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 WED OCT 10 2018


In an appeal to Governments meeting at United Nations First Committee, People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project have urged:

--That Governments, including especially states that are part of 'extended deterrence' such as Australia, and above all nuclear weapon states themselves, should sign the Ban Treaty (TPNW- Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons).

--That Governments as a matter of existential urgency, take or urge nuclear – armed states to take, measures to lower the spiraling risk of nuclear war as a result of madness, miscalculation, malfunction, or malware.

According to PND and Human Survival project's UN nuclear campaigner John Hallam:

“The risk of nuclear war is now as high as it has ever been, including during the terrifying year of 1983 when the world nearly ended twice. It's not me saying that, but former commanders of both US and Russian nuclear forces, nuclear weapons experts of all kinds, and the nobel prizewinners who move the hands of the Doomsday Clock.”

“If one keeps on running what's thought to be a catastrophic risk indefinitely, you may be able to get away with it for a while. But sooner or later you run out of luck and go over a cliff into the abyss. Statistically, civilization probably already ought not to be here. Yet each year we run the roulette wheel again and again. We had another spin of it just recently when the US ambassador to NATO threatened to 'take out' Russian nuclear weapon systems.”

“What is above all alarming however is precisely the lack of alarm – indeed of consciousness of the problem at any level – in domestic political systems. The risk today is as great or greater than it was in 1983, (Doomsday Clock in '83, 3 mins to midnight – today 2 mins to midnight)- yet whereas in '83 there were massive protests and the possibility of nuclear war was an everyday topic, today no one knows – or wants to know – about it.”

“Especially distressing is the lack of consciousness at a Parliamentary level. Parliaments worldwide and especially here in Australia need to put this item right at the top of the political agenda. Surely the fate of civilization and of humans as a species is more important than musical prime-ministerial chairs.”

“We urge Parliamentarians to put nuclear disarmament/abolition and nuclear risk reduction at the top of their political agendas. We urge Governments who are now debating nuclear disarmament at First Committee in New York to sign and ratify the TPNW if they have not already done so, and likewise to place risk reduction measures such as No First Use policies and policies to remove nuclear arsenals from high alert status at the top of their agendas bot in NY and within their own security establishments.”

“Finally we urge the Australian Government to do a complete U-Turn on its misguided and dangerous opposition to the TPNW, to sign it, ratify it and to vigorously urge others to do likewise.”

John Hallam

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner


Abolition2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risks

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Dear Delegate:
I write to urge that, in the upcoming First Committee, you support the following measures, amongst many others. You are urged to do so without prejudice to the many other actions that need to be taken to further nuclear disarmament, and to assure global security and strategic stability:

You/your government are urged to:
--Support immediate and urgent measures to reduce the rising risk of nuclear conflict.
--To sponsor and support a resolution setting a new date for a High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, to replace the one 'indefinitely postponed' last May (2018).
--To sign, ratify, and to vigorously lobby others to sign and ratify, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.(TPNW, or 'Ban Treaty')

These actions at First Committee should be taken without in any way decreasing your commitment to any other actions you/your Government will be taking at First Committee. A wide range of actions needs to be taken on other areas, notably CTBT-EIF, the negotiation of an FMCT, bilateral arms reduction measures, extension of New START, a successor to New START, etc. There must be no reduction in commitment to these existing measures.

However, Risk Reduction, a re-scheduling of the High Level Conference, and support for the TPNW have especial immediate salience, and require specific actions in First Committee.

Some of you may feel unable for a variety of supposed 'reasons' to support the TPNW. I would urge you/your government to reconsider your position, and to reconsider again. Most if not all of the arguments contra the TPNW are entirely spurious if not downright dishonest, while some of them (ie that it makes 'extended deterrence' more difficult) are in reality arguments FOR not against, the TPNW.

However if, to your shame, you are completely 'unconvertable' (or unable to convert your capital decision-makers), I nonetheless urge you to support as strongly as you can, both the Risk Reduction measures, and the re-scheduling of the High Level Conference. Ideally, please support all three dot points, but please, do find ways to support as much as you possibly can.

