Submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs by the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament


A decade ago, Irish CND published a Foreign Policy Document outlining the essential strands of Irish neutrality. It emphasised that for most Irish people neutrality had a much broader meaning than mere "non-membership of military alliances", the narrow meaning recent Irish governments have ascribed to it. In addition to being outside of such alliances, neutrality also included an active, positive foreign policy in pursuit of international peace and justice. The ingredients of such a policy have been: (a) support for self-determination of nations; (b) the quest for disarmament; (c) peace-keeping; (d) championing the rights of developing nations; and (e) the promotion of human rights.

How can this be related to security policies within the European Union? The security of the European Union is best assured by a peaceful world: one in which countries do not feel threatened by the economic or military power of other countries, one in which the arms trade has been brought under control, one in which resources are conserved for the general benefit and not used to exploit others, one in which countries are not driven to the despair of military adventures by oppression or poverty, one in which human rights - particularly those of national minorities - are respected.

Security therefore requires action in fields such as economic development and human rights, as well as in the immediate protection of international peace.

The United Nations provides a framework for the protection of peace. The Conference on European Security and Co-operation, as the United Nations regional agency for Europe, should be developed to take the place of NATO and the WEU as well as the defunct Warsaw Pact. The history of the Helsinki process which established the CSCE is one of confidence building and consensus, a dedication to "making Europe whole", and an understanding of security in its broadest sense. The CSCE needs proper funding and real commitment: its budget of $2.9m. is laughable when placed alongside NATO's, which is $2 billion for infrastructure alone.

The end of the Cold War has made NATO obsolete. The function of building up links with Eastern Europe, which is being undertaken by the NATO Co-operation Council, would be better subsumed into the CSCE. The mere existence of the NATO Co-operation Council demonstrates the absurdity of continuing to regard NATO as a defensive alliance against a threat from the former Soviet Bloc: since this no longer exists, what is NATO defending its members from? If Russia is still regarded as a potential threat, why involve it in the NATO Co-operation Council?

The military strategy of NATO has been founded on two bases, nuclear and conventional. The nuclear base is the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation.
This threat is immoral and uncertain. No-one can be sure under what circumstances nuclear action would be ordered or whether it is a bluff. The only thing which is clear is that the use of nuclear weapons would at the very least be an unforgivable stain on human history, and at the most lead to a nuclear winter which would threaten the survival of humanity. The continuing existence of nuclear armaments creates pressure for atomic testing with its devastating effects on local communities, generates the risk of diversion of nuclear materials into the hands of non-nuclear countries or terrorists, encourages non-nuclear powers to develop their own atomic weapons, and buttresses civil nuclear power with its environmental dangers. European security must therefore be based on the abandonment of the NATO nuclear strategy and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

It is sometimes suggested that the political situation in Russia could be reversed. But the political changes were to a large extent caused by the inability of the Soviet economy to provide the foundations necessary for a first-class military power. Substantial parts of the military apparatus and of the command economy have now been dismantled, and would require a long period to become competitive again in terms of great-power rivalry. If an expansionist regime did come to power in Russia, would the West attack Russia with nuclear weapons to respond to an invasion of, say, the Baltic states? A strategy based on nuclear weapons does not reduce the risk of war.

The WEU's Platform states that "to be credible and effective, the strategy of deterrence and defence must continue to be based on an adequate mix of appropriate nuclear and conventional forces, only the nuclear element of which can confront a potential aggressor with an unacceptable risk." The WEU is therefore tied into the NATO nuclear strategy. It is very important that the inevitable nuclear component of any EU defence grouping should not be downplayed. It is encouraging that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Spring, has said that any discussion of EU defence "obviously raises the question of nuclear weapons as part of that defence" (Irish Times, 7/2/94).

But the WEU also has a competence outside the European area. This may have made some sense in terms of the colonial empires that some states had at the time of the WEU's formation. Now that the colonial empires have almost disappeared, military co-operation outside the European area has little point unless it is intended for intervention in independent Third World countries, something which is to be deprecated.

Ireland should make more definite its status as a non-nuclear country, without foreign bases and without formal military links to other countries. This should be seen as a contribution to world peace and as an example to other countries which might adopt similar policies.

It is sometimes claimed that the ending of the Cold War makes neutrality an outdated concept. But Ireland's neutrality predates the Cold War. It does not depend for its raison d'être on the existence of the Cold War. If anything is outdated, it is a military alliance like NATO which lingers on after the end of the Cold War. The present conjuncture offers an opportunity to put the question to other countries as to why they maintain structures such as NATO in the new circumstances. NATO provided a structure for keeping American forces in Europe. What is their function, and is it not time that they were withdrawn? We should not assume that Ireland's links through the EU necessitate a greater participation by us in these outdated structures. Indeed, the expansion of the EU to include the neutrals Austria, Sweden and Finland creates an opportunity to rethink European structures.

Initial steps could be Irish withdrawal from observer status at the WEU, and using the Maastricht revision process of 1996 to transfer security co-operation from the WEU to the CSCE, and to develop the powers of the CSCE in fields such as mediation, protection of human rights, arms reduction, and conversion of defence industries. Ireland's historic neutrality has served it well and in the context of the changed international situation the effort should be made to carry it into the future by looking at Ireland's capacity to make a contribution to world peace. In the context of United Nations peace-keeping, that capacity is enhanced by a lack of involvement in a military alliance. In a European context, Irish participation in a military alliance would not materially add to the capability of such an alliance. For the European Union to become a military alliance - as it would if it were to subsume the WEU - makes sense only as a stepping-stone to building a European super-power. The militarisation of the European Union is not the way forward. Foreign policy co-operation in the developing European Union will be be able to make a better contribution to peace if it can encompass neutral countries and challenge the assumptions of the present military structures.


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