Letter from MOD to UNAE 16/12/10

Mr. A. Gaines,                                                                     Ministry of Defence

Edinburgh Branch : United Nations Association        Deterrence Policy 1

Whitehall,  London SW1A 2HB

16 December, 2010

Dear Mr Gaines,
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the role of nuclear weapons
in NATO’s Strategy. I have been asked to respond.

Let me begin by stating that the role of
nuclear weapons in the UK and NATO’s Defence Policy and Strategy is entirely a
deterrent one with the intention of affecting the calculations of the
adversary. The aim of the possession of nuclear weapons is that potential
adversaries should be deterred from attacking our vital interests and those of
our Allies. The Government and NATO believe that nuclear weapons are the
ultimate guarantee of our security and a necessary insurance in an uncertain
world. There are risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapon states and
state sponsored nuclear terrorism. Therefore in the revised Strategic Concept
NATO has confirmed that whilst nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a
nuclear Alliance. We would use nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of
self-defence, which includes the defence of our NATO Allies, and would not use any
of our weapons contrary to international law. We and our NATO allies have made
it clear that the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have
to be contemplated are extremely remote.

We have seen the recent European
Leaders’ Group report to which you refer but are not in agreement with all of
the recommendations it makes. Additionally, the NATO Heads of State and
Government Summit in Lisbon has now taken place. The UK considers the NATO
Summit to have been a success: a revised Strategic Concept was agreed and
nations have agreed to continue to review NATO’s overall defence and deterrence
posture and to deepen co-operation with Russia on areas where we have a common
interest, including in the area of Ballistic Missile Defence.

NATO, as an Alliance, is not able to be
a member of the UN and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT). However, the nuclear weapons which are assigned to NATO are all owned by
nations who are recognised as being nuclear weapons states under the NPT and
all NATO members are signatories to the NPT. For the first time, NATO had a
representative from its International Staff as an official observer at the MAY
2010 Review Conference.

The Strategic Concept commits the
Alliance to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear
weapons – but reconfirms that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will
remain a nuclear Alliance. As an Alliance, NATO has reduced the number of US
weapons in Europe by over 85% since 1991. The UK and NATO warmly welcomed the
announcement of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia
in Prague in April 2010. It is a clear demonstration that those Nuclear Weapon
States are serious about their Article VI commitments under the NPT, and a
significant step on the long path towards our shared vision of a world without
nuclear weapons.

You call for NATO’s doctrine to move
from a military to a humanitarian focus. It is important to remember that NATO
is a Military Alliance. However, the new Strategic Concept does commit Allies
to “prevent crisis, manage conflicts and
stabilise post-conflict situations, including by working more closely with our
international partners, most importantly the United Nations and the European


I hope this is useful.

Yours sincerely,
Mrs. T. Anderson