I write because the risk of nuclear war, accidental or otherwise, via madness, malice, miscalculation, malfunction, or malware, is as high as it has ever been, and there is 'alarmingly too little alarm' (and hence not nearly enough action) over it.

I am hardly the first to suggest we are 'sleepwalking' into potential catastrophe. But it is so.

That catastrophe might take place in a number of ways – because relations between the DPRK and the US break down and an ill-thought tweet causes the DPRK to 'pre-pre-empt' a presumed US pre-emptive strike, or because China enters into hostilities that have already commenced, or because of a confrontation in the South China sea, or because of miscalculation arising over nuclear–armed Russian and NATO exercises that spirals out of control into an accidental apocalypse. All of these options have been grimly canvassed many times by others much more distinguished than myself.

I need hardly remind all of you that the consequences of large scale use of nuclear weapons will be unimaginably catastrophic. A 'mini' nuclear war between say, the DPRK and the US will create tens of millions of casualties. One between India and Pakistan will create anything between 150million and 300million immediate casualties and catastrophic global climatic effects that linger for at least a decade. A conflict between the US and Russia (or NATO and Russia) would essentially end what we call 'civilization', as also will a relatively small number of relatively large weapons exploded in space above continental landmasses (via the effects of EMP). A large US-Russia or Russia-NATO conflict would also likely involve China. Such a conflict might make long term human survival problematic.

All this, clearly, makes immediate-term nuclear risk reduction imperative, not only for those of us who do NOT have nuclear weapons and who are NOT involved in 'extended deterrence' relationships, but even more so for those of us who ARE (misguidedly) involved in such relationships. Those of us who ARE so involved (most of Europe, Japan, Australia, RoK, Canada) will perish if buttons get pushed, our very involvement making us immediate nuclear targets. Extended deterrence, far from protecting anyone, makes targets of us. Its demise is a gain in security, not a loss of security, whether we are Poland, a Baltic state, Romania, Japan, or Australia.

Vital Immediate – term risk reduction measures include, but are not limited, to:
--No First Use commitments.(NFU)
--De-Alerting and other measures designed to increase the decision-making time available to Presidents and senior military in crisis situations
--Improved or re-established military-to-military communications, especially between the US, NATO, and Russia.
--Final establishment of the Joint Data Exchange Centre (JDEC) in Moscow, first agreed on between the US and Russia in 1998, reaffirmed numerous times and never implemented
--Avoidance of potentially provocative military exercises, particularly ones located anywhere near the Baltic States, Poland, the Black Sea or Ukraine. This applies to all and any exercises, but obviously especially to any that involve nuclear weapons, or nuclear-capable equipment whether actually nuclear-armed or not.

A full list of nuclear risk reduction measures is at:

I cannot stress enough the importance of modest measures that build trust and re-establish lines of communication in making an accidental apocalypse less of a global risk, nor the absolute existential priority of avoiding catastrophic outcomes. Furthermore these are measures that ALL governments can take or support – not merely those who happen to support the TPNW, important though that is.

High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament
The indefinite postponement, for a number of complicated reasons, of the proposed High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, scheduled for May 2018 in NY and postponed within days of when it would have opened, was a deep disappointment for many of us. The conference would have:
--Put nuclear disarmament at the highest level of Governmental consideration
--Provided a venue outside EITHER the moribund CD, the almost equally moribund proceedings of NPT prepcoms and revcons, in which could be discussed:
--Nuclear Risk reduction measures;
--The TPNW;
--Nuclear disarmament measures other than the TPNW, notably bilateral US-Russia disarmament measures including New START and a successor treaty;
--Nuclear relationships other than US-NATO-Russia, notably India-Pakistan.
--Measures to facilitate progress at NPT conferences and the CD;
--Measures to facilitate CTBT-EIF,
All at the highest level.

You are therefore urged to re-schedule the proposed High Level Conference either for a date in 2019 or 2020, that will be suitable to as many governments as possible.

