United Nations Forum for the Transition
SI VIS PACEM PARA PACEM! If you want peace, prepare for peace! 平和を望むなら平和に備えよ
Movement for UN Reform 2012
Remembering the International Union of the Hague Peace Conferences, 1899 to 1914
»To serve the Peace of the World «
the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Katsuya Okada
Dr. jur. Guido Westerwelle
Hidaka, 9 September 2010
Dear Mr. Okada dear Mr. Westerwelle,
In The Wall Street Journal in the beginning of this month you have jointly taken up the issue of a Nuclear-Free World. Indeed, this is an urgent task, and a timely appeal by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. However, “Nuclear Zero” may never become a reality, unless an effective System of Collective Security is created. In this connection, the late former Ambassador to Japan, Professor Wilhelm Grewe said in his farewell address in Tokyo in 1979, a long time ago, that if the two countries, Germany and Japan, should ever have something important to say concerning the subject of a new world order, this would carry special weight. ("Wenn die Bundesrepublik und Japan je etwas zum Thema einer neuen Weltordnung sagen sollten, würde es besonderes Gewicht haben.") I don’t know what Professor Grewe had in mind, but he might have thought of the United Nations’ system of collective security, to which the two countries could contribute substantially by taking appropriate action to put the system into effect. Toward this end Japan has already agreed to limitations of its national sovereignty in favour of “an international peace based on justice and order.” (Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution) This aim is also envisaged in Article X of the US-Japan Security Treaty,* and is also stipulated in Article 24 of the German Constitution.**
(2) Germany’s decision against an effective global UN system of collective security. In the beginning of the 1990s, following German unification, when statesmen the world over called for strengthening the United Nations and the international rule of law, including collective security and the International Court of Justice’s binding powers, a high-level decision was made rejecting the global concept in favour of a Euro-centric and mainly NATO-oriented version of security. Strangely, it was the Peace Research Institutes, like the renowned Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy of the University of Hamburg (Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg, IFSH), whose analyses paved the way:
The expansion of the UN into a universally recognized, functioning institution of collective security for its members cannot realistically be expected after the end of the Cold War, not in the short term. The time required for more fundamental changes in the Organization of the United Nations must be estimated to take decades rather than years. But Europe with its acute problems cannot wait until the development of the UN into a globally reliable system of collective security is completed. (DIETER S. LUTZ, Deutschland und die kollektive Sicherheit. Politische, rechtliche und programmatische Aspekte [Germany and Collective Security. Political, legal and programmatic aspects], Opladen 1993, p. 111)
“This line of reasoning of the Constitutional Court,” Professor Deiseroth continues, “disregards form and content of the norm of Article 24 paragraph 2 of the Constitution and so legitimizes a political concept of security that deviates from this basic constitutional directive,” and one might add, the UN Charter. It was the international law professor “Carlo Schmid, the intellectual and political father of Article 24 … of the Constitution,” who in 1948/49, “during the drafting of the Basic Law in the debates of the Parliamentary Council [said]: «The concept of ‘collective security’ is a technical term by which something very definite (etwas ganz Bestimmtes) is to be understood. … ‘collective security’ means something precise, an institution from the large field of law for the prevention of war, which is usually dealt with in modern textbooks as a particular section of the system of positive international law. ... ‘Collective Security’ is a term just as clearly defined as in civil law the expression ‘unjust enrichment’.»” So far Professor Deiseroth. The German Peace Movement and an increasing number of concerned scientists, peace researchers and civil society activists are becoming aware of this problem, calling for government action.
It is difficult to see how the dilemma can be resolved without the German Government reversing its earlier decision and following up on the Japanese constitutional pledge to abolish war, and taking legislative action to the effect, by limiting national sovereignty in favor of the UN; this could be followed by other nations aiming as well at effective collective security and disarmament. Well known to international lawyers, the principle of reciprocity in international relations and obligatio erga omnes, which are binding principles in international law, would come into play here, to propel the process of empowering the United Nations, envisaged in the UN Charter. “We, the Peoples of the United Nations” should accompany the transition.
