New START was ratified by the US Senate in December, and then by Russia last week. It is expected that the instruments of ratification will be exchanged to bring it into force by the end of this week, in Munich at the security conference.
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Washington staff took part in an NGO community retreat to discuss priorities after the difficult but ultimately successful New START ratification. Participants heard from Congressional staffers and administration officials in off-the-record sessions about how they believe it is possible to advance Obama's disarmament agenda with the new Congress heavily influenced by the Tea Party movement. The administration is still making its mind up about how to move forward on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but Anne contacted White House officials directly in the vain hope that Obama would mention the Treaty in his State of the Union address as a priority for the coming year. Some in the administration still believe strongly that the case for ratification should be made so we can begin the educational process despite the bruising START experience – BASIC is planning roundtables for later in the year.
Also in January, Chris and Anne met with NATO diplomats, particularly Norway and Poland, to find out more on the post-Lisbon process but it seems that governments have not yet reached firm decisions on how to proceed with the agreed NATO deterrence and defence review.
BASIC staff attended a dinner and day-long roundtable for the European Leadership Network on January 24 and 25. Former Defence and Foreign Secretaries, senior parliamentarians, former defence chiefs and other members of the ELN to discuss European nuclear posture and prospects for disarmament.
BASIC participated in a RUSI roundtable, ‘NATO and US Nuclear Weapons: After the Bombs Have Gone’ on January 24 involving participants from the United States, France, Russia, Turkey, Germany, Poland and NATO. The discussions brought a refreshing new frame to the debate on NATO’s nuclear posture.
BASIC staff have been gearing up for the launch of the Trident Commission and the background research and commissioning necessary to ensure that this will be the most effective forum to consider Britain’s future nuclear weapons policy.
Anne left for the Middle East on January 20th and met officials and NGO leaders in Jordan on her first stop to talk about the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. She flew into Cairo on Saturday, but of course the anti-Mubarak protests have disrupted her plans. She then heads to Israel where she has been invited to take part in a roundtable on the WMD-free zone at the annual Herzliya security conference.
Coming Next – The BASIC UK Trident Commission launch event is taking place at Portcullis House in Westminster on the evening of February 9th. The Trident Commission, co-chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Lord Browne of Ladyton and Sir Menzies Campbell, will be looking at Britain’s nuclear weapon policy and options facing the government.
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