OSCE Parliamentary Assembly calls for nuclear weapons stand-down

Parliamentary delegations from 54 countries call for de-alerting and no-first-use of nuclear weapons. The Tbilisi Declaration, adopted at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, also supports the start of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in 2017.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) meeting in Tbilisi last week, expressed deep concern at nuclear tensions between the Russian Federation and NATO and called on all OSCE States with nuclear weapons or under extended nuclear deterrence relationships to reduce the risks of a nuclear war by taking nuclear weapons off high-alert and by adopting no-first-use policies.

This call, made as part of the OSCE Tbilisi Declaration, is significant because the parliamentary delegations that were moved to support are from 54 countries from the OSCE including Russia, Ukraine, Canada, France, United Kingdom, USA and all the other NATO and former Soviet countries.

The Assembly also highlighted the UN Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, and supported the commencement of such negotiations in 2017.

PNND program officers at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly: Jean-Marie Collin, Marzhan Nurzhan and Mikhail Potapov.

PNND role

The language supporting nuclear-risk-reduction and disarmament was proposed by PNND in five amendments to the draft Tbilisi Declaration (see full text of the amendments below). They were formally submitted by Mr. Anton Heinzl, Member of the Austrian delegation, and co-sponsored by delegations of Liechtenstein, Spain, Canada, Slovenia and France.

PNND helped build further support for the draft amendments through informal discussions with the parliamentary delegations and by circulating a PNND backgrounder for the OSCE on Nuclear risk reduction, transparency and disarmament negotiations.

The amendments were discussed in the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security chaired by Senator Roger Wicker (United States), before being referred to the main plenary for adoption.

OSCE PA, no-first-use and the USA

The OSCE PA support for no-first-use could be particularly helpful to those in the U.S. administration who are encouraging President Obama to adopt a no-first-use policy before his term ends next year.

President Obama has already made a committment to achieve 'sole-purpose' (the only purpose for nuclear weapons being to deter other nuclear weapons), and has given indications that he would like to move to no-first-use. But he would find it difficult, if not impossible, to do so if the NATO allies are opposed. See Take Nuclear First-Use off the Table (Arms Control Association) and President Obama could revolutionize nuclear weapons policy before he leaves office (Global Zero).

PNND Co-President Christine Muttonen is elected as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

PNND Co-President elected as President of the OSCE PA

On July 5, at the close of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Tbilisi PNND Co-President Christine Muttonen was elected to be President of the OSCE PA. Muttonen has previously served as OSCE PA Vice-President and Special Representative for Central and Eastern Asia, and is Deputy Head of the Austrian Delegation to the PA.

In accepting the Presidency, Muttonen highlighted the vital role that parliamentarians can and do play in developing peace and security, especially between countries in conflict. (See Christine Muttonen elected OSCE PA President).

PNND follow-up event at the OSCE PA

PNND followed up the adoption of the OSCE PA amendments with a roundtable lunch discussion in Tbilisi on Reducing nuclear tensions and supporting nuclear disarmament negotiations. The roundtable was chaired by Hedy Fry MP (Canada).

Christine Muttonen (Austria), PNND Co-President, in her opening remarks, explained the importance of International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (Vienna 2014) at which the  Austrian pledge (later renamed the Humanitarian Pledge) was released.

She also highlighted the Parliamentary Roundtable in Vienna, hosted by the Austrian Parliament and co-sponsored by the IPU and PNND, who gave the possibility to brought parliamentarians from all around the world to work together.

PNND side-event at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Speakers include Paul Dewar (Canada), Margaret Kiener Nellen (Switzerland), Hedy Fry (Canada), Christine Muttonen (Austria) and Jean-Marie Collin (France, off-screen)

Paul Dewar (Canada), PNND Co-President explained how MP’s can have a real impact on their national policy. He noted that nuclear disarmament is a cross-party issue, quoting U.S. Republican President Ronald Reagan: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?

Margaret Kiener Nellen MP (Switzerland) “is convinced that nuclear disarmament will require both practical risk reduction measures (such as de-alerting, transparency etc.) as well as new effective legal measures. Beyond the practical efforts deployed by nuclear-armed states, together we also must address the legal gap in the nuclear regime.

Jean-Marie Collin (France), Co-founder of Initiatives pour le Désarmenent Nucléaire and PNND Director for France and Francophone countries, outlined nuclear risks increasing as a result of military tensions and incidents. He gave examples of the 2009 collision of French and UK submarines, and misconduct in the US Air Force revealed in 2013. Collin also updated the participants on the OEWG deliberations in Geneva.

At the end of discussions, delegation from Kazakhstan shared experience of declaring nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia under leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and distributed “Manifesto: the World. The 21st Century” amongst all presented.

Other MPs notably from Monaco (A. Ficini), Belgium (P. Mahoux, S. Crusniere) Malta (Hon Dr G. Farrugia) were present and asked some questions about the reality of the nuclear risk, the humanitarian consequences, and the future of the OEWG.

Nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament text in the Tbilisi Declaration

We, Parliamentarians of the OSCE participating States, have met in annual session in Tbilisi from 1 to 5 July 2016 as the Parliamentary dimension of the OSCE to assess developments and challenges relating to security and co-operation, in particular on 25 Years of Parliamentary Co-operation: Building Trust Through Dialogue, and we offer the following views to the OSCE Ministers...

  • “Expressing deep concern at increased nuclear threats arising from the deteriorating relationship between the Russian Federation and NATO, including potential violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, statements indicating an increased readiness to use nuclear weapons, increasing numbers of military incidents between NATO and Russian forces, lack of transparency over deployments of tactical nuclear weapons by both sides, and statements indicating potential plans to deploy nuclear weapons to additional territories in Europe and locations in Russia;”
  • “Welcoming proposals made at the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations for the commencement in 2017 of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to hold an international conference on nuclear disarmament in 2018;”
  • “Calls on all participating OSCE States to support the commencement in 2017 of United Nations-facilitated deliberations and negotiations on multilateral nuclear disarmament;” 
  • “Calls on all OSCE States with nuclear weapons or under extended nuclear deterrence relationships to reduce the risks of a nuclear war by taking nuclear weapons off high-alert and by adopting no-first-use policies;”
  • Calls on all participating OSCE States to participate in the 2018 UN international conference on nuclear disarmament at the highest level, to include parliamentarians in their delegations to the conference and to pursue the adoption of nuclear risk reduction, transparency and disarmament measures at the conference.”