On NATO and Stewart MacDonald

In New York, in July 2017, after a decade of hard graft, we banned the bomb.

This happened at the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination, when 122 member states of the UN voted to adopt the Treaty On the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the TPNW.  

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) had supported nuclear survivors, academics, disarmament campaigners and all the countries in the UN who  opposed the nuclear threat, and ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to the treaty. Scotland and its government and Parliament were hugely supportive, but we are (mis)represented at the UN by the UK Government, one of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states. ICAN collected signatures from parliamentarians across the world for a pledge:

“ to work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty by our respective countries, as we consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order and an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples.” 

This Pledge was signed by every one of Scotland’s SNP and Green Parliamentarians at Holyrood or Westminster, each committing to supporting the TPNW.

Stewart McDonald’s weird remarks to the BBC last week about ‘mebbe aye and mebbe hooch aye’ to nuclear-armed subs sailing round Scotland are completely incompatible with that commitment. 

For those who have not read it, (and Stewart Macdonald should certainly not be one of those) the TPNW is a very straightforward and fully comprehensive prohibition agreement between the states that have joined it. Nuclear weapon activities it covers include ‘developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threaten to use nuclear weapons’. The Treaty additionally outlaws any ‘deployment of nuclear weapons on the national territory of its members, and the provision of assistance to any State in the conduct of prohibited activities’. 

The year the Treaty was adopted the First Minister declared to the SNP party conference, “No ifs, no buts, no nuclear weapons on the Clyde – or anywhere,” despite the SNP NATO policy (‘subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons’). 

The news from Sweden and Finland possibly joining NATO in response to the invasion of Ukraine by their neighbour may further challenges exactly how a future Scotland’s non-nuclear accession to both NATO and the TPNW is defined. Or it may challenge NATO’s nuclear policy, (which currently seems to be that they can do anything they like). The Greens position is not obfuscated by any confusion about NATO but within the SNP, Mr MacDonald’s idea of what all this means seems to be at odds with that of our First Minister. Perhaps a lack of attention to the detail allowed him to put his signature to supporting the TPNW. 

That may explain why he may think that the TPNW is compatible with nuclear-armed states having future access to a Scottish ports and water. Perhaps further lack of attention means that he is unaware the NATO’s nuclear policy is just a policy (that could be usefully ditched and make us all a bit safer in our beds) rather than part of the North Atlantic Treaty itself.  Finland and Sweden are now making moves (albeit currently resisted by Turkey’s Mr Erdoğan) towards joining NATO, but they will be attending the First Meeting of the TPNW in Vienna at the beginning of June, before the next NATO summit, along with Germany and Norway – maybe even Australia in light of the election. If and how NATO maintains its current nuclear policy in light of the TPNW’s progress (with another ratification from Congo this week the TPNW now has 61 UN Member States) is a likely topic for discussion.  One hopes that a Stewart MacDonald that continues in a senior post in the SNP reads the North Atlantic Treaty more carefully, especially given how difficult it is to get out once you are in.

Scottish independence and accession to the TPNW was certainly understood by Nicola Sturgeon when she endorsed The Scottish Women’s Covenant in support of the Treaty with this message:

“While the Scottish Government is unable to become a Party to the Treaty, as First Minister I strongly support the principles of the Treaty and the work of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.”

In February, Stewart MacDonald said that “joining NATO is a mark of our values. An independent Scotland will aspire to be a good global citizen, playing its part in protecting peace and common security.”

While threatening to use nuclear weapons is certainly a terrifying thing to do and has no part in peacebuilding or conflict resolution, NATO also relies on threats of violence as its starting point and main tool. Is this not just a thinner end of the same wedge? Scotland’s anti-nuclear aspiration will not be served if those we elect are not prepared to put in the real and necessary work on cooperation, diplomacy, and taking sustainable steps to look after each other and the planet, instead of quick-fix sound-bites about common security that describe actions that imperil everyone. A nuclear weapon policy, the UK’s or Mr Putin’s is no ‘big stick’ to empower us. Its not a big stick, its a lethal instrument with the capacity to indiscriminately melt millions of civilian children, women and men in homes, hospitals and schools without warning. Its impact is beyond the control of those who choose to – or accidentally – open a Pandora’s box that, instead of hope, at the bottom only holds the promise of irreversible climate degradation, famine and the loss of the medical, humanitarian and technological prospect of remedy.

Along with the vast majority of countries, Scotland has rejected them and deserves politicians to work for the treaty that can prohibit and eventually eliminate them.

Learn more about the First Meeting of the TPNW at www.nuclearban.scot

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  1. Derek Williams says:

    No-one should have nuclear bombs, that can wipe out entire cities from the comfort of a presidential armchair, with fallout lasting hundreds of years. Never has this been clearer than during the Ukraine invasion by Russia, who are already signalling they’ll use them in response to a nuclear attack the Kremlin are falsely claim is being planned by Britain.

