In 2014, BASIC prioritised its further engagement in building trust and dialogue amongst opinion-formers and decision shapers working in areas of nuclear deterrence, non-proliferation and disarmament. Our long-term vision remains a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. Achieving this requires an open approach: one that takes into account not only a full range of perspectives, but also looks at the issue within the context of constructing holistic sustainable security approaches.
Much of 2014 was overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, with relations between Russia and NATO more strained than at any time since the Cold War. Russia was already resistant to further arms control measures beyond the negotiation of new START on the basis that the United States was developing new military technologies that could only be balanced by Russian nuclear capabilities, and that there was an inexorable advance of economic and politico-military influence from NATO and the EU up to Russia’s borders. Russian nuclear threats, both in statements and in scaled up nuclear-capable manoeuvres, have dented ambitions for arms control and disarmament in recent months.
More positively, negotiations between Iran and the E3+3 (P5+1) countries were extended in an effort to reach a comprehensive deal by the new deadline of 30th June 2015 – there remains optimism around a deal after the bones of a framework agreement was announced in April. The strategic turbulence in the Middle East could do with some good news on this front.
The governments of Mexico and Austria each hosted large intergovernmental conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in 2014, as states attempt to create new avenues to break the deadlock on multilateral nuclear disarmament.
In the UK, we published the Trident Commission’s final report after three years of deliberation on the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons program. This reflects the opinions of the Commissioners themselves, rather than BASIC as an organisation, but it re-enforced BASIC’s inclusive reputation for engaging in the nuclear debate on the grounds of national and global security in a manner respectful of those coming from different perspectives.
In the United States, our Next Generation project, launched in September, is intended to refresh our and other group’s approaches, by reframing the narrative on nuclear weapons and considering how to engage with the next generation of policy makers currently developing their positions on the nuclear debate.
Our Rethinking Nuclear Weapons project continued its ground-breaking research into the utility of nuclear weapons through research and roundtables hosted in New York and London. In the Middle East, we engaged with new partners to expand the dialogue on strategic threats, non-proliferation and the prospects for a WMD-free zone.
There are many challenges facing BASIC and its agenda but we continue to adapt to remain relevant and effective.
Chair, Board of Trustees