussing and re-defining disarmament in a broader sense of the term. In the post-Cold War world context, disarmament issues affect a wide range of issues, ranging from post-conflict reconciliation to finance. In order to understand the importance of disarmament, we must re-define the term to be relevant the future policy-makers of the 21st century. Join the discussion today!
6) Student Scholarship/Essay Contest
The Daisy Alliance sponsors an annual Student Scholarship/Essay Contest on various nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament themes. First prize is $1,000, second is $500, and third is $250. All undergraduate and graduate students in any university are eligible. This year’s topic is “South Asia at a Tipping Point.” The deadline for submissions is 4 April 2011. Please circulate to students you know. Contact [email protected] Holly Lindamood for more information.
7) Beyond arms control: choices and challenges for nuclear disarmament
In 2010, Reaching Critical Will published a collaborative work of non-governmental researchers and activists who critically examine the mainstream discourse of nuclear weapons. The book explores some of the most important challenges facing governments and civil society, highlighting the prospects and pitfalls for nuclear disarmament in the current world order. Throughout, the authors demonstrate that nuclear disarmament must be pursued in the context of a broader movement for social and economic justice and equality.
The text is available freely online, but hard copies are still available for purchase! The price is 10 USD; shipping is 4 USD in the United States, 5 USD to Canada. For international rates, please [email protected] contact us.
8) Upcoming Events
Youth Conference on Nuclear Disarmament
On 25 February 2011, the Ban All Nukes generation (BANg) is organizing a youth conference in Geneva, at which diplomats, government experts, NGO representatives and young activists will gather for a day of presentations and discussions in the Auditorium Jacques-Freymond at the shore of the Lake Léman. The objective is clear: A world without nuclear weapons. But how to get there? What are the obstacles on the road to disarmament? And how can we surmount them?
The subjects of the conference include:
The need for the international community to delegitimize nuclear weapons.NATO and Nuclear Weapons.
Recent UN resolutions and outcomes related to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
How to make a difference: Young activists from different corners of the world telling how they are trying to reach progress at the local, national and international levels.
If you are interested in participating in this event, please register now!
Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education
On 17–18 March 2011, the Japanese government and United Nations University are co-sponsoring an international conference in Nagasaki that builds on the 2002 UN Experts Panel and 2010 NPT Review Conference and promotes discussions among officials, experts, NGOs and educators about the future steps to take, the outcomes of which will be announced to the world community as a Nagasaki Declaration.
For more information, please see http://blog.canpan.info/global-forum/ andhttp://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/bulletin/global_forum1103.html.
9) Featured News
New START enters into force
On 5 February, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Russia and the United States entered into force. Within 45 days, the two countries will have an initial exchange of data and inspectors can go to work. However, as Hans Kristensen from the Federation of American Scientists has pointed out:
…the treaty does not, as the New York Times report mistakenly states, “require the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals…to 1,550 warheads each, from between 1,700 and 2,200 now.” This is a misreporting that is frequent in the news media (see also RIA Novosti). In fact, the treaty does not place any limits on the total size of their nuclear arsenals—in fact, it doesn’t require destruction of a single nuclear warhead. Rather, New START reduces the limit for how many of their strategic warheads the two countries may deploy on long-range delivery vehicles at any given time. Both countries may—and do—have thousands of other nuclear warheads that are not deployed or not counted.
Of the estimated 5,000 and 8,000 US and Russian, respectively, nuclear warheads in their military stockpiles, New START affects how 1,550 can be deployed on each side. How to deal with the remaining thousands of non-deployed and nonstrategic nuclear warheads is the focus of the next round of US-Russian nuclear arms control efforts. In addition, both countries have thousands of additional retired but intact warheads awaiting dismantlement, for total estimated inventories of 8,500 US and 11,000 Russian warheads. (Source: Hans M. Kristensen, “New START: It’s in the Bag!” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 26 January 2011.)