The Movement for UN Reform (Kampagne für die UNO-Reform) is a loose association of concerned peace activists and researchers. We would appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Dr. Klaus Schlichtmann (facilitator)
* “This Treaty shall remain in force until in the opinion of the government of Japan and the United States of America there shall come into force such United Nations arrangement [i.e. collective security] as will satisfactorily provide for the maintenance of international peace and security in the Japan area.”
** Article 24: (1) The Federation may by legislation transfer sovereign powers to international organizations [i.e.e.g. the UNO]. ... (2) With a view to maintaining peace the Federation may become a party to a system of collective security; in doing so it shall consent to such limitations upon its sovereign powers as will bring about and secure a peaceful and lasting order in Europe and among the nations of the world. ... (Constitution of 23 May 1949)
Enclosures: 1. Panel speech by Dr. Keith Payne; 2. Professor Quincy Wright on the “Transitional
Period,” the new international law concept that later became Article 106 in the UN Charter
Cc: The German Ambassador in Tokyo; the Japanese Ambassador in Berlin; others
MR. PAYNE: I actually generated two papers for this particular project, one on force sizing answering the question how much is enough, and another, a broad review of the Nuclear Zero proposal. The one I'd like to talk about here this morning just for a few minutes is a broad overview of the Nuclear Zero proposal and we can talk about the new START treaty later, Michael and Tom, if you'd like.
Let me start off by pointing out that Nuclear Zero and global nuclear disarmament is not a new goal. This has been an announced goal of the United States since roughly 1946. It was embraced by President Ronald Reagan for example. What I see different in the way the Obama administration has presented Nuclear Zero is the priority that it's placed on it. In the past both Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued a dual track, a balanced approach, looking forward to nuclear reductions when possible, but also modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent when necessary. For example, the Clinton administration's general policy along those lines was called Lead and Hedge, lead in reductions but hedge against possible negative developments in the international arena. For example, the Clinton administration did both. They led toward developments in nuclear reductions, but they also hedged and the hedging included the development and deployment of new nuclear capabilities. The more recent Bush administration also pursued this dual track of keeping a balance between the priorities of nuclear reduction and nuclear modernization. And contrary to the revisionist history that I see springing up around me, the Bush administration did a great deal in terms of arms reductions. The Moscow Treaty reduced by treaty U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons down by two-thirds from what those numbers were when the Bush administration started, sizable, significant nuclear reductions.
The question I guess that I would pose and that I'll and present at least a brief answer to is why should we be wary of the Obama administration's shift away from this prioritization of this dual track, because what I see in the Obama administration is placing priority on one track and that is on the Nuclear Zero side so that you see for example much discussion on the idea of new nuclear capability is now expressly forbidden as part of this exercise so that it's a prioritization issue not the idea that nuclear disarmament is a goal of the United States.
Why should we be concerned? Let me suggest very briefly a couple of reasons. One is that the feasibility of Nuclear Zero is going to depend on many countries coming to the strategic decision roughly simultaneously that nuclear weapons are unnecessary for their security, and yet despite the warm rhetoric that's been generated by the most recent Nuclear Zero vision, much of the rest of the world including U.S. allies, including U.S. friends and including U.S. foes continue to see great value in nuclear weapons.
For example, some close allies of the United States; these are countries with centuries of pain experience, recall the nonnuclear past as the destroyer of nations. There were no nuclear weapons to deter those bent on war in 1914. There were no nuclear weapons to deter those bent on war in 1939. The results respectively, approximately 40 million mostly European casualties in World War I, and somewhere between 50 and 70 million European and Asian casualties in World War II. In both cases some countries and nations literally ceased to exist as a result of these conflicts.
