June 2010

June was a busy month as BASIC's Executive Director toured Europe to discuss nuclear disarmament in the aftermath of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. In Washington, issues around ratification of the New START agreement were heating up. Read below for the latest BASIC news and plans.

London

  • This last month has been a busy one for BASIC's Executive Director Paul Ingram, attending a series of two-day meetings around Europe discussing issues of relevance to BASIC's nuclear disarmament agenda, in the aftermath of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. He was the expert consultant for a round-table in Brussels on 8 and 9 June of the Conference of European Churches on NATO's nuclear policy, where discussion of the Strategic Concept and attitudes to Russia, and the future of European security pulled in greatly diverse opinions from participants across the continent. The following week he was in Toledo, Spain for a two day conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Association of European Journalists, where he gave a presentation on the future of nuclear deterrence, the NPT, Iran and the possibilities of break-through for global disarmament. Whilst many of the other participants were often overly pessimistic, Paul was able to point out the broader opportunities lying behind the necessary global transformation that disarmament would be a part of.
  • The week after that he presented the first paper to a conference on trust, empathy and dialogue at Aberystwyth University on a systemic adaptive leadership approach to the nuclear diplomatic conflict between the United States and Iran, and received a very positive reception. Paul then attended the UK Foreign Office's conference centre at Wilton Park in Sussex, 27-30 June for a conference attended by around 85 high-level participants from the US, Russia, China, India, France, Japan, the UK and other European countries entitled 'Nuclear Salience in Decline'. He led one of the break-out groups discussing the future of nuclear reductions.
  • In addition Paul has now had the opportunity to discuss Britain's role in disarmament with new MPs, and with diplomats that attended the NPT Review Conference, and has delivered talks to local groups on the subject.
  • Laura Spagnuolo, BASIC Research and Policy Officer, went to Italy on 16 and 17 June to interview governmental officials on Italy's position on NATO Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW). This was a good opportunity to clarify Italy’s stance and make useful contact. Laura has been working on a paper on 'Italy's Nuclear Weapons' soon to be published.

Washington

  • Anne Penketh, Program Director, attended a day-long meeting on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held throughout May at the UN. Participants invited by the US Institute of Peace included Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher, NPT negotiator Susan Burk, former UN disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala and people from think tanks and embassies. It was a useful off the record session as the administration’s representatives spoke candidly about the negotiations in New York. The group concluded that the Review Conference produced a "glass half full" thanks to the agreement on the Middle East conference. Anne and Deepti Choubey from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pointed out to the administration officials that the US needed to demonstrate that it was fully behind the initiative after sending out mixed signals in the immediate aftermath of the Review Conference. Anne also held follow up meetings with US, UK and Egyptian officials and diplomats.
  • Anne attended an NGO retreat at which Senate staffers briefed participants on the prospects for New START ratification. Again they were extremely frank and their assessment was quite sobering as they described the difficult political climate which is complicating the ratification process. All being well though it is hoped the treaty should be done by the end of the year.
  • The highlight of the month was probably the intensification of the New START hearings which Anne followed closely while preparing a background paper. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were among those testifying, which produced long lines of people. Luckily all the hearings are broadcast online for those who couldn't get in.

Looking forward

BASIC-ACA conference in Warsaw, Poland: On 5 and 6 July participants from across central and east Europe will attend, as will former Defence Secretary Des Browne, alongside Paul Ingram and Ian Kearns from BASIC. Paul will be giving his perspective on the dynamics of NATO cohesion in the context of discussions on nuclear doctrine.

Iran: Paul will be visiting Iran in early August to deliver a paper on the diplomacy around the nuclear programme to the plenary of a conference also addressed by President Ahmadinejad and several key members of the Iranian government.

Turkey: BASIC is planning a conference in Ankara discussing Turkey's role in NATO's future nuclear posture in early October.

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