    Deployed nuclear warheads: Russia 6,527, ‘West’ 6,155

    Russia has slight nuclear superiority, but is a more highly focused target, compared to all the places they would have to send bombs to in both hemispheres and all the continents of ‘The West’. When you’re one country invading everywhere else, you can’t expect an easy ride. In the unlikely event China, North Korea, India and Pakistan decided to side with Russia in a war against all Western nations, that would add only 720 more nuclear warheads, so the ‘West’ could put up a superior fight, especially considering the car-crash of a manner in which Russia have conducted themselves in their attempted destruction of Ukraine.

    The West should as a priority be preparing for nuclear weapons from Russia hitting their preprogrammed targets of all European, American, Canadian and Australasian cities, by setting up mass evacuation routes into remote villages hundreds out and towards the sea. Preparations should also be being made for preservation of world knowledge once the internet disappears and all the libraries, galleries, universities of the West disappear along with it. We may need to learn to live indefinitely without electricity, in an agrarian culture since we do not know how long it will take for radioactive fallout to dissipate.

    Just 100 nuclear bombs, now measured in thousands of Hiroshimas would be enough to make the whole of Europe uninhabitable. Even without Western retaliation, Russia alone can end life on this planet, including their own, which raises the question, is Putin running a death cult?

    Putin is has killed off or imprisoned everyone who disagrees with him, just as Hitler did – hence the latter’s disastrous attempt to invade Russia when all his Yes Men were telling him what a genius he was. This means the Russian Military may be more likely to carry out his order to start nuclear engagement, even knowing that they, their families and communities will assuredly go up in smoke with them. They’ll start with Ukraine, of course, since Ukraine has no allies, just to test the water, and will initiate a false flag nuclear ‘accident’ at Chernobyl, which they’ll accuse Ukraine of being responsible for.

    None other than President Trump himself is on the record as having said, “What is the point of having all these nuclear weapons if we don’t use them?” It is a matter of public record how close he is to Vladimir Putin.

    Some choice Putin quotes: “To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside – if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.” He’s said many times: “If there is no Russia, why do we need the planet?” This is a threat that if Russia isn’t treated as Putin wants, then everything will be destroyed.

    Uninvolved Asian, Arabic and African nations won’t suffer any direct hits, but will suffer wind blown fallout lasting centuries. Likewise, Russia needs to prepare for what to do after half of its landmass has been turned into a sheet of radioactive glass as the result of inevitable, concomitant and instantaneous Western retaliation. On the eve of this, the Kremiln will announce another lie, that they’re “conducting military operations to protect Russia from Nazis”.

    There’s an old saying, “If there is a Third World War, the Fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.” Maybe after three quarters of the world’s great cities have disappeared, a new world might emerge wherein people are kind to each other. The planet can easily accommodate internecine nuclear holocaust. The question is, can the human race?

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      Russophobic hyberbole, if I may say. Who has used nuclear weapons? Who would do such a thing? And I believe it was our own dear Liz Truss that first brought up the idea of nuclear attack as a result of this conflict. Standard whatabouttery you may say, but the points stand. Putin running a death cult? Catch a haud, for goodness sake.

      1. Derek Williams says:

        Based on my simply quoting Putin’s own end-of-days comments, you can name-call me ‘Russophobe’ if you insist – a badge I wear with no pride whatsoever, but with ample justification.

        Russia’s international track record has been nothing short of horrific, especially in Ukraine, upon whose denizens they inflicted the Holodomor Famine 1932-33. This man-made famine starved 3.9 million Ukrainians to death. Earlier, 1917-21, Russia invaded and occupied Ukraine, forcibly appropriating its territories into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 2014, Russia again invaded Ukraine, after setting up false flags and fomenting separatist republics in the Donbas region.

        Fast-forward to 2022, and it seems Russia just cannot keep its hands off Ukraine, upon whom the Russian military have inflicted industrial scale murder, pillaging, child rape, execution of civilians and point-blank range, the destruction of its key exports – wheat and steel, and the demolition of entire cities and villages. War crimes numbering in the thousands are currently being documented. Russia has violated international law, including every article of the Geneva Convention, the Minsk Agreements, and the Budapest Memorandum wherein Ukraine surrendered over 5,000 nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia. A more shocking and uncalled for incursion I cannot imagine in 21st Century geopolitics. Even when shown evidence of all these atrocities live to air on BBC News by Clive Myrie, Russia’s ambassador in Britain, Andrei Kelin said such allegations were a “fabrication”. He alleged Ukraine was bombing its own residential areas to make Russia look bad. Mendacity on such a scale is nothing new; the Kremlin’s propaganda consists of at least four egregious lies:

        Lie no 1: ‘Ukraine is ruled by Nazis’
        Lie no 2: ‘Ukraine committed genocide of 14,000 Russian speaking civilians in Donbas’
        Lie no 3: ‘Ukraine allowed America to set up biological weapons laboratories along their border with Russia’
        Lie no 4: ‘Ukraine was about to join NATO’

        When Russia says they will not do something, such as invade Ukraine, they then do that very thing. This gives no reason to assume they won’t start a nuclear war. On Russian state TV, the Kremlin are acknowledging that a nuclear war would remove Russia from the face of the Earth, but console their viewers with the reassurance that all Russians will go to Orthodox Heaven – unlike, presumably, the so-called ‘West’ (which now includes a sizeable Eastern component, including Ukraine itself).