To go back a little earlier you can look to the 13th century Mongol invasions of China and Central Europe where probably 8 to 12 percent of the world's population was destroyed in those conflicts. This horrific pre-nuclear history contrasts sharply with the past seven decades in which another such conflict did not erupt despite multiple crises and titanic struggles and conflicts. It's no coincidence I believe that there has been a steep decline in global casualties due to war since the onset of the nuclear age and nuclear deterrence.
French Ambassador de Rose recently noted that the rapid succession of two world wars during the first half of the 20th century and the absence of a third world war during the second half of the 20th century demonstrates in the most dramatic way possible the deterrent value of nuclear weapons. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher poignantly observed that the casualties of World War I and World War II are a silent testimony for any of us who care to remember that conventional deterrence, i.e., nonnuclear deterrence, does not preserve the peace. She says there are monuments to the futility of conventional deterrence in every village in Europe and these monuments have lots of names on them.
Many key allies and friends believe that it is nuclear deterrence that has prevented a repeat of past global catastrophes and understandably they have no great desire to return to that nightmarish world. They continue to see great value in nuclear weapons as the deterrent to war. This isn't true of all allies, but it is true of many allies. It's for this reason that Winston Churchill warned the United States in his final speech, "Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure and more than sure that other means of preserving peace are in your hands." Many of our allies rightly fear U.S. enthusiasm for Nuclear Zero. They fear it because they don't believe that we are close to meeting Churchill's requirement to eliminate nuclear weapons, that is, we have not yet found the alternative for preventing war. French President Sarkozy made the point in his response to the Nuclear Zero proposal in typically French fashion or French flair when he said we live in a real world, not a virtual world. As a Czech commentator recently observed with regard to Nuclear Zero, a starry-eyed view of the world could not only put the United States at risk but also cause its allies to lose their confidence in the superpower's ability to meet its allied commitments. U.S. movement to zero has the potential to increase nuclear proliferation by compelling these allies to see the need for their own or alternative nuclear deterrent capabilities. Several allies and friends have made this point explicitly and openly including Turkish, Japanese, South Korean and Saudi officials.
Even if the countries of the world were to unite and agree to eliminate nuclear weapons, allies and friends would continue to see great value in nuclear weapons for deterrence. For example, Syria would still retain its reportedly ample stocks of chemical weapons. Should Israel be expected to promise to forego nuclear deterrence in such an environment? Other allies and friends would continue to face daily biological threats. Are we to expect them to forego nuclear deterrence in the face of those threats? These would be naïve expectations indeed.
How can we prudently lead the world to Nuclear Zero when many of our own closest allies and friends continue to see U.S. nuclear weapons as a pillar of their security and the reason why they can remain nonnuclear? Remove that U.S. pillar and some allies will be compelled to find an alternative means of security including their own nuclear capabilities or other weapons of mass destruction.
I should note that proponents of Nuclear Zero have not offered any plausible basis for squaring this circle other than the hope that allies will stop seeing the world as a dangerous place and that the threats of chemical and biological weapons will somehow go away. Bonne chance. The reality of course is that allied apprehension about Nuclear Zero is understandable and their fears are reasonable. Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling makes the material point simply, "One might hope that major war would not happen in a world without nuclear weapons, but it always did." In addition, some prospective proponents are no less eager to retain nuclear weapons. They see the U.S. drive for Nuclear Zero as a malevolent U.S. trick to undercut the nuclear capabilities they see as vital to their security. Russian officials have openly said this. They certainly have no interest in following the U.S. lead toward Nuclear Zero. According to the "Washington Post," when Nuclear Zero proponents presented the Nuclear Zero option to President Putin in a private meeting in July 2007, the Russian president, "Scoffed at the proposal as just another trick to weaken his country." Numerous senior Russians including former President Gorbachev have said that because Russian conventional forces are so inferior and weak compared to those of the United States, NATO and China, that Nuclear Zero would threaten to put Russia in the intolerable position of inferiority. Russia understandably rejects a world in which U.S., NATO and Chinese conventional forces are so much superior to its own and Russia has no nuclear weapons to serve as the great equalizer.
