Government Responds to Committees on Arms Export Controls Report

On 22 October, the government responded to the Committees on Arms Export Controls report of July 2012.

The following is thereby of particular interest for the Top Level Group:

Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

The Committees recommend that the Government sets out in its Response whether it wishes to see any change in NATO’s policy of deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and whether it is taking any steps to facilitate multilateral reductions in US and Russian tactical nuclear weapons. (Paragraph 168)

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has dramatically reduced the number, types and readiness of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and its reliance on nuclear weapons in Alliance strategy. Allies stated in the Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) published at the Chicago Summit in May that nuclear weapons remain a core component of NATO’s overall capabilities for deterrence and defence alongside conventional and missile defence forces and that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.

Nonetheless, the Alliance declared its willingness to consider further reducing the requirement for short range nuclear weapons assigned to NATO in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia, taking into account greater Russian stockpiles of short range nuclear weapons stationed in the Euro-Atlantic area, and developments in the broader security environment. The UK will support any measures agreed among all Allies which ensure adequate burden sharing, preservation of the trans-Atlantic link, and an ongoing commitment to safe, secure and effective weapons.

The next round of arms control discussions with Russia needs to be bilateral between the US and Russia. We hope that any follow-on negotiations from the US-Russia New START Treaty will include short range as well as strategic nuclear weapons. We and our NATO Allies look forward to continuing to develop and exchange transparency and confidence-building ideas with the Russian Federation in the NATO-Russia Council, which we hope will facilitate this process.

FMCT

The Committees recommend that the Government in its Response to this Report sets out what policies it is pursuing to break the deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva over the drafting of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and whether it supports the transfer of responsibility for the drafting of this Treaty to the United Nations in New York. (Paragraph 172)

[…] The Government remains convinced that the Conference on Disarmament is the best forum for negotiating an FMCT, and does not support the transfer of responsibility for drafting such a Treaty to the United Nations in New York. The Conference on Disarmament contains key countries that we want to see involved in a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and operates under the principle of consensus, which provides the reassurance that these States will need in order to participate in a FMCT. It is highly unlikely that all of these States would participate in negotiations within a forum operating under majority vote, such as the UN General Assembly. So, whilst a change of venue for FMCT negotiations may circumvent the Conference on Disarmament deadlock in the short term, it is unlikely to result in a Treaty which all the major players would sign and ratify.

The Committees will be putting further written questions to the Government arising out of what is said in the Response, and these, which will be made public by the Committee.

Read the full response here.

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