BASIC launched its Trident Commission in Parliament on February 9th. Speakers at the event warmly welcomed the establishment of the Commission and pointed to its potential to change the political landscape of the debate in Britain. Minister of State for the Armed Forces Nick Harvey attended the launch, strongly welcoming the establishment of the Commission. The Commission held its first meeting the following week, and will be taking evidence throughout 2011 and report in 2012. BASIC will be servicing the Commission, the Secretariat led by Dr. Ian Kearns has started the extensive background work required to make the BASIC Trident Commission a success.
Anne Penketh was in the Middle East for discussions with Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli officials, and non-government experts, about their perspectives ahead of the planned the 2012 conference to establish a regional WMD-free zone. She was undeterred by the Egyptian revolution happening around her and was able to meet foreign ministry officials who continued to go to their offices even with tanks parked outside. The Arab officials and diplomats she spoke to expressed frustration at the slow pace of preparations for the conference, while Israeli officials expressed a willingness to engage and said they are talking to the Americans about it. Anne reported on where things stand for the March edition of Arms Control Today.
Anne also spoke at a lively off the record seminar in Vienna, convened by the Monterey Nonproliferation Strategy Group. The meeting focused on the "promise and prospects" for the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The event provided an excellent opportunity for networking, including over a copious dinner at the Indochine restaurant.
BASIC staff have also been visiting with Administration officials and other experts to lay the groundwork for a new educational drive on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – with the aim of bringing information to new Senate offices in the coming months.
French Defense Minister Alain Juppe was in Washington to speak about the French-American security relationship. When BASIC’s Analyst, Chris Lindborg, asked about French hopes and expectations for the Alliance’s comprehensive defense and deterrence review, it was made clear that nuclear deterrence and missile defense would continue to be sensitive topics for France. BASIC will be looking for opportunities later this year to engage with the French in discussions on overcoming these sensitivities.
Preparations have been going into further roundtables on NATO’s nuclear posture and the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, to be held in Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland), Brussels (Belgium), Rome (Italy) and Kiev (Ukraine), all in the first six months of 2011.