As members of the European Leadership Network (ELN), we have committed ourselves to working toward a world without nuclear weapons. Such a world will only come about as a result of a joint enterprise involving leaders and peoples from every continent. It will only be achievable if the practical steps required to reach this goal are seen as contributing to every country’s national security as well as to global security. And it will only come about if leaders in every country and region take their share of the responsibility to act.
The Euro-Atlantic region, which includes the United States, all the countries of Europe, and Russia is home to more than 95 percent of all the nuclear weapons on earth, four of the five declared nuclear weapon states in the NPT, and nine of the fourteen states in the world with nuclear weapons on their territory (namely the US, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands).
While the likelihood of a devastating conventional or nuclear conflict in the Euro-Atlantic region has dramatically declined, it is a region still scarred by the experience of 20th century conflict and by a deep and persisting legacy of Cold War mistrust. Cold War–era security concepts and many of their associated weapons and military postures continue to dominate.
In particular, the currency of nuclear deterrence and mutual assured destruction continues in circulation. Large strategic nuclear forces remain deployed on prompt launch, ready to be fired in minutes; thousands of tactical nuclear weapons are still stockpiled in Europe; and a decades-old missile defence debate remains stuck in neutral. In addition, new security challenges associated with prompt-strike forces, cyber-security, and space remain contentious and inadequately addressed. The status quo is dangerous and potentially destabilizing, undermining the trust necessary for cooperative efforts to meet emerging security threats in Europe and across the world.
Our publics are paying the price. In addition to raising their security risks, the current situation increases the costs of defence and misdirects resources away from fiscal demands, domestic priorities and other emerging security challenges and threats. In the area of nuclear weapons alone, the looming price tag in the region is at least $500bn.
We do not pretend that a new and improved security climate in the region would save all this expenditure but over time the savings could be substantial — and they could multiply in the non-nuclear areas of security policy.
A call for change:
For both the security and economic well-being of our citizens therefore, we urgently need to start a new, continuing and dynamic process of Euro-Atlantic security dialogue to address this situation. This dialogue must be politically mandated from the highest level and must involve senior civilian and military leaders.
In particular, we call for the following:
The formation, at the request of leaders in a core group of countries in the region, of an informal Euro-Atlantic Security Contact group to develop recommendations to leaders on the principles that should underpin the dialogue, the kind of civilian and military leadership that should be tasked with conducting it, and the issues to be addressed. Whatever the specifics of the process, it must be capable of encompassing a discussion of security that is both comprehensive and focused on practical steps.
New tracks for dialogue on specific issues to be set up bilaterally, multilaterally and in sub-regions of the Euro-Atlantic region as deemed necessary within the wider process, and existing entities such as the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE to be used as venues for discussing specific issues. National leaders and members of the Contact group would continue to be involved as the dialogue progresses.
In our view, the core principles shaping the dialogue should be:
To consider all elements of offence and defence, nuclear and conventional weapons, and cyber-security and space in a new security construct;
Reducing the role of nuclear weapons as an essential part of any nation’s overall security posture without jeopardising the security of any of the parties;
Creating robust and accepted methods to increase leadership decision time during heightened tensions and extreme situations;
Transitioning from the remnants of mutual assured destruction to mutual understanding to mutual early warning to mutual defence to mutual security;
Enhancing stability through increased transparency, cooperation and trust. The fear of any short-warning attack should be taken off the table.
Within this flexible framework for dialogue, we believe the following should be seen as immediate priorities:
Practical steps to increase decision time and crisis stability for leaders, in particular with respect to U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces. Even under the latest nuclear arms treaty, each country will maintain thousands of nuclear warheads on hundreds of ballistic missiles ready for prompt launch and capable of hitting their targets in less than 30 minutes. This status increases the risk that a decision to use ballistic missiles will be made in haste based on false warning, as well as the risk of an accidental or unauthorized missile launch. The US and Russia should take steps now to remove a percentage of their strategic forces off prompt launch status as a priority;
Further cuts in U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear forces;
Reciprocal transparency, security and confidence building measures on tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, including bold reductions in these weapons.
The establishment of a Missile Defence Cooperation Centre to share data from early warning radars and satellites;
Reciprocal transparency measures with regard to missile defence systems and capabilities, including annual updates;
Continued joint missile defence exercises;
Written political commitments not to deploy missile defences that would undermine strategic stability.
Conventional Forces in Europe:
Strengthened confidence and security building measures through increased evaluation visit quotas under the Vienna Document;
An expanded Open Skies Treaty to include not only the current 34 states to which the Treaty applies but all 57 states in the OSCE and a wider range of technical data collection capabilities than currently permitted under the Treaty;
Regardless of the current status of the Conventional Forces Europe (CFE) Treaty, pursue agreement on provisions that extend leadership decision time. Additional transparency could be provided on data and activities related to military forces out of garrison and increased clarity on deployment of forces.
Conventional Prompt Global Strike Forces:
Conceptual discussions on possible programmatic and operational transparency and confidence building measures and other steps, should such weapons eventually be developed and deployed.
Begin discussing and implementing a process of early sharing of information on cyber-threats, shared approaches to defence of networks, and joint responses to cyber-attacks. This collaboration could include discussions relating to the development of international agreement or agreements that would limit cyber war.
Exchange of information relating to a proposed draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space activities, to help facilitate future agreement on such a Code.
This new approach for building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region can lead to a more secure and promising future for all our citizens. We have a historic but perhaps fleeting opportunity to act. Our leaders must do so.
Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom.
Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, former Parliamentary State Secretary of the German MFA, former Ambassador to the United States and to the United Kingdom, Germany.
Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Minister and Secretary of the Security Council, Russia.
James Arbuthnot, serving Member of Parliament, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, United Kingdom.
Aytuğ Atici, serving Member of the Grand National Assembly, Turkey.
Margaret Beckett, serving Member of Parliament former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.
Alexander Bessmertnykh, former Foreign Minister, Russia.
Hans Blix, former Foreign Minister, IAEA Director General and Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Sweden.
Jaakko Blomberg, former Ambassador to Canada, Ambassador to Estonia and Special Adviser on Cyprus to the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Finland.
Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister, Norway.
Hans van den Broek, former Foreign Minister and European Commissioner for External Relations, Netherlands.
Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister, Norway.
Alistair Burt, serving Member of Parliament and former Foreign Office minister, United Kingdom.
Menzies Campbell, serving Member of Parliament and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats, United Kingdom.
Ingvar Carlsson, former Prime Minister, Sweden.
Hikmet Çetin, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Turkey.
Tarja Cronberg, serving Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Iran, Finland.
Vladimir Dvorkin, retired Major-General and former Director of the Fourth Central Research Institute in Moscow, Russia.
Rolf Ekéus, former Ambassador to the United States and Director of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, Sweden.
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, former Foreign Minister, Denmark.
Vahit Erdem, former Member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Chief Adviser to President Süleyman Demirel, Head of the Turkish Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Vice-President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Turkey.
Gernot Erler, serving Member of the Bundestag, Deputy Head of the SPD Parliamentary Group, and former Parliamentary State Secretary of the German MFA, Germany.
Anatoliy Grytsenko, serving Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary National Security and Defence Committee, former Defence Minister, Ukraine.
Jan Hamáček, serving Member of Parliament and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Czech Republic.
David Hannay, former Permanent Representative to the EEC and the UN, United Kingdom.
Nick Harvey, serving Member of Parliament and former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, United Kingdom.
Armin Hasenpusch, retired Major General and Former Vice President of the Foreign Intelligence Service (BND), Germany.
Geoffrey Howe, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.
Douglas Hurd, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.
Jaakko Iloniemi, former Ambassador to the CSCE and Ambassador to the United States, Finland.
Juhani Kaskeala, former Chief of Defence, Finland.
Jan Kavan, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Czech Republic.
Katja Keul, serving Member of the Bundestag and the Defence Committee, Germany.
John Kerr, former UK Ambassador to the US and the EU, United Kingdom.
Tom King, former Secretary of State for Defence, United Kingdom.
Pierre Lellouche, former Minister of European Affairs and Minister of International Trade, France.
Budimir Lončar, President of the Foreign Affairs and International Relations Advisory Committee to the President of the Republic of Croatia, former Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, Croatia.
Ruud Lubbers, former Prime Minister, Netherlands.
Mogens Lykketoft, Speaker of the Folketing, former Foreign Minister, Denmark.
Giorgio La Malfa, former Minister of European Affairs, Italy.
Evgeniy Maslin, retired Colonel General and former Director of the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defence, Russia.
John McColl, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), United Kingdom.
Federica Mogherini, serving Member of Parliament and President of the Italian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Italy.
Eoghan Murphy, serving Member of the Dáil Éireann and Head of the Irish Parliament to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Republic of Ireland.
Klaus Naumann, General (ret), GEAR, former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Germany.
Bernard Norlain, former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force, France.
Volodymyr Ogrysko, former Foreign Minister, Ukraine.
Janusz Onyszkiewicz, former Defence Minister and Vice-President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Poland.
David Owen, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.
Ana Palacio, former Foreign Minister, Spain.
Boris Pankin, former Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Russia.
Paul Quilès, former Defence Minister, France.
Elisabeth Rehn, former Defence Minister, Finland.
Malcolm Rifkind, serving Member of Parliament, former Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom.
Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Foreign Minister, Poland.
Volker Rühe, former Defence Minister, Germany.
Konstantin Samofalov, serving Member of Parliament, Serbia.
Özdem Sanberk, Director of the International Strategic Research Organisation, former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey.
Rudolf Scharping, former Chairman of the Social Democratic Party and Defence Minister, Germany.
Javier Solana, former Foreign Minister, Secretary General of NATO and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain.
John Stanley, serving Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, United Kingdom.
Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, Norway.
Goran Svilanović, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council and former Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, Serbia.
Boris Tadić, former President, Serbia.
Carlo Trezza, Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), former Special Envoy for Disarmament and Non-proliferation and Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Italy.
Vyacheslav Trubnikov, former Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to India, Russia.
Raimo Väyrynen, former President of the Academy of Finland, Finland.
Alan West, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, United Kingdom.
Shirley Williams, member of the House of Lords, former leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, United Kingdom.
Kåre Willoch, former Prime Minister, Norway.
 The United States is poised to embark on programs to build new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines and strategic bombers at a cost of more than $400 billion, and to extend the life of nuclear weapons deployed in Europe at a cost of more than $10 billion. Russia reportedly plans to spend 1.9 trillion rubles, or $61 billion, over the next decade to modernize its strategic nuclear forces, while very conservative estimates of the United Kingdom’s possible Trident renewal put the cost at £25 billion, or $38 billion.
This statement was originally published by the European Leadership Network, our sister organization based in Europe. To view the original statement, please click here or download the file on the left.