At United Nations Headquarters in New York City on 13 October 2016, the Permanent Missions of Switzerland and Sweden organized a side event on nuclear cruise missiles. The Ambassador and Head of Division for Security Policy from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Frank Guetter and the Sweden Ambassador for Disarmament Ms. Eva Walder both moderated the panel. In their opening remarks, both Amb. Guetter and Amb. Walder thanked the audience for their presence and presented a brief overview of the ideas represented in their delegations “De-alerting” paper presented to the Open Ended Working Group in May 2016, Geneva. This paper was part of the further efforts to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The moderators briefly introduced the panelists before asking them to speak regarding the use of nuclear cruise missiles, the destructive capacity of such weapons and potential proliferation efforts to prevent their use.
Panellist Andrew Weber, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs spoke first and noted the influx in public and media attention of nuclear cruise missiles since his and former US Secretary of Defense William Perry’s article was published in the Washington Post in 2015, which he welcomed. Mr. Weber spoke of the need for President Obama and other global leaders to take a lead in prohibiting the acquisition and use of nuclear missiles around the world, and to prevent the current planned modernisation of nuclear arsenals. Specifically on nuclear cruise missiles, Mr. Weber warned of the dangers of nuclear cruise missiles and concluded that while a step by step approach is needed for disarmament, there is a need to see these steps in action to prevent Member States sleepwalking into a nuclear arms race.
Rear Admiral John Gower, former Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological) in the UK Ministry of Defence stated that nuclear deterrence has achieved and prohibited intra-state conflict, promoting their strategic deterrence capabilities. Yet Admiral Gower emphasized that only strategic nuclear weapons provide this security, and nuclear cruise missiles are non-strategic cruise missiles. Instead these missiles make nuclear weapons more accessible, they are less reliable and can lead to greater civilian casualties if used and a greater number of missiles are needed to provide a deterrent level on par with that of a nuclear weapon. Mr. Gower than concluded by stating the logic is to reduce them and states need to show leadership in order to reach the path to zero.
Dr. Waheguru Pal Sidhu, senior fellow at Center for International Cooperation, New York University spoke of the need for disarmament in the current geopolitical context in an era where post- Cold War cooperation has gone and the increased fear of intrastate conflict, especially within the Security Council members. Dr. Sidhu highlighted the three challenges nuclear cruise missiles pose; First, the urgent challenge to prevent the use of these missiles. Second, the proliferation of this technology being used by nuclear aspiring stated, as proliferation will be more challenging when spread to other countries and thirdly to prevent these missiles being put into the hands of non-state actors. Dr. Sidhu laid out three aims that Member States could try and gain consensus to achieve. These were the reduction of nuclear missiles on a bilateral level, for states to resist temptation to use these missiles through creating a new international norm prohibiting this and finally to establish a taboo against nuclear missiles through a multilateral treaty.
Lastly, Ms. Christine Parthemore, adjunct faculty at John’s Hopkins University spoke of the need for NATO and international allies to support and prompt the three nuclear missile states to prohibit their use and place the missiles in storage, alongside the need to challenge the notion that for effective nuclear deterrence member states do not have to first strive for matching capabilities in their nuclear arsenals. Ms. Parthemore concluded the side event by noting that there is an urgent need for all actors to start immediately in preventing the use, acquisition and development of nuclear cruise missiles and by stressing the importance of global leadership in ensuring these preventative actions take place.
Drafted by Edward Hainsworth