NB – Email to all parliamentarians
Subject- 4th anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the UN (PPNW)- nuclear disarmament – anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – response to letters from MPs – email/email to all parliamentarians
Dear Sir or Madam,
In January 2021, we proposed to all parliamentary groups to speak out on the occasion of the entry into force of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW) on 22 January 2021.
On the occasion of 7 July 2021, the fourth anniversary of the adoption of this Treaty by 122 Member States of the United Nations, a number of activists or friends of the Peace Movement have sent a letter to the parliamentarians of their department of residence. These people, supporting our approach, asked that France adhere to this Treaty.
We thank the parliamentarians and parliamentary groups who supported or examined these requests through oral or written questions to the Government (Gauche Démocratique et Républicaine Group, Socialist Group), a public commitment in favour of TIAN (PCF and EELV) or by individual answers to the requests (LREM MPs).
Through this letter addressed to all parliamentarians, and made public on our website, we intend to continue this constructive dialogue between civil society and parliamentarians on a major issue for peace and the future of humanity in terms of human and ecological security. This is why we have chosen to send you this letter a few days before the commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this period of crisis of citizenship and commitment, we also intend to speak out on behalf of the 76% of French men and women who have declared themselves in favour of France’s commitment to a process of eliminating nuclear weapons (Ifop/La Croix/Planète Paix/Mouvement de la Paix poll of 2018).
All of you, whatever your political affiliation, are people of conviction. You have assumed your convictions through your candidacy and your election. You will therefore not be surprised that we present our arguments with conviction and determination and thank you in advance for your attention.
In this respect and before continuing our arguments, it is worth recalling certain terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which stipulates that the States Parties to the NPT, including France,
“Desiring to promote international détente and confidence-building among States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all existing stocks of such weapons, and the elimination of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery from national arsenals by means of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control
Recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations, and that the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security should be promoted by diverting to armaments only the minimum of the world’s human and economic resources,
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
In her reply, for which we thank her, Anne BRUGNERA, LREM Deputy (see note number 1) states: “I thank you for your email questioning me about France’s participation in the abolition of nuclear weapons. After having informed myself on the issue, I share the opinion of the Ministry of the Armed Forces on this subject.”
In our opinion, this answer shows that this parliamentarian is too dependent on the executive and on the Ministry of the Armed Forces in this case. This is a general remark on our part on the current functioning of the institutions which minimises the role of parliamentarians. On an issue such as nuclear disarmament, given the possible catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of these weapons, when we address parliamentarians, we expect both a response from parliamentarians in their personal capacity expressing their personal conviction and the collective response of their group. However, the arguments used in the report are almost word for word the same arguments that have been repeated many times at all levels, from the President of the Republic, who is supposed to have the truth on the subject, to the administrations and public bodies in charge of military nuclear power, including the CEA/DAM, or in the ministerial cabinets and departments depending from the President of the Republic and the State. To prove this, one only has to compare with the arguments put forward by the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs in June 2021 in response to another question by MP Joël BIGOT on the TIAN (note number 2).
These arguments, which in our view take too much liberty with international law, with France’s commitments and observable realities, have been constantly repeated since the adoption and entry into force of the NPT, which, it should be recalled, is only the strict application of Article VI of the NPT, a treaty that the official discourse claims to defend, while doubling the budget devoted to atomic weapons through the military programming law.
This observation is not new. As early as 25 October 2016, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the French members of the European Parliament setting out the same arguments, which we find eminently questionable. These arguments, which are more dogmatic than rational and are constantly repeated in the government’s discourse, reveal a certain “political malaise” “political uneasiness” on the part of the French government, which knows that it is in denial of its international legal commitments. They are desperately trying, in an illusion of power (with the other nuclear-weapon states), to convince (some would say manipulate because of the absence of a real debate) their public opinions with a background of equivocal relations, or even pressure from the institutions and industries in charge of military nuclear power, to the detriment of the respect of our country’s international commitments. The European Parliament has moreover ignored these pressures by adopting by a majority its resolution P8_TA(2016)0424 of 27 October 2016 supporting the negotiation of the itnw
The use of the term ‘nuclear deterrence’ is already very ambiguous, as this so-called ‘deterrence’ is unprovable. On the one hand, the absence of a major conflict mentioned (but what conflict and what is a major conflict?) cannot of course be considered as a cause of this absence of use of nuclear weapons despite their threat. On the other hand, this policy of nuclear threat, supposedly a guarantee of “security”, has provocative dimensions, either to stimulate and justify nuclear proliferation, or to encourage its circumvention by other threats and conflicts that remain “below the nuclear threshold”. In any case, it feeds an extremely dangerous nuclear proliferation that is developing before our eyes, and is not a response to the new threats because today conflicts are developing on other levels: the battle of information, information technologies, cyberattacks, struggles for control of resources, violent extremism, individual or organised terrorism, water wars, possible “climate” wars, economic warfare, poverty revolts, etc.
