By Brian Larkin
Less than three years after President Obama’s Nobel Prize winning Prague declaration that he would seek “A world free of nuclear weapons” the United States is planning to uprade its tactical nuclear weapons creating a new “guided nuclear bomb” deployed on jets based in European countries against their will (Guardian, “Obama accused of nuclear U-turn as guided weapons plan emerges”, 21 April 2013 ).
For European peace movements, and all those who want Scotland to lead the way to a world free of nuclear weapons this move should send a clear message: Scotland must not stay out of NATO. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have urged NATO to remove the American B61 bombs. But NATO refused to do so. Now, according to Hans Kristensen (Federation of Nuclear Scientists), those same NATO bombs will be turned into “usable” guided missiles capable of holding more targets at risk from Europe. We tend to think that the Cold War is over but “Some eastern European states have resisted” the withdrawal of NATO nuclear weapons “fearing it would show a weakening of US commitment to defend them against Russia.” (Guardian)
“Under the plan, nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stockpiled in European countries would be given new controllable tail fins that would turn them into guided weapons that could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers.” According to Kristensen “the tail kit would give the B-61 a new mission and new capabilities. It expands the targets you can hold at risk from Europe, because by placing the explosion closer to the target you can choose a lower explosive yield. …This is a great concern because it means making nuclear weapons more ‘usable’. This will be a significant upgrade of the US nuclear capability in Europe.”
Nuclear Shell Game
Incredibly, despite Obama’s Prague pledge his administration has proposed funding overruns to the costs of the new guided tactical missile, the Trident warhead and other nuclear warheads, accelerating and expanding the modernisation programs, by shifting some $500 million from funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs. “Under the 2014 proposal, the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons activities funding would be increased roughly 7 percent above the current level of $7.227 billion while the department’s nonproliferation programs… would be cut by roughly 20 percent, or $460 million” according to the Centre for Public Integrity. Indeed overall US spending on nuclear weapons over the next ten years is budgeted for approximately $650Billion (higher than Cold War levels) with the Obama administration proposing increasing spending on U.S. nuclear weapons research, manufacturing and maintenance over the next five years by 23 percent. (Arms Control Association, 11 April 2013 )
The estimated $11Billion cost of the upgrades to the B-61 highlights the waste of resources on useless military projects. The president of the Ploughshares Fund Joseph Cirincione, said ”The B61 modernisation plans were largely driven by domestic political considerations but risked sending mixed messages to Russia…. I’m convinced the president wants to the continue his efforts to reform US nuclear policy. But the administration has a schizoid approach on this issue. They believe they have to buy off legislators with billions of dollars in (nuclear weapons) expenditure in their states in order to get votes for arms control measures later. The billions of dollars we are lavishing on the B61 is criminal…. It’s clearly aimed at buying senators’ votes.” (Guardian, 21 April) The Senators have also been bought off by US based arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of both Trident missiles and the F-35, which chalked up sales of $35.7 billion in 2010 for a profit of $2.9 billion. According to The Center for International Policy, “Employees of private companies that produce the main pieces of the US nuclear arsenal have invested more than $18 million in the election campaigns of lawmakers that oversee related federal spending” while“the top 14 contractors gave nearly $3 million to the 2012 reelection campaigns of lawmakers whose support they needed” for increases in spending on their projects. “Half of that sum went to members of the four key committees or subcommittees that must approve all spending for nuclear arms …The rest went to lawmakers who are active on nuclear weapons issues because they have related factories or laboratories in their states or districts.”(Mother Jones, 6 June, 2012 )
With global spending on armaments at $1.75 Trillion according to SIPRI the Big Blocakade of the Trident nuclear weapons base, as part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending sought not only to redirect funding from Trident to human needs but to make the point that we will not achieve nuclear disarmament until we overhaul the political structures by which multinational corporations are actually driving national and international “defense” policies. (See Andrew Lichterman Los Alamos Study Group)
Should Scotland achieve independence the SNP assures us they will demand the UK remove its nuclear weapons from Faslane. But the news that the US and NATO are planning to renege on Obama’s pledge and place guided tactical nuclear bombs in the heart of Europe against the will of European governments strengthens the argument that a future independent Scotland must stay out of NATO both because of the real possibility of a renewed Cold War and in order that Scotland should remain free of an international political system controlled by multinational arms manufacturers.
Nonetheless international nuclear disarmament campaigners see independence for Scotland as a leading the way to a nuclear free world. Last week a meeting of the network of nuclear disarmament NGOs Abolition 2000 concluded with the Edinburgh/Faslane Declaration “From a Nuclear Free Scotland to a Nuclear Free World”. Speaking at a reception at Scottish Parliament former Netherlands MP Krista van Velzen said “In the Netherlands we are a host country to NATO nuclear weapons . But nobody asked if we wanted to be a host. I think if a Parliament says these nuclear weapons must go then the country which placed them there must respect that and take them away.” She urged Scottish activists to campaign hard for independence saying we must get across the message that independence is not about the SNP or Alex Salmond. He will not last, she said, but independence will. With independence Scotland can remove Trident, and, as the Scottish CND report Trident: Nowhere to Go shows there is no place in the remainder of the UK to put them. And so the UK will almost certainly have to abandon its nuclear weapons. It would be the first of the P-5 countries to give up nuclear weapons. That would be a serious challenge to the possession of nuclear weapons by other states and of huge significance for the global movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons.