Speech by Hans Blix in Brussels on 5 November 2012

EU Non-Proliferation Consortium Second Seminar to Promote confidence Building and in Support of a process Aimed at Establishing a Zone Free of WMD and Means of delivery In the Middle East.

Today the disarmament train seems to have run out of steam and even be rolling backward. We are discussing a zone free of WMD in the Middle East but governments and media are focusing on the civil war in Syria and considering bombing or not bombing in Iran.

I shall try to describe in a fragmentary way the current sorry context in which our discussion takes place.

First, although the Cold War has been over for more than 20 years and there are no significant controversies between the major powers about borders, territory or ideology, armaments and military budgets are expanding in Russia, China, India and many other countries.

Even countries without any obvious security concerns make big budgetary allocations to buy, say, superexpensive jet fighters.

The latest aggregate sum that I saw for the world’s military expenses was over 1,800 billion dollars – far more in real terms than during the Cold War. It is a pity that the weapons cannot be used to defend the planet against global warming

‘Wer soll das bezahlen?’ Who is to pay? is a good German one liner.

The willingness varies a lot. In Russia, a much respected Minister of Finance, Mr. Kudrin, resigned in the past year complaining, inter alia, about a too big military budget. In Europe the tax payers seem unwilling to accept even 2 % of GDP for the military budgets. In the US, the tax payers already carry more than 40 % of the world’ military expenditures and Governor Romney has urged that 4 % of US GDP should be the norm for the military budget. A victory for him in tomorrow’s election would not augur for a less militarized world.

So much for budgets for armaments. Now to the absence of disarmament.

The only rays of light I can see is progress in New York negotiations about an Arms Trade Agreement and the success of the Seoul conference on nuclear security. The rest is darkness.

At the multilateral level, the Conference on Disarmament has reported another year without agreement even on a work programme. Unemployment is high in many European states. At the CD it is 100 %! An ongoing anomaly.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty demonstrates another anomaly: It is in operation since many years – but it is not in force. And there is no movement on the ratifications needed from the US, China and some other states. To stimulate ratifications perhaps Iran could offer to ratify – on condition that the US and Israel do the same?

Negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty has continued to be blocked in the CD.

The tactical nuclear weapons of NATO in Europe that have been reported to be militarily useless and that we thought could be plucked like low hanging disarmament fruits, are retained and might even be modernized.

In the US, where the Obama administration had wanted to reset relations with Russia resistance to the ratification of START was stiff and support remains strong for a continued expansion of NATO and missile defenses in Europe — all raising Russian skepticism to further nuclear disarmament.

In Asia, the six power talks in Beijing are in limbo and have failed to persuade the DPRK to eliminate its nuclear weapons and to join a regional order that would give it recognition, guarantees of security and economic development. Much is at stake.

More nuclear and missile tests by North Korea could inspire some in Japan and even South Korea to feel doubt about the validity of their adherence to nuclear non-proliferation. I trust the

Government in Beijing is fully aware of this.

In Asia, differences over islands and seas spiced with fierce nationalist feelings risk to create a dangerous brew that could boil over and jeopardize the Asian boom, unless all recognize their interdependence and exercise restraint. They would do well to use the International Court of Justice or arbitration or other kinds of third party determination to settle their differences..

Perhaps above all the US and China need to recognize their interdependence and exercise restraint, lest the potential tension between them over influence in the Pacific and Asia translate into more than the present strengthening of navies and lively military body language.

Before I proceed and get to the Middle East let me ask where as Europeans and as citizens of the world we seek guidance in our efforts to prevent the use of armed force and, in particular the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The European Security Strategy of 2003 tells us that the “fundamental framework for international relations is the United Nations Charter.”

It needs to be said because it was by no means accepted everywhere in 2003, when Iraq was attacked, nor, it seems, is it now. Some may see respect for non-proliferation as more important than respect for the UN Charter.

I think we should recognize that the Charter was a leap forward for the world society and support and respect it. In Africa, and the Middle East thanks to a dynamic reading of the UN Charter many peace keeping and some peace enforcement operations have been launched by decisions of the Security Council – some very successful, others less so.

Perhaps it was the failure of the UN to intervene against the genocide in Rwanda that prompted the organization to adopt the R2P– the right to protection – that calls for UN action to protect human lives and rights, when they are attacked or endangered within states that fail in their duty of protection.