Finally, I urge all of you to sign, ratify, and to lobby others to sign and ratify, the TPNW.('Ban Treaty')

While the TPNW is NOT the 'only show in town', and while it does not directly demolish even one warhead, it absolutely does serve to marginalize and to stigmatize their possession, and (contra nuclear weapon states arguments) it powerfully serves to help to establish a norm in customary law that does so.

It serves notice on those who do posses nuclear weapons that they are in effect operating outside normal, 'civilized' standards.

Contra nuclear weapon state arguments it does NOT:
--Weaken the NPT framework - Rather it strengthens and compliments that framework.
--Establish a 'confusing' or 'competing' parallel process. It works with, reinforces and compliments, existing processes.
--Compete with the 'progressive' disarmament process. Rather it lends urgency to that very process and can hope to be the logjam-breaker that the 'progressive' process, notable precisely for its lack of progress, needs.

You have already received copies of a much longer letter addressed to my own (Australia's) Government, to 29 other Governments, and copied to UNGA, in which I demolish paragraph by paragraph, arguments against the TPNW and urge support for the same dot-points as does this memo. For good measure I attach it once more underneath this one.

In summary, actions to reduce nuclear risks and to make progress to the elimination of nuclear weapons are as high a priority as they have ever been.

I hope that Governments and First Committee delegates can understand the existential significance of this, and can come up with creative and positive responses that help to assure the survival of civilization and of humans as a species.

These measures are of existential importance. There just couldn't be anything more important for all of you to do in First Committee.

John Hallam
UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner
People for Nuclear Disarmament
Human Survival Project
Co-Convener, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Reducing Nuclear Risks
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Dear Marise Payne, Foreign ministers of the 29 countries that have joined with Australia in opposition to the TPNW, and members of the Australian Parliament:


I seek to persuade every one of you that you should:

--As a matter of the utmost urgency, and whether or not you are able to support the TPNW (see below), to press for immediate-term measures to reduce the spiraling risks of actual nuclear conflict whether by design, by miscalculation, by malware, or by malfunction. Australian parliamentarians should press whomever their Government/foreign minister turns out to be in the next fraught weeks, to press for short term nuclear risk reduction measures whatever stand we have on the TPNW.

--To support the High Level Conference initially planned for May 2018 and indefinitely postponed days before it was to have been opened. The High Level Conference would have provided/will provide a forum in which inclusive discussions – discussions that can and must include the nuclear weapons states and nuclear capable states and from which no one is excluded – can take place, not merely on the TPNW, but on the whole broad gamut of measures and agendas (notably the 'progressive agenda') that conduce toward nuclear disarmament and to nuclear risk reduction, and that do so both at an expert level and at the highest levels of responsibility. In addition, bilateral discussions could also take place over the extension of NewSTART, and a successor treaty, and broader Russian/US arms control, disarmament, and risk reduction measures. If the High Level Conference is to take place it will require action at the upcoming UN First Committee, with a resolution specifying a new date.

--Reverse your opposition to the TPNW, sign it, ratify it, and vigorously persuade other governments also to do so. This applies especially to nuclear weapons states. In this context I note the adoption of resolutions in favor of the TPNW and of nuclear disarmament generally, by the City Council of Los Angeles and by the legislature of California. I urge Australian parliamentarians to support the TPNW and Australia's signature and ratification thereof. (Most of you already do so). I urge the 29 Governments who have seen fit to oppose the TPNW to reverse their opposition and to vigorously support it. Doing so will necessitate ditching dangerous doctrines of extended deterrence that make nuclear targets of all of you. By doing so you will improve, not decrease your security situation, and improve, not risk, strategic stability.


These matters are urgent because:

--Nuclear risk is once more at an elevated level, equivalent to where it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis or the terrifying US-Russian standoff of the early 1980s. This puts a high priority both on risk reduction measures, and on multilateral and bilateral (US-Russia) disarmament measures.