The “argument” that “France did not participate in the negotiations of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (NWT) and does not intend to join it and that the TPNW is indeed marked by several weaknesses” is in fact a falsification of reality. Indeed, if France’s diplomacy, in compliance with the NPT, had participated in this drafting, it could and should have tried to influence the drafters, of which it would have been a part, to avoid the appearance of so-called “weaknesses”. To criticise when one could have been an actor and refused to be so demonstrates France’s a priori refusal to respect its commitments and is merely an attempt to exonerate itself. It is taking the interlocutors for naïve and forgetting that the NGOs that deal with this issue at the national and international level are very well documented and have expertise in the diplomatic, scientific, technological and military fields.
For his part, former diplomat Marc Finaud, with IDN (Initiatives for Nuclear Disarmament), recalls that “France deliberately boycotted the negotiations that were open to it. It was already bound by its commitment under the NPT to negotiate nuclear disarmament. Moreover, once the States Parties to the NPT fulfil their own obligations, any cooperation with France on nuclear weapons will be illegal. The Mouvement de la Paix denounced France’s irresponsible attitude of not participating in the three major intergovernmental conferences in 2013 and 2014 on “the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”, in Mexico (Nayarit), Norway (Oslo) and Austria (Vienna). We also regretted the press conference of the representative of the French ambassador to the UN held in New York in 2017 with the US ambassador for a joint denunciation of the TPNW negotiation process.
Claims of alleged weaknesses in TPNW are no more convincing and do not stand up to simple analysis. Let us take up these allegations:
“it (the TPNW) does not take into account the current international strategic environment, characterised by growing tensions and worrying challenges in the area of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; it undermines the legitimacy of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which has been the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime for more than fifty years;”
This is totally false: on the one hand, the preamble of the TPNW takes up these concerns and refers to the NPT and other treaties negotiated to advance disarmament. On the other hand, the TPNW is a multilateral reaction to the dislocation of the international security architecture by certain nuclear powers and to the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons that these powers, including France, provoke by perpetuating their own systems and constantly modernising them. Continuing to assert that these weapons are legitimate for some in order to guarantee the protection of their vital interests can only encourage other states to proliferate.
It (the TPNW) does not incorporate the highest standards of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards under the NPT, and finally, it does not have a verification mechanism, unlike the NPT. The prohibitionist approach of the TPNW will thus only contribute to further polarising the nuclear disarmament negotiating forums, without creating the conditions of confidence necessary for general and complete disarmament as described in Article VI of the NPT, which commits its signatories to “pursue negotiations in good faith” with a view to arriving eventually at “a treaty on general and complete disarmament”.
This is false and somewhat Machiavellian, for it is precisely the TPNW that is the treaty that can lead to general and complete disarmament with the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the TPNW does require its non-nuclear-weapon states parties to comply, at a minimum, with existing IAEA safeguards, without prejudice to even more stringent instruments. For nuclear-weapon states that join later, the verification regime would be negotiated and would need to be validated by the other states parties. It is therefore a regime that goes beyond the IAEA safeguards standards that is foreseen now. To talk about a possibility “in the long run” is just a delaying tactic.
“France’s security and defence policy, like that of its closest allies, is based on nuclear deterrence, which aims to protect our country from any state-sponsored aggression against its vital interests. However, France remains determined to implement the next concrete steps in nuclear disarmament, in accordance with its commitments under the NPT, by participating in the creation of conditions that will eventually allow for the elimination of nuclear weapons: further conventional disarmament, universal compliance with the ban on chemical and biological weapons, taking into account ballistic proliferation, security in outer space, and the resolution of regional proliferation crises.
The argument of “eventual” nuclear disarmament is totally at odds with France’s commitments, notably in the NPT, to put in place a concrete nuclear disarmament agenda, an obligation to which it subscribed by joining the NPT in 1992. On the other hand, France and the other nuclear-armed states have significantly increased their nuclear and military budgets over the long term, which is incompatible with the obligation to stop the nuclear arms race “at an early date” included in the NPT, which entered into force in 1970. The Minister of the Armed Forces recently welcomed the launch of the third generation of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines planned to operate until 2090, almost a century after the NPT came into force for France!
The “step-by-step” approach to nuclear disarmament mentioned is in no way incompatible with the NPT. If this approach, which has been called necessary since 1970, had been successful, then there would have been no need for the TPNW, but this delaying tactic has only been used by the nuclear states to delay sine die the effective implementation of their commitments. Finally, it is not the supporters of the TPNW that are blocking this process, but certain nuclear powers, including France, which could play a leading role internationally, if only by immediately freezing its modernisation programmes.