        The aggressor Putin is neither reasonable nor rational. He is masterminding a fascist empire diametricallly oppositional to European ideals of liberty. As such, the only viable solution is a military one – the annihilation of the Russian threat by comprehensive defeat on all fronts. After that, it behoves Russians themselves to instigate regime change, from the Kremlin down to all layers of civic governance.

        Russia has gone to war in Finland, Afghanistan, Syria, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Chechnya, and now Ukraine to expand its borders or install puppet leaders. It has occupied Romania, Estonia, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Moldova. None of these countries are queuing up to be ruled again by Russia. On the contrary, they recall the experience as one of unmitigated horror. One only needs to look at the aftermath of Bucha, Mariupol and the towns Russia are levelling in Donbas for corroborative evidence.

        Ukrainians do not wish to be ruled by Russia. If they did, then no invasion would have been necessary. Zelensky could just email Putin and tell him that Ukrainians want Russia to take over governance.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    The British Empire metropole UK is possibly one of the most backward countries in the world, its public infantilised by being removed from questions of foreign policy and (often covert) military action overseas, conducted under the royal prerogatives. Moreover, its public has been long steeped in militaristic mythmaking, which has only increased since the memories of the World Wars have faded.

    I have started reading Simon Webb’s book Secret Casualties of World War Two: Uncovering the Civilian Deaths from Friendly Fire, which strikes me as highly relevant to the “nuclear weapons make us safe” lie. In the introduction, Webb writes: “The chief difficulty with the story of the Blitz, as it has been handed down to us and carefully embellished over the years, is that it conceals a terrible crime, the massacre, by their own armed forces, of thousands of British civilians.” In the early chapters (I have not reached the Blitz itself), Webb reveals contemporary estimations and accounts of the death toll caused by firing Anti-Air guns upwards in British cities during WW1, something known not to be effective in shooting down high-flying bombers, but known to kill people on the ground, through shrapnel or shells with defective fusing exploding on landing. Webb asserts that it was government policy to sacrifice civilians using practices like blackouts to protect key military and industrial sites. Why then were AA guns in cities still being used in WW2? Webb says due to the politician’s syllogism: something (visible) had to be done.
    Radar was secret, and far-off fighters usually invisible. There a cause for panic; there was public demand for action.

    This, I think, is partly behind the NATO expansions and the idiocy of nuclear weapons. We know that military alliances are not proof against wars, we have ample documentary evidence that nuclear weapons launches and accidents have only just been avoided on several occasions that would (as protocol demanded) have initiated escalating or full-scale nuclear conflict. See Chatham House’s Too Close for Comfort, or Daniel Ellsberg’s Confessions of a Doomsday Planner and so on.

    Webb has a quote from Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s “The bomber will always get through” 1932 speech: “The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves.” If this is an indication of how our own leaders think, should they (or anyone else) be entrusted with nuclear weapons, cowardly designed especially to be killers and maimers of women and children?

    I would, of course, go beyond the writer of this article to say that nukes are weapons of ecocide, are used as terrorist weapons of mass destruction by the rulers of nuclear-armed states to get what they want, and certainly agree that they should be banned and deactivated under any sane and baseline-ethical political system.

    1. Adrian Roper says:

      To be fair to Baldwin, he wasn’t recommending the preemptive killing of women and children, but pointing out the awful logic and consequences of airborne warfare (years before the A Bomb was invented but with a clear premonition of blitz and counter blitz).

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Adrian Roper, there is no ‘logic’ that demands the mass-murder of women and children. No more than it was ‘logical’ for the British Empire to pursue a campaign of bombing villagers with colonial air policing. It was convenient, expedient, an abuse of power relations: “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Melos#The_Melian_Dialogue
        If you create and maintain a weapons system designed for such purposes, you are a criminal, an enemy of the world, and an enemy of your own people. Simon Webb holds Winston Churchill directly responsible for provoking the Blitz by bombing German cities for four months previously, starting with München-Gladbach on 10 May 1940. The British (assisted by the French) had apparently scuppered interwar international attempts to outlaw aerial bombing of civilians by Hague Convention, basically because they wanted to continue colonial air policing aka terrorism in their large territorial claims. Civilian populations in nuclear-armed states are now held hostage by their governments’ own nuclear weapons.

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