The most public indicator of increased risk is of course the current position of the hands of the Doomsday Clock, currently at 2 minutes to midnight. This is 'equal first' in terms of the risk of a potentially civilization- ending, potentially even species-ending, 'apocalypse', along with the position of the hands in 1953-54, when serious consideration was being given to first – strikes against the Soviet Union, and as both the Soviet Union and the USA exploded their first H-Bombs. In the extraordinarily risky year of 1983, the year the world nearly ended twice, within 6 weeks (September and November '83), the clock-hands were at 3 mins to midnight. The Doomsday clock people ('Mere' rooms-full of nobel prizewinning nuclear weapons experts and physicists) are not the only ones to have issued warnings in the last 12 months – Mikhail Gorbachev, the former commanders of both Russian and US nuclear forces, and Pope Francis have issued such warnings.

--There is a growing stalemate, and even the possibility of going into reverse, in nuclear arms-control and the entire nuclear disarmament process. It is in part sheer frustration with the lack of progress on agendas such as the 'progressive agenda', notable indeed for its failure to progress, that has led governments that do not have nuclear weapons and who do not depend on them for their security, to move ahead with the TPNW as an 'unblock-er'.

This stalemate in arms control measures also places a high priority on both the extension/renewal of NewSTART, and on negotiation of further arms reduction measures as well as risk reduction measures.

--There is a growing consciousness that the elimination of nuclear weapons is not a 'feelgood' 'sometime' remote agenda item to be fulfilled some far-off century, but is a pressing existential necessity. The simple existence of these weapons is an immediate and pressing security threat to every government. Every year for which they are operational is a spin of an American, Chinese, Russian, Indian and Pakistani roulette wheel. When will there be a shot? With what consequences?

Signing and ratifying the TPNW is not by any means the only thing that needs to be done to eliminate nuclear weapons. There is the entire 'progressive' agenda including as it does existentially critical risk reduction measures, which notably fails to progress. Signature of the TPNW, especially by NATO and nuclear weapon states, is however a critical unblocking move. The TPNW can and must be signed not only by its current constituency, Governments that are not dependent on nuclear weapons for their security, but – even more importantly – by Governments that ARE so dependent, (Governments dependent on 'extended deterrence' such as Australia and the 29 other Governments on whose behalf it has issued statements), and by nuclear weapon states themselves.

A 'turn around' by Australia, or by any one (and preferably by ALL) of the 29 states that have foolishly put themselves on record as opposing the TPNW would go far to push the nuclear weapon states themselves – whose publics also largely support abolition – to eliminate their arsenals, or at least to take steps away from a renewed nuclear arms race, and the brink of the abyss.

A recent report issued by Wilton Park [Adapting deterrence strategies to a changing security environment ] notes that:
“The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has significant support in many NATO countries despite the formal political opposition to the treaty by all NATO member governments. In support of the Ban, the NGO community is engaged in a campaign to pressure and shame NATO members, especially those involved in the sharing arrangements. This reinforces divisions within the Alliance. Conspicuously, this comes at a time when Russia is pursuing many different means to divide the allies politically. An additional complication today is that the anti-nuclear movement has taken a clear anti-Trump component.”

Indeed so. Publics Europe-wide quite rightly favor the elimination of nuclear weapons and not extended deterrence, and the failure to 'adequately defend' various forms of extended deterrence comes from a well – founded understanding that these doctrines cannot survive honest public discussion. They must be abandoned, and in doing so we will be more, and not less, safe. Failure to abandon them will make us less, and not more, safe. Doubtless the NGO community will continue its campaign to 'pressure and shame' NATO members until reality-based policies are adopted.

The alternative to the above is the possibility of resumed nuclear arms racing between the US, Russia, China and the DPRK and between India and Pakistan, and a continuation of elevated levels of risk. Still worse would be mutually escalatory, deterrence-based behaviours like those of 2014,15, and 16 in eastern europe. If that is to be what happens we can be delivered from catastrophe only by divine intervention. European publics are quite correct to view deterrence-based policies as in effect, suicidal. They are. Reality-based policies are exactly the ones Wilton Park is most afraid of – ones based around risk reduction and disarmament and not deterrence.

