World Court Project Media Release July 8 1997

The Madrid NATO Summit is being held on the first anniversary of the delivery by the World Court of its Advisory Opinion on the legal status of nuclear weapons.

NATO has yet to make a statement on how the Court's decision affects its nuclear strategy. This could be because it does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the following aspects of its strategy are illegal:

  • Its insistence on retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first

  • Any threat, let alone use, of its strategic nuclear forces - including Trident - would breach international humanitarian law

  • The Court's confirmation that the Nuremberg Charter applies to nuclear weapons has serious implications for all involved in NATO's nuclear policy

  • The Court decision casts doubt on the legality of NATO's policy of collective nuclear defence

  • NATO's intention to keep nuclear weapons as central to its overall posture flouts the Court's unanimous call for nuclear disarmament

"By ignoring the World Court's decision, NATO is defying the most authoritative view of how international law applies to nuclear weapons, and the overwhelming majority of world opinion," claims Commander Rob Green RN (Ret'd), UK Chair of the World Court Project, the NGO network which campaigned for the UN to ask the Court to give its opinion. "Thus NATO urgently needs to review its nuclear policy."

Green suggests that all current non-nuclear NATO States should make their agreement to NATO expansion conditional on the fundamental review of NATO's Strategic Concept, agreed in the Russia/NATO Founding Act, including NATO undertaking to:

1) never use nuclear weapons first;

2) remove all sub-strategic nuclear weapons from Europe;

3) begin to take all strategic nuclear forces off alert;

4) acknowledge that nuclear deterrence is not infallible, and that elimination of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee of security from nuclear attack.

"These measures would also reassure Russia that NATO expansion is no threat to it, so that progress can be resumed to ratify START II and move quickly to agreeing START III," adds Cdr Green. "For the prospective member States, it is in their security interest to press for NATO to stand down its nuclear threat to Russia, and minimise the dangers of a new dividing line in Europe on their eastern borders. With their first-hand experience of Russia from being in the Warsaw Pact, NATO would be foolish to ignore their concerns."