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24 Feb, 2009 07:33

‘NATO has first-strike policy’

NATO is no longer a defensive organization of the states involved. Now it is a controversial and confrontational alliance, says Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK.

RT: You’ve been chair of the campaign for nuclear disarmament since 2003?

Kate Hudson: That’s right.

RT: Why did you switch from Slavonic studies and writing about the rise and fall of Yugoslavia, to nuclear disarmament?

K.H.: Well, professionally speaking, I am a historian and in particular of Central and Eastern Europe. And, in a certain sense, that was what led me to my recent specter of activity within CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), because during the 1990s, I amongst many people felt that perhaps the nuclear threat had receded after the Cold War, but towards the end of the 1990s, it became clear that the world was still a very dangerous place.

Two things brought me back to the CND activity. The first was the expansion of NATO in 1999, the same time as the illegal attack on Yugoslavia by NATO forces. And the second was that the United States was very vigorously pursuing the missile defense system – of course we know that they wish to place facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland.

So, I found that my professional and historical interests were very much now engaged with the political realities of today.

RT: There has been a lot of talk about U.S. and Russia’s disarmament. What about other much more unstable parts of the world, such as Pakistan, Israel and other [countries]?

K.H.: That’s a very important question. Often, when we go and speak to the embassies of nuclear states – not mentioning any names – quite often they do say, “Well, we don’t want to have nuclear weapons, but we are not the main problem – we only have a few, but Russia and the United States have tens of thousands. And once they have started to deal with their problem, then we maybe put out on the table, too.” Which I think is why Mr. Obama’s suggestion of reducing both the U.S. and Russian stockpiles to a thousand, and then you can start bringing the others in. So, that’s perhaps one way of approaching it.

But I don’t think that in certain instances, the possession of nuclear weapons does seem to do with regional tensions and sort of regional power issues. And I think that’s where diplomacy needs to come in, where, maybe, encouragement and participation of the major states could help to facilitate a reduction or a removal of nuclear weapons.

You’ve mentioned, for example, India and Pakistan. I think we’ve serious encouragement from the international community, other forms of security guarantees being provided, and so on, that that could help to resolve that.

I think with regard to Israel – that has to be resolved in terms of a peace settlement for the Middle East, in its entirety. I think it will be very hard to kind of separate the Israeli nuclear arms from the Middle East peace process. But I think it should be very much on the table, during the Middle East peace process.

RT: Well, it seems there is a whole set of issues that you are trying to tackle, from U.S. missile defense to Britain’s [nuclear submarine] Trident replacement. Does the CND approach them differently?

K.H.: They are separate campaigning issues in a certain sense, but they all are very much interlinked. So, for example, to mention top three strategic priorities – nuclear energy is number four, so I leave that to one side…

The first three:

Number One is the abolition of Trident, that’s Britain’s nuclear weapons, and working for the global abolition of nuclear weapons – that’s an abolitionist thing. That’s our number one priority.
Our second priority is around the question of missile defence. Of course, that is completely linked to the nuclear weapons issue, because pursuing the nuclear defence system, as we all understand because of the rationale for the ABM Treaty. If you pursue that, you are going to start a new nuclear arms race, as people find new and better ways to get around the so-called shield. So, that’s completely interlinked. Missile defence, as we know, can reduce another state’s capacity to retaliate. So, those are completely interlinked. And our third priority is NATO. Primarily our campaigning is around the fact that NATO is a nuclear-armed military alliance with a first-strike policy, with NATO nuclear weapons stationed in non-nuclear-weapons states in Western Europe. So, although they seem different in many ways, and we do different types of campaigning, nevertheless they do all come back to this question of the nuclear issue, military tensions, and the danger of a new cold war. We see them very much as interlinked.

RT: CND recently welcomed Barack Obama’s disarmament initiative. Do you think it is viable? After all, didn’t he say that he would support the antimissile defense, if it proved workable?