This also underlines the importance of immediate-term risk reduction measures such as 'de-alerting', no-first-use undertakings (NFU), better military-to-military communication (or resumed military-to-military communication), final establishment of the Joint Data Exchange facility (JDEC) in Moscow first agreed on in 1998 after the 'near miss' of 1995, and the avoidance of the back-to-back, mirror-imaged, nuclear-armed exercises that both NATO and Russia engaged in during the standoff of 2014.

To Parliamentarians, these matters may seem 'wonkish' and technical. Nuclear weapons may seem a remote contingency. They are not – they are an immediate, clear and present danger to Australia, (via our extended deterrence relationship with the US), to all European countries whether or not they themselves posses their own nuclear weapons, and via the effects of nuclear winter, to every country wherever it is. These seemingly abstruse matters are in fact life-and-death.

Risk reduction measures can of course be vigorously advocated and lobbied for even if a Government does not wish to sign the TPNW. At the same time such measures make policies of nuclear abolition a little further down the track, much easier. However signature and ratification of the TPNW either by a middle – sized power currently in an extended deterrence relationship (or, even better, by a nuclear weapons state) sends powerful signals of exactly the kind that most need to be sent.

It is often argued, completely incorrectly, that the signature and ratification of the TPNW in some inexplicable way, either 'undermines' the NPT, or 'undermines' the necessary progress via ratification of the CTBT, negotiation of an FMCT, risk reduction, and further US-Russia negotiated arms reductions, in the 'progressive' agenda.

Not only are these criticisms devoid of substance, but in fact the very reverse is true.

The 'progressive' agenda is characterized by its complete lack of progress including on many vital items such as risk reduction. A circuit breaker is urgently called for. The TPNW could be that circuit breaker, as it irrevocably stigmatizes the use threat of use and the possession of nuclear weapons and as, notwithstanding the erroneous and misleading statements of the nuclear weapons states, it does and must establish or help establish or reinforce new norms of customary law. If you wish for real and substantial progress on the progressive agenda, please sign and ratify the TPNW. If your advocacy of the progressive agenda is in fact precisely toprevent real progress, (including real progress on the progressive agenda) then do not sign it. But do not use the 'progressive agenda' as an excuse not to sign.

It is also argued that the TPNW 'problematizes' extended deterrence both for Australia and the 29 other Governments.

This is a 'feature' rather than a 'bug'. If we are serious about the existential threat that nuclear weapons pose, we can and must 'problematize' (and eliminate) extended deterrence, recognizing that a measure that was supposed to enhance security itself paradoxically but not all that surprizingly becomes the primary threat to the very security it was supposed to reinforce. We are, absolutely, better off without extended deterrence whether we are Australia, or whether we are Poland, Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania.(if we are there, then the presence of either tactical nukes or of missile defence installations merely ensures we are targeted and therefore, toast, or establishes a nuclear 'tripwire' that once more ensures prompt escalation whereby we all get to be toast.) The brutal truth is that extended deterrence paints nuclear targets on all our national backsides. We are absolutely better off without it.

I have below critiqued various statements made by the Australian Government and by representatives of the 29 anti-TPNW governments. All employ the same misleading arguments. However, even if I fail to dent your opposition to the TPNW, you should still make strenuous efforts to implement the risk reduction measures I suggest.

I plead with all of you (Australian Government, the 29 anti-TPNW governments, and Parliamentarians all) to see that not one of these arguments has any validity and indeed that even to make them at all casts doubt on the sincerity of your adherence to Art VI of the NPT and thus to the very NPT framework you claim to defend. This is even more the case in the absence of meaningful risk reduction measures.

The TPNW reinforces and does not undermine the NPT framework. Failure to sign and ratify it, coupled with failure to progress in other areas especially risk reduction DOES undermine the NPT, and leaves civilization and humans in immediate peril.

--Press for immediate and urgent nuclear risk reduction measures.
--Support a High Level Conference with an open agenda, on nuclear disarmament.
--Sign and ratify the TPNW. Vigorously lobby others to do likewise.

John Hallam
UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner
People for Nuclear Disarmament
Human Survival Project
Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 October 2018 13:59