Threat of nuclear weapons use has risen, says Lords Committee

By agency reporter
April 25, 2019

Just days before states convene for the 2019 Preparatory Committee of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the UN in New York, the House of Lords International Relations Committee has published its report Rising nuclear risk, disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Committee has called on the Government to address grave concerns about the deteriorating state of nuclear diplomacy.

The Committee's main concerns are that:

  • Misunderstanding, miscalculation or mistakes could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. There is a lack of understanding between nuclear possessor states on their respective nuclear doctrines and declaratory policies, for example what the response would be to a cyber-attack on a country's nuclear command and control system.
  • Reckless nuclear rhetoric in an era of digital communications could lead to a misunderstanding, and therefore the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Largely as a result of the worsening security environment, global progress towards disarmament has stalled. Tensions between Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapon States regarding the pace of disarmament puts pressure on the existing non-proliferation regime in the run-up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference.
  • Global nuclear non-proliferation efforts have been undermined by the US's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The collapse of nuclear arms control agreements, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, risks further increasing the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used.

The Committee is calling on the Government to:

  • Encourage greater dialogue between all nuclear possessor states about nuclear risk, to reduce global tensions. In particular, the Government and NATO must talk to Russia about nuclear strategic stability.
  • Seek to reduce tensions between Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapon States in advance of the 2020 NPT Review Conference, including by adopting a less aggressive tone towards the Ban Treaty and its supporters.
  • Continue efforts to defend and uphold the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Use ongoing discussions in NATO to promote either a revival of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or at least, to avoid the deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
  • Use the UK's upcoming Chairmanship of the P5 group as an opportunity to discuss risk reduction and transparency between the Nuclear Weapons States, and to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, including encouraging the Nuclear Weapons States to show a demonstrable commitment to disarmament.

Commenting on the report, Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said: “We welcome the report which calls on the UK government to endorse the principle that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ With increasing geopolitical tensions, destruction of fundamental arms control treaties, and the continued development of new nuclear weapons, the UK must do more to support global disarmament initiatives.

“The report is right to criticise the government’s lack of engagement with the UN’s new nuclear weapons ban treaty. It calls out the ‘aggressive tone about the treaty’ which in practice has meant the UK boycotting talks and offering little encouragement to countries that have embraced this exciting diplomatic initiative.

“The report does however fail to address the hypocrisy of the government in continuing to waste money on replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system. The replacement of our nuclear weapons is contrary to our Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments and is set to cost at least £205 billion which could be better spent on jobs, homes, education and health.”

* Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

* Read the report Rising nuclear risk, disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty here

* House of Lords International Relations Committee


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