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The Poisoned Umbrella

Those engaged with the grim business of nuclear weapons are as prone as any other in-crowd to spout chunks of jargon that mystify the general public. One of these is “umbrella states”. By this is meant countries that shelter (or pretend to shelter) under the nuclear weapons of another state. Mostly this is about the US arsenal. The US proudly describes its umbrella as – here's another mystifying phrase – its “extended deterrence” - so its nukes (and the threat of them) are not just to defend the US but are used to protect others states. Among the US umbrella states are the members of NATO, South Korea, and Japan.

And the poison? One toxin is the real uncertainty that the umbrella would in fact be in place if there was real danger, an actual attack, conventional or nuclear. How much trust can reasonably be placed in a world power which puts its own interests first? The second toxin is based on how the umbrella offer is used to keep client states in line – a sort of protection racket. But it is the third element in the venom that is most deadly. A nation that welcomes the proffered umbrella accepts that nuclear weapons may be used on its behalf and thus could become party to mass murder and, potentially, a global catastrophe.

There are also confusions. Is Australia an umbrella state, as some of its previous administrations seemed to accept? And what about the new NATO states, Finland and (soon) Sweden? They have had in the past a wish to be nuclear free, but as members of NATO, with its hardened stance as a nuclear weapon alliance, how can they maintain that aspiration? What they now need to do is to make a clear declaration that they are not umbrella states and that nuclear weapons (in the form of threat or for real) must under no circumstances be used to protect them or their interests, or in retaliation for a nuclear attack.

Without such a declaration a NATO state must be deemed to be an umbrella state. Looking ahead to when Scotland is independent we need to declare that:

  1. We absolutely refuse to shelter under a “nuclear umbrella” and we affirm that nuclear weapons must under no circumstances be used to protect us or our interests, or in retaliation for a nuclear attack;

  2. We will accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), thus aligning with the majority of the world's nature who reject these inhumane weapons.


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