John Key is heading off to Washington this week for President Obama’s nuclear security summit. DC’s cherry blossoms are peaking about now but I doubt ‘Smile and Wave’ will have much time to enjoy them, what with all the bilaterals he is planning, lobbying on the Trans-Pacific free trade deal, and then heading up to Ottawa for talks with Canadian PM Stephen Harper.
It is great John Key is attending the nuclear security summit. But rather than signifying a major policy commitment on the nuclear issue, I can’t help thinking it was motivated by the flattery of a personal invitation from his new mate Barack.
The summit’s aim is to work out ways to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. That is an important issue in itself and it is particularly important for Obama that he gets other nations to buy in to the US agenda on this one if he wants domestic support for the bigger disarmament initiatives.
But if the Prime Minister is serious about NZ amping up its nuclear disarmament activism, then he’d be better waiting a month and heading to New York in May for the review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This is the mother of international anti-nuclear treaties and it is up for its five-yearly review. The last review ended in acrimony and progress on nuclear disarmament ground to a halt during the dark years of the Bush White House.
Obama has staked a huge amount on getting progress on nuclear disarmament. His speech in Prague a year ago raised expectations sky high. His deal with the Russians last week will see cuts to both countries’ nuclear arsenals. He is planning to take the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification some time soon. It is widely agreed that now is the best chance in a generation to get progress on disarmament, and the NPT is the most important of all these initiatives.
And that is where there could be a role for New Zealand. If countries had followed through on their commitments under the NPT over the last 40 years there would be no nuclear weapons left. But progress has been stalled by a stand-off between the founding club who want to hold on to their nukes (US, Russia, China, France and UK), and the outsiders (India, Pakistan, Israel) who resent being excluded from the club but have their nukes anyway.
What is needed is a global movement to get behind Obama, press ahead with the various initiatives under way, but more importantly lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive approach. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put forward a 5-Point Plan to pursue this. It includes a draft Nuclear Weapons Convention for the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons under an international system of verification and enforcement.
Credible non-nuclear weapons states with a history of disarmament activism need to step up. They can bridge the gap between the nuclear club and the rest, and build a solid middle ground which another nations can support. Sadly there is no indication this Government has any appetite for the task in spite of this country having the most comprehensive anti-nuclear legislation in the world with strong popular backing. And in spite of the fact that our anti-nuclear policy is the very thing the PM’s new friend Barack seems so keen on.