“In line with this approach, the President of the Republic, in his speech on defence and deterrence strategy at the École de Guerre on 7 February 2020, explained the proposed agenda towards “global, progressive, credible and verifiable disarmament”, based on four points: strict compliance with the NPT; the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) and the universalisation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); further work on nuclear disarmament verification; and finally, the launch of concrete work on strategic risk reduction.
All these measures are in fact aimed at gaining time and moving us away from the objective affirmed by international law, namely the legal obligation of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which no one, even the President of the Republic, disputes. In practice, he is doing the opposite through the modernisations financed in the current military programming law, through an almost doubling of the credits devoted to the modernisation of nuclear weapons. On the diplomatic front, the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs refers to the P5 process, which is the opposite of multilateralism since, instead of discussing with all the states within the United Nations, he proposes to reduce the discussions to the closed circle of the five so-called “nuclear-armed states” (NWS): the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China. French diplomacy also wrongly criticises the “unilateral disarmament” imposed on it by the NWS, which is false as we have seen, even though all the measures it has taken itself have been unilateral, without any negotiation. In his speech to the War College, the main nuclear “disarmament” measure proposed by the President of the Republic was the idea of extending the nuclear deterrence to the other member states of the European Union. After the non-responses of our partners, it is instead three of these states that have already ratified the TPNW. The so-called end of fissile material production or nuclear testing has had no effect on disarmament, quite the contrary. Testing continues in another form, in particular the CESTAS facilities with simulation tests that allow for the development of nuclear arsenals; France also has considerable stocks of fissile material and continues to produce the tritium needed for its thermonuclear weapons.
But the most serious thing is that in this case we are faced with serious violations of the provisions of international law and treaties that France has nevertheless integrated into its national law. The constant persistence of the threat of nuclear weapons and their modernisation are concrete proof of these violations, proof that cannot be erased by a few words or speeches. This point is perfectly recalled in the preamble of the TPNW (as it was with the NPT): “Considering that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law…”.
These violations of humanitarian law, of the right to health and life, of civil and political rights, of environmental rights and of the law of conflict lead the French leaders to put themselves in culpable contradiction with national law, which was also recalled by the International Court of Justice in 1996, and to place the military personnel in charge of using these weapons in the position of potential war criminals (see below – note 3 – a reminder of the Defence Code). This would be the case even if a nuclear launch occurred by mistake or accident. Some accidents have already occurred and no measure, however drastic, can ever prevent new ones.
Nuclear weapons are illegal and prohibited under international and national law, including the Defence Code, economically costly, militarily useless for building a peaceful world, and morally inadmissible.
There is really only one solution that complies with international law in all its dimensions and with France’s international commitments, and with the right to life: the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Finally, we feel it is necessary to alert every parliamentarian to the humanitarian and ecological consequences of the voluntary or mistaken use of nuclear weapons (cf. the phenomenon of nuclear winter, validated by the scientific community). This is one of the reasons why the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) (Nobel Peace Prize 1985) and ICAN International, of which the French Mouvement de la Paix is a member, (Nobel Peace Prize 2017) have been so active in the adoption and implementation of the CTBT. In this regard, we draw your attention to the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has taken a clear stand in favour of the TPNW and the total elimination of nuclear weapons. We recommend that you consult the ICRC’s position papers (see links below) in order to assess the consequences of your votes, for those parliamentarians who validate or have validated the race to modernise nuclear weapons through the vote on the Defence White Paper and the latest Military Programming Law with its updates and a considerable increase in the credits allocated to nuclear weapons modernisation programmes.
This is why the french Peace Movement is calling on citizens to express themselves through actions from 6 to 9 August as part of the “global wave for peace” initiated by the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their organisations, but also on the occasion of the International Day of Peace (21/09), and the UN International Day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons (26/09), with “marches for peace, nuclear disarmament and climate, social justice and human rights” on Saturday 25 September, initiated by the national collective “marches for peace “, which includes more than 150 organisations .
On the basis of these elements, the French Peace Movement will ask the political groups in the National Assembly and the Senate to meet at the beginning of September in order to exchange arguments, points of view and proposals to advance towards general and complete nuclear disarmament under international control, in accordance with the obligations resulting from international law.
Finally, we must emphasise that the threat of nuclear weapons exposes populations to dramatic insecurity and leads to the diversion of billions of euros, as well as intellectual and scientific resources that are essential to face the challenges of today’s world and ensure the economic, health, social and ecological security of populations. This is what is expressed in the International Appeal of scientists and academics from all over the world launched in October 2020 on the occasion of the International Day of Science for Peace, a project jointly supported by Pugwash (Nobel Peace Prize 1995) and the Peace Movement.
Please accept, Ladies and Gentlemen, the expression of our respectful sentiments.
The French Peace Movement: Le Mouvement de la Paix France. le 2 Aout 2021
PS: The consequences of nuclear tests on the populations are also there to illustrate the consequences of these weapons in the long term and for the future of present and future generations