Article by Anna Lindh and Giorgios Papandreou, foreign ministers, respectively of Sweden and Greece, published in Dagens Nyheter
For more than a decade, the United Nations Security Council has wrestled with the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The international community has been deeply divided on how to effectively deal with this potential threat. Now, the challenge is to find ways of dealing with the threat of weapons of mass destruction elsewhere in the world, without the use of force.
Never before have so many fingers been poised to press the button and unleash nuclear weapons. Biological and chemical weapons also pose global threats that affect us all.
In North Korea, the regime has thrown out the IAEA inspectors and announced that it is withdrawing from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Elsewhere in Asia, India and Pakistan, which have carried out nuclear weapons tests, refuse to allow their weapons to be monitored. And in the Middle East, Israel stubbornly resists signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The nuclear weapons powers, moreover, seem inclined to give nuclear weapons more prominence in their military thinking. All these factors are a source of grave concern.
But the possibility of international terrorists gaining access to weapons of mass destruction is also alarming, to say the least. Biological and chemical weapons are relatively simple and inexpensive to produce. Such weapons programmes are more easily concealed under cover of perfectly legal activities. Unless effective control mechanisms are implemented, there will be a growing threat of chemical and biological weapons falling into the hands of well-organised terrorist networks. Hence, there is a need for more extensive use of weapons inspectors to investigate suspected possession of biological and chemical weapons.
All these considerations motivate a new, concerted effort to combat the terrible threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, their proliferation, and the consequences for world peace and stability. We don’t want another Iraq!
The two of us are prepared to work with our colleagues for such action in the European Union. We wish to act jointly with like-minded countries in other parts of the world. We will seek to promote a new strategy against weapons of mass destruction in the United Nations and to restart the disarmament negotiations in Geneva.
This new strategy against weapons of mass destruction will consist of a combination of old and new demands:
• The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must be strengthened. Events take a dangerous turn when more countries acquire nuclear weapons of their own. India, Pakistan and Israel must be persuaded to accede to the Treaty as nuclear-weapon-free states and so permit international monitoring. North Korea must be induced to fully comply with its international commitments concerning the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in a visible and verifiable manner.
• The nuclear weapons states must be persuaded to live up to their pledges to disarm. These countries have no excuse to delay fulfilling their unequivocal commitment to eliminate their nuclear weapons. A thirteen-step action plan has been drawn up and adopted. We expect the nuclear weapons powers to take immediate responsibility so that the nuclear weapons test ban can enter into force as soon as possible.
• Disarmament of tactical nuclear weapons must be given priority. There are large numbers of these smaller weapons in our own part of the world. Unfortunately there are gaps in our knowledge about them and this in itself is a threat to our security. These weapons are relatively easy to steal and transport, which makes them particularly attractive to terrorists. We want an immediate start to negotiations on a binding and verifiable agreement on tactical nuclear weapons disarmament.
• The role of nuclear weapons must decline. New discussions are currently under way in various countries on strategies for the use of nuclear weapons. This is a matter for concern and may lead to a lowering of the threshold for using nuclear weapons. Instead this threshold should be made much higher, pending the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
• Preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to states and terrorists. One important instrument is stronger export controls. These can lessen the chances of states and terrorists gaining access to technologies and materials that can be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and missiles.
• Preventing the proliferation of long-range missiles. The EU has been proactive in inducing some one hundred states to adopt a code of conduct on the proliferation and production of and trade in ballistic (long-range) missiles. What is important now is to promote its universal adherence with the view to develop the code into a legally binding document, including provisions for monitoring compliance.
We remember Hiroshima, nearly sixty years ago: over one hundred thousand people lost their lives within the space of a couple of minutes when the new weapon of mass destruction – the atomic bomb – was used for the first time.
We remember Halabja in Iraq fifteen years ago: thousands of Kurds met a cruel death after their own government had launched chemical weapons against them.
We remember the World Trade Center in September 2001: thousands of innocent civilians were victims of the most heinous terrorist attack in history. It is terrifying to contemplate the possibility of a similar attack using weapons of mass destruction.
We don’t want to experience anything like this again. We want to prevent anyone ever being able to use weapons of mass destruction – whether states or terrorists.
This is an enormous and difficult task. But there is no task more urgent than to do all that is in our power to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. We do not want to see another Iraq.