Today's date:
  Summer 2003


Europe’s Strategy to Curb Weapons of Mass Destruction

George A. Papandreou is president in office of the Council of Ministers of the European Union and foreign minister of Greece. Anna Lindh is the Swedish foreign minister.

Athens—One of the greatest threats to international security today is terrorism. Tomorrow, it could be terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. If one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center or one of the suicide bombers in Morocco or Saudi Arabia had been carrying a tactical nuclear weapon or a "dirty bomb," the death toll could have reached a million.

This specter becomes ever more possible as more countries than ever either already possess weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles or are attempting to develop them. We know that many countries are in breach of their commitments under international non-proliferation agreements. We know that in many countries tactical nuclear weapons security is poor. We know that laboratories around the world have the capacity to develop biological weapons—and we all know what kind of damage a madman who had access to anthrax bacteria was able to wreak a year and a half ago. We know that the international mechanisms for preventing proliferation and exercising control are too weak, as the North Korean case demonstrates.

If we want to avoid worst-case scenarios and at the same time prevent military confrontations on this question, we should use all relevant means at our disposal—non-proliferation, export control, verification, inspection and disarmament—to address the most vital issues.

Specifically: We can never rely on all countries fulfilling their commitments under the international agreements they have signed if we fail to monitor compliance. Hence, we need effective instruments of inspection and verification. A mechanism to verify whether or not a country possesses biological weapons is equally crucial. But we will never be able to monitor all the laboratories in the world. Consequently, we must also strengthen the regulations governing trade in substances that can be used in the production of biological weapons.

Where chemical weapons are concerned, a verification and inspection regime already exists, but we must insist on a more active application of this regime. If we suspect a country is in the process of developing chemical weapons, we must make use of the "challenge inspections" option.

The proliferation of long-range missiles must be halted. The European Union has already induced some 100 states to adopt a code of conduct against the proliferation and production of and trade in ballistic missiles. We must now develop this into a legally binding regime, including provisions for monitoring, with universal adherence.

Naturally, it is nuclear weapons that pose the greatest threat. We must strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to deter other countries from starting nuclear weapons programs of their own.

Countries pursuing and developing nuclear weapons capabilities must be induced to accede to the treaty and permit international monitoring. Established nuclear weapons states should encourage them to do so, by living up to their own pledges to disarm. Smaller tactical nuclear weapons, which are relatively easy to steal and transport, present a particular problem. There are large numbers of these weapons, but our knowledge about them is sketchy. We need a binding and verifiable agreement on tactical nuclear weapons immediately.

These are just a few action points on which the EU and the United States could agree within the framework of a global strategy against weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat not just to the US and American interests. It threatens peace and security throughout the world. We cannot conceive of any area where close cooperation between the EU and the US is more urgent and more important than in dealing effectively with this threat.