Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free zone would be stepping stone towards Global Zero

December 10, 2012

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In an opinion piece in the newspaper Embassy, Thomas Axworthy argues that “if we are truly to move to a nuclear-weapon-free world, we need to replace competitive arms races with the notion of common security” and calls for the Arctic Council to begin discussing ways to move towards the Arctic becoming a nuclear-weapon-free zone (“A Nordic-Canadian nuclear-weapon-free zone,” 28 November 2012).

Axworthy notes that support is strong for an Arctic free of nuclear weapons:

A recent poll by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation shows that nearly 80 per cent of respondents from across Canada and the Nordic states back an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone.

He also points out, however, that Russia is unlikely to be an early supporter of such a zone because of the importance of its Arctic bases for its missile submarine fleet. Axworthy suggests starting with a Nordic nuclear-weapon-free zone:

One way to avoid the complexities of dealing directly and immediately with Russian and US nuclear weapons in the Arctic is to concentrate first on a Nordic nuclear-weapon-free zone. During the Cold War, Finland consistently advocated for this. In the late 1980s a Nordic senior officials’ group examined the concept. In 1993, the Nordic Council recommended establishing such a zone. In 2010, a draft law on an Icelandic nuclear weapon-free zone was submitted to the parliament of Iceland.

Denmark, of course, like Canada, Iceland, and Norway, is a member of NATO, an alliance that relies on a nuclear deterrent. A NATO debate about its nuclear strategy, therefore, is a precondition to any nuclear-weapon-free zone, but I am optimistic that this debate is underway. NATO’s May 2012 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review stated “the alliance is resolved to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”. . .

Medium-term, the creation of a Nordic nuclear-weapon-free zone, on the way to an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone, would be a real benchmark towards the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Photo credit: US Navy

 

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