US President Obama requests increase funding for nuclear weapons
The real cost of New START treaty ratification is beginning to register. President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes an 8.4% increase in funding for nuclear weapons over his 2011 request and calls for the US to replace the land-, air-, and sea-based components of its nuclear forces, “potentially setting the nation on a course that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars over five decades.”
Below are a collection of resources and articles addressing this issue:
Hans Kristensen, “GAO Report Challenges Nuclear Weapons Spending Spree,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 14 February 2011.
Mark Thomson, “A New Nuclear Triad?,” Time.com, 13 February 2011.
“U.S. to Replace Nuke Delivery Platforms,” Global Security Newswire, 14 February 2011.
Russia reveals nuclear weapon modernization plans
On 24 February, the Russian government “unveiled a decade-long military modernization plan involving the deployment of various new nuclear-weapon delivery systems.” Global Security Network reports:
The plan, expected to cost roughly $650 billion, calls for the armed forces’ acquisition this year of Russia's Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said. The weapon remains in its experimental phase. Russia would also provide Iskander-M tactical missiles to 10 armed forces brigades over the next decade, Popovkin said. Russia would prepare a new, 10-warhead ICBM to succeed the Topol and other existing systems, he said. The three-warhead Topol ICBM is currently the nation's primary strategic missile for first strikes, according to Xinhua. Russia’s army is slated to receive 56 S-400 air-defense systems as well as future S-500 defenses, Popovkin said. (Source: “Russia Details Planned Nuke Updates,” Global Security Newswire, 24 February 2011.)
Pakistan builds up nuclear arsenal
According to US intelligence assessments, Pakistan has expanded its nuclear arsenal over the last several years and is building its capacity to produce more fissile material for nuclear weapons. The most recent estimates suggest that the number of deployed weapons in Pakistan now ranges from the mid-90s to more than 110. In addition, based on the latest estimates of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, experts say Pakistan has now produced enough material for 40 to 100 additional weapons, including a new class of plutonium bombs. (Source: David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “Pakistani Nuclear Arms Pose Challenge to U.S. Policy,” New York Times, 31 January 2011.)
UK decision on Trident renewal to be examined by commission
The UK government’s decision to build a new nuclear missile system—the shape and size of which will not be determined until 2015, after the next general election—“will be subjected to unprecedented independent scrutiny by a group of senior defence, diplomatic, scientific, and political figures.” The new Trident commission will be headed by the former Labour defence secretary, Lord Browne, the former Conservative defence secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and the former Lib Dem defence spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell.
Lord Browne “said that an independent review was crucial now in light of the government’s insistence that the cost of a new nuclear weapons system must come out of the core defence budget.” He argued, “No one has debated the impact of this on the rest of expenditure on defence.” Ian Kearns, research director of the British American Security Information Council (Basic), said, “Given the government's decision to delay Trident renewal until after the next election, there is an important opportunity before the country for a fresh an in-depth debate. This commission will provide a focal point for that debate.” (Source: Richard Norton-Taylor, “Nuclear weapons case to be examined by commission,” The Guardian, 9 February 2011.)
Nuclear weapon free zone in the Arctic?
On 15 February, Yukon Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell introduced a private member’s bill to the Canadian House of Commons to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Canadian Arctic. Bill C- 629 would also prohibit the dumping or disposal of weapons grade nuclear material in the Canadian Arctic. “As sea lanes open up and shipping traffic increases, the Arctic becomes more vulnerable to all sorts of dangers,” Bagnell said in a release. “I believe Bill C- 629 will help eliminate a very dangerous threat - that of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons waste material.” (Source: “Yukon MP wants Arctic to be a nuke-free zone,” Nunatsiaq News, 15 February 2011.)
10) Recommended Reading
William Hartung, “Who Profited From Arming Egypt?” Huffington Post, 30 January 2011.
Jacqueline Cabasso, “Opinion—START: One Small Step for Arms Control, One Giant Leap Backward for Disarmament?” United for Peace and Justice, February 2011.
Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley, “Obama’s Pentagon cuts not what they seem,” CNNMoney.com, 11 February 2011.