K.H.: Yes, we are very positive about this. He has talked about these things… obviously renewing the START Treaty, which is very important, maybe working towards the alerting of nuclear weapons – also very significant – and his proposal of bilateral reductions, as far as I understand, has received a positive response from the Russian government. So, I think, that in itself is very positive. We know from the last 20 or so years that there are very good results from these constructive negotiations between Russia and the United States. Many nuclear weapons have actually been disarmed. So we know that it is a practicable and achievable situation. With regard to the missile defence, I think it is interesting. Although he hasn’t said he is opposed to it, he has been very equivocal, and, as you say, he said, it has to be proven to work, which has, of course, a big question mark over it. He also said it shouldn’t cost too much, which, you know, is rather hard to comply with. And he also said it shouldn’t damage relations with U.S. allies.

Apart from Russia’s understandable opposition to the scheme, there is a lot of opposition from within Europe: many of the European prime ministers and presidents have spoken out in opposition to it, never mind the majority of the population in the Czech Republic and Poland. So it seems to me President Obama is setting the barrier quite high without actually stating “no” at this moment.

RT: We are about to see NATO mark its 60th anniversary. And I know that you as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are preparing some protests and demonstrations in connection with that to mark it in your own way. What makes you believe that NATO is dangerous?

K.H.: Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, NATO’s a nuclear-armed alliance, and that’s very, very significant. NATO’s nuclear weapons are in Western Europe, and the guides of NATO, they have a nuclear first-strike policy. Over the last decade, NATO’s mission statement has been changed: there is no longer a defensive organization of the states involved. They have been engaged in various activities: we see NATO in Afghanistan, for example. So, the whole framework of it changed. It has expanded into Eastern Europe, into former Soviet republics. It is now a controversial and confrontational alliance, I would say, and it is a matter of grave concern to us. So, when we discovered that the NATO states were planning to have a celebration of their anniversary in April, we decided it was the time for a protest celebration. Together with peace movements from across Europe we will be in Strasbourg on April 4, protesting outside their summit.

RT: Iran’s nuclear program has been an ongoing issue for quite some time. What is your understanding of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and what would you expect on this disarmament track?

K.H.: Yes, a very important question. Obviously we have no inside information and we have what we learn, for example, from national security or from the IAEA, the UN body, and we’ve been assured that there is no evidence that Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons. Now, with regard to the nuclear power program, we obviously oppose nuclear power, as I explained earlier on, and we would much prefer the Iranians developed different sustainable forms of energy. We quite understand why they need to increase their energy sources because of their demographic-change population growth and development of the country. And we can also understand why they wish to diversify away from fossil fuels. But there are many other forms of sustainable energy that have partly to do with their climate, and so on. And we’ve actually encouraged them, when we’ve been in communication, not to go down the nuclear power path. But notwithstanding our concerns, we obviously are aware that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty they have the right as all other signatories to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. So, that’s a well-recognized issue. With regard to whether or not they might wish to pursue nuclear weapons… well, some of the leadership may wish to or they may not… It’s impossible to know not being an insider. But we would be absolutely opposed to any development of nuclear weapons by them or by any other country. But it seems to us that if you actually wish to persuade a country not to go down that path by being threatening towards them, it’s the worst possible thing you could do, because if they feel under threat, they’ll say: Well, perhaps we do need a few nuclear weapons in order to deter attack, and that’s not a very good path to go down.

RT: And finally, with the current state of affairs in the world, it is very hard to imagine a world without nuclear weapons. What makes you believe you can succeed?

K.H.: I think with regard to nuclear weapons I do genuinely believe it is possible to move towards what’s described sometimes as the global zero – partly because we know that in many parts of the world nuclear-weapons-free zones exist, but also because with the new initiative from the United States and the Russian government being positive about it, because there is a truck record of reductions and because so many global figures are now backing nuclear disarmament: people like Henry Kissinger, who some would have thought it was inconceivable that he would support such a thing. Many people are changing their minds and so this is an auspicious moment where sanity perhaps can be achieved and we can finally eradicate nuclear weapons.

RT: On that positive note, thank you very much.

K.H.: Thank you.