Harry van Bommel: Get rid of nuclear weapons!

3 April 2008

Harry van Bommel: Get rid of nuclear weapons!

NATO is meeting this week to discuss Afghanistan, but the debate will focus for the most part on the organisation's own future. The alliance is faced with a conundrum. The old opposition between East and West has gone and new enemies have not as yet presented themselves. The traditional defence of its own territory is therefore no longer necessary and for this reason NATO has for more than ten years been active outside its area, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Success, however, has been evasive. NATO, with its large standing armies, has no idea how to win a guerrilla war against a rebel uprising.

NATO is looking for a new mission and the discussion around this has begun at this NATO summit. In the end this discussion must arrive at a new strategic concept., specifying what NATO must do and by what means. On just one of these available means, I have tried to stimulate discussion in parliament: nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons date from the time of the great East-West opposition. They are weapons which are employable only in the context of a major conflict. As we can see from history, their use would affect hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Now that the risk of such a conflict has virtually disappeared, these weapons have become superfluous.

The Dutch government recently, in a statement from Foreign Affairs minister Maxine Verhagen, said that it was also in favour of full nuclear disarmament. While it is true that the use of nuclear weapons is included in the existing strategic concept, nothing stands in the way of our nevertheless working towards nuclear disarmament. "Each country must try to move closer to this goal," Verhagen declared in his speech, which leads me to two thoughts.

Firstly, given his statement, Verhagen must surely object to having nuclear weapons on Dutch soil. In Volkel are stationed nuclear weapons designed to be delivered by F16 fighter planes, an extremely outmoded method which is no longer applicable. If we are to rid the world of nuclear weapons, we should begin with the Netherlands.

Secondly, Verhagen's statement should surely lead to the placing of NATO's approach to nuclear weapons on the agenda of its Bucharest summit. Given the issue's topicality I have presented a motion on this matter. "Now is the time to raise this," I suggested to the minister.

Unfortunately it turned out that Verhagen's speech had been nothing but fine words and that he was unwilling to deliver deeds to match them. He was not in the least prepared to put this subject on the agenda. "It isn't on the agenda and I'm not going to put it on the agenda," was his reaction. His fine speech in the Netherlands was therefore only intended for his immediate audience. Nothing but idle gossip, then. The Netherlands wants a world free of nuclear weapons, but not just yet.

Harry van Bommel, MP

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