We saw in the case of Libya how the Security Council authorized action that came to comprise the use of armed force to protect a civilian population attacked by its government. Today, when the horror and tragedy of the civil war in Syria is before our eyes many would wish to see a similar UN authorized armed humanitarian intervention. I see little likelihood, however, that the Security Council would authorize one. After Afghanistan and Iraq there is an – on the whole healthy – reluctance to ‘send boots on the ground’ on a large scale for fighting missions. Even when initially successful, large armed interventions in internal orders risk becoming long and difficult engagements. As Colin Powell is reputed to have said: ‘If you break it, you own it…’

This seminar has spent the day examining the issue of a zone free of WMD and missiles in the Middle East. I shall limit myself to a few points.

First, the major rationale behind the zone concept has been to seek an arrangement under which all states in the zone, including Israel, could live without making and possessing nuclear weapons. I think it would be surrealistic if Israel’s nuclear weapons were not in the minds of participants at a conference considering a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. As we have been reminded by Nabil Fahmy these weapons were the main background of the resolution that saved the NPT in 1995.

Second, in my view it would be equally surrealistic if, at a time when the world is absorbed by concerns that Iran might be moving to make a nuclear weapons, such a conference were to ignore the issue of uranium enrichment in Iran.

In a background paper that I have submitted to this seminar, I express the view that Israel, Iran, all states in the Middle East and the world at large would gain tremendously, if the states of the region took the initiative and agreed on a zone. It would have to ensure the elimination and well verified absence of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and chemical and the dismantling of installations for their production as well as plants devoted to sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, such as the enrichment of uranium and the production of plutonium.

It is true that the NPT allows enrichment and reprocessing for peaceful purposes, but it does not oblige parties to engage in these processes.

Individual states and regions are perfectly free to agree to renounce such activities for determined periods of time.

I am sure these ideas may look surrealistic – or at least not realistic – to some who will say that both Israel and Iran would reject them. This is what encourages me to think that the ideas are on the right track – perhaps a rather long track.

I wish those who are on a much shorter tracks well. However, I believe humiliation is not a good way to overcome defiance – or anything else for that matter and I feel strongly opposed to the pursuit of non-proliferation by bombing. The idea of ‘bombing the bomb’ is not followed regarding North Korea and should not be followed elsewhere.

It seems broadly agreed that all available peaceful means must be applied to induce Iran to agree to abandon, suspend or at least somehow to limit its enrichment of uranium. We do not hear much, however, about what is offered as inducement. What we hear is mostly talk about the suspension of ‘crippling sanctions’, In the past, we heard about security guarantees, support for entry into the WTO, support for the expansion of civilian nuclear power etc. Are such items no longer on the table? And has anyone asked if Iran would accept a zone excluding both nuclear bombs and the enrichment of uranium?

While recognizing the seriousness of the current controversy I find it puzzling that after the broad international criticism and condemnation of the attack on Iraq in 2003 as a violation of the UN Charter governments now seem to intensely discuss whether Iran has violated the NPT but not whether attacks on Iranian nuclear installations without UN authorization would violate the UN Charter. I have noted only one exception. According to the Guardian, the UK Attorney-General has stated in a memo that a preemptive strike could violate international law. I hope he sticks to it.

We know that armed attacks would not be authorized in the Security Council and I am sure that — but for aggression by Iran — a strong majority in the General Assembly would be opposed to any such authorization. Attacks on Iran could also not be construed as self defense against any Iranian aggression. At least so far none has been committed or even appeared imminent. As for threats, those that have been directed to Iran would seem to have been much more specific than those that have come from Iranian leaders.

Let me conclude by turning to EUROPE and end on a positive note.

First, I cannot imagine that despite the rhetoric any European state would join in a military attack on Iran, except in the unlikely case that the Security Council authorized one or that Iran committed armed aggression. My guess is that the rhetoric deployed against Iran probably does more to stimulate defiance of Western states than compliance with Security Council demands.

Second, the E.U. should continue to develop détente and good neighborly relations with Russia. We have no reason to doubt Russia’s wish to reciprocate. We must find a solution to the missile deployments that are claimed to defend against Iran but whose first impact has been to offend Russia. We should move on to find ways on both sides to end the obsolete deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and to find ways of modernizing the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe (CFE) that once brought this continent significant disarmament. Lastly, we should not be mute about our wish to see democracy in forward gear and corruption in reverse in Russia.

Third, and last, building deliberately on their interdependence, European states have come to solid peace and now show no taste for growing military budgets. I think we should cherish this exceptionalism and seek to convince others that the interdependence that is rapidly accelerating with globalization should be welcomed – not least because it calls for restraint and conciliation when differences arise.