Concern about an unbeatable U.S. conventional superiority should come as no surprise and such a prospect can hardly encourage Russia or China to embrace the vision. Most recently Russian President Dmitry Medvedev emphasized that nuclear weapons are the sine qua non for Russia, "The possession of nuclear weapons is the defining condition for Russia to conduct an independent policy and to preserve its sovereignty." Again, proponents of Zero have offered no plausible basis for squaring this circle, just continuing expressions of hope that these countries' fears and conflicts will come to an end so that Nuclear Zero can be realized.
Finally, an effective Zero agreement would require a fundamental transformation of the international system. Why? Because most states will not give up the weapons they see as essential to their security in the absence of some alternative form of protection. The international system of sovereign states with its inherent security threats would have to be replaced by a reliable, effective global collective security system that would protect all who would give up the forces they see as essential to their security. When states no longer need to rely on their own forces for security and instead can rely on a trustworthy system of global security, then and only then will the conditions called for by Churchill be necessary for nuclear disarmament to take place. Mohamed ElBaradei who was recently the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency readily acknowledged this connection between the plausibility of Nuclear Zero and the requirement for a reliable collective security system. He said, "The Security Council must be drastically reformed so the world can rely on it as the primary body for maintaining international peace as foreseen in the U.N. Charter." Unfortunately the international system that we live in, the international system of sovereign states, is extremely resistant to the fundamental transformation of itself. The creation of a reliable global collective security system has been an unmet dream for 100 years, first the dream of the League of Nations and more recently the dream of the United Nations. Unfortunately I believe this century-long dream is sure to remain unmet because sovereign states follow their own individual and competing sense of interest and there is no evidence that this reality is fading. The international community's failure even to cooperate sufficiently to control the nuclear weapons of a weak pariah state like North Korea reflects this ongoing problem. In short, the international system is missing the mutual trust and the common interest necessary either to create a global collective security system or to inspire states to give up their ultimate means of security which includes nuclear weapons. (Emphasis added!)
When might the international system escape this unfortunate condition? Under Secretary General of the United Nations Brian Urquart suggested that international unity and common purpose would become feasible "when there is invasion from Mars." Perhaps. I think that may be a bit optimistic because he forgets the potential of playing humans against each other.
In summary, there are numerous reasons for being wary of Nuclear Zero. Premature steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons could degrade the deterrence of war and a war fought with today's nonnuclear weapons could easily destroy civilization. At Gettysburg there were roughly 50,000 casualties over 3 days, roughly 11,000 fatalities. That was with 200-year-old technology. I want you to think about what a conventional war would look like today. Steps toward Nuclear Zero could degrade extended deterrence for our allies, leaving allies more vulnerable to attack and leaving some to seek their own nuclear weapons. It's important to remember in this regard that our alliance commitments tie allied security to our security. Their wars become our wars. We don't want extended deterrence to fail. Nuclear Zero as a priority U.S. goal could easily lead to U.S. nuclear reductions that would make sense only in the context of the dramatic transformation of the international system in the direction of unity, common purpose and effective collective security. No evidence points to the reality of such a benign transformation taking place now.
The fundamental problem with the Nuclear Zero initiative is that it reflects no appreciation of Churchill's warning. It threatens to degrade the brakes to war provided by nuclear deterrence. It threatens to end the breaks on proliferation provided by the U.S. nuclear umbrella for allies. Yet at the same time it offers no plausible alternative mechanism to prevent war or to assure our allies. The late British nuclear expert Sir Michael Quinlan captured I think in a single sense the fallacy of elevating Nuclear Zero to be the priority U.S. nuclear goal in the absence of a realistic, collective global security system. Sir Michael said better a world with nuclear weapons but no major war than one with major war but no nuclear weapons. I see to reason to believe that Sir Michael got the tradeoffs wrong. Thank you. (Emphasis added!)
THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, THE NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW AND THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS, Washington, D.C., March 29, 2010. Full Panel Report available online at: