Kazakhstan has chosen August 29 for the opening ceremony of the first Low Enriched Uranium Bank (LEU Bank), being established in Kazakhstan under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). August 29 also marks the International Day against Nuclear Tests as designated by the United Nations and this year on that day it is also the 60th anniversary session of the Pugwash movement of scientists aimed at nuclear disarmament, writes Colin Stevens.
The idea to establish the LEU bank was initially put forward in 2006 by Sam Nunn, co-founder of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a non-profit organization aimed at strengthening global security by minimizing the proliferation of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.
The IAEA authorised the initiative in 2010 and Kazakhstan volunteered the following year to host the bank.
Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev said “Instability and tension internationally affirm the urgency of Kazakhstan’s efforts in building a nuclear weapon-free world as the main goal of the humankind in the 21st century. Kazakhstan voluntarily destroyed the 1,400 nuclear weapons it inherited from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.”
The sides negotiated the terms of a host state agreement in 2011, and the official signing ceremony took place in August 2015 in Astana with the participation of Kazakhstan Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov and IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
“We are very young, we are 25 years old. But we, at the start of our independence back in 1992, were the fourth-largest nuclear power in the world,” said the foreign minister of Kazakhstan.
“And we have destroyed other means of the nuclear threat, the infrastructure for the delivery of nuclear weapons, the infrastructure for testing nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan was the first to close, at the end of Soviet days, the largest nuclear test site in the world, the Semipalatinsk test site, where 500 nuclear explosions took place,” he said, adding the LEU Bank is another example of Kazakh efforts to address the nuclear weapons issue.
“This is an important tool, a practical step in making sure that the world is a little bit safer in terms of the nuclear threat,” he said.
The LEU bank will operate as a mechanism of last resort; in case of unforeseen disruption in a commercial market of uranium, countries that are unable to procure uranium for their nuclear power plants can request LEU from the bank under certain conditions. Thus, it will ensure a global nuclear fuel supply and facilitate nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
The bank will be based at the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk in eastern Kazakhstan. The plant has dealt with and stored nuclear materials for more than 60 years without any incidents.
“As you can imagine, this is a very complex project. I am grateful to the Government of Kazakhstan for hosting the LEU Bank,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano
The funding is based on voluntary contributions from the NTI, the U.S., the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, Kuwait, and Kazakhstan, which in total equals to $150 million, believed to be enough to procure 90 tonnes of low enriched uranium.
International support and praise for Kazakhstan’s role is widespread.
“The government of Kazakhstan, by volunteering to host the LEU bank has further cemented its reputation as a world leader in promoting non-proliferation and nuclear security,” the White House said.
A senior source at the European Commission told this website that Kazakhstan deserves “much credit for its ongoing efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The EU appreciates President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s important leadership on non-proliferation spanning more than two decades.”
He added: “For the past two decades, Kazakhstan has been a strong advocate of nuclear non-proliferation and this is something that most certainly should not be under-estimated.
"The country is conducting a multi-vector foreign policy which is based on preventing war and to save the planet from nuclear weapons.”
NATO Secretary-General calls on EU to strengthen defence co-operation
EU leaders held a strategic debate on European security and defence policy (26 February), NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made it clear that part of NATO’s strategic plan for 2030, included strengthening cooperation with the European Union.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, herself a former German Minister for Defence, said: “There are scenarios where NATO is not engaged, but where the European Union is called upon. The European Union needs to be capable to do that. Therefore, Europe needs to develop its own capabilities that stop the fragmentation we have and to develop interoperable systems.”
The EU has taken steps to develop joint actions and has many joint projects. It has taken some important steps to develop its own capacity to act autonomously. In 2017, the EU finally agreed on Permanent Structured Co-operation (PESCO), which currently consists of around 50 projects that states can chose to participate. Many PESCO members are also NATO members. Ireland, for example, is a PESCO member, but not a NATO member, while Denmark is a NATO member, but chose not to participate in PESCO.
EU leaders are also committed to a new European Peace Facility for civil and military engagement, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) to assess resources, a new, but relatively under-resource, European Defence Fund and cooperation in space, cyberspace, the high seas and military access across the EU.
“We want to act more strategically, to defend our interests and to promote our values,” said European Council President Charles Michel, adding: “We are committed to cooperating closely with NATO, a stronger Europe makes a stronger NATO.”
The leaders all welcomed the prospect of renewing and strengthening cooperation with the new US administration on a strong and ambitious transatlantic agenda that included a close dialogue on security and defence.
Leaders invited the Commission to present, by October 2021, a technology roadmap for boosting research, technology development and innovation and reducing their strategic dependencies in critical technologies and strategic value chains. They also invited the Commission and the High Representative, Josep Borrell, to report on the implementation of the Cybersecurity Strategy by June 2021.
Bumped of the agenda of foreign ministers earlier in the week, the leaders asked the EU High Representative Borrell updated EU leaders on work towards a Strategic Compass, to guide future European action on security and defence, with a view to its adoption by March 2022.
Radicalization in the EU: What is it? How can it be prevented?
Radicalization is a growing cross-border threat. But what is it, what are the causes and what is the EU doing to prevent it? Radicalization is not a new phenomenon, but it is increasingly a challenge, with new technologies and the growing polarisation of society making it a serious threat throughout the EU.
The terrorist attacks in Europe over the last few years, many of which were perpetrated by European citizens, highlight the persistent threat of homegrown radicalization, which is defined by the European Commission as the phenomenon of people embracing opinions, views and ideas, which could lead to acts of terrorism.
Ideology is an intrinsic part of the radicalisation process, with religious fundamentalism often at its heart.
However, radicalisation is rarely fuelled by ideology or religion alone. It often starts with individuals who are frustrated with their lives, society or the domestic and foreign policies of their governments. There is no single profile of someone who is likely to become involved in extremism, but people from marginalised communities and experiencing discrimination or loss of identity provide fertile ground for recruitment.
Western Europe’s involvement in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Syria is also considered to have a radicalising effect, especially on migrant communities.
How and where do people become radicalized?
Radicalization processes draw on social networks for joining and staying connected. Physical and online networks provide spaces in which people can become radicalised and the more closed these spaces are, the more they can function as echo chambers where participants mutually affirm extreme beliefs without being challenged.
The internet is one of the primary channels for spreading extremist views and recruiting individuals. Social media have magnified the impact of both jihadist and far-right extremist propaganda by providing easy access to a wide target audience and giving terrorist organisations the possibility to use "narrowcasting" to target recruits or raise "troll armies" to support their propaganda. According to the 2020 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend report, over the last few years, encrypted messaging applications, such as WhatsApp or Telegram, have been widely used for co-ordination, attack planning and the preparation of campaigns.
Some extremist organisations have also been known to target schools, universities and places of worship, such as mosques.
Prisons can also be fertile ground for radicalization, due to the closed environment. Deprived of their social networks, inmates are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations and become radicalised, while understaffed prisons are often unable to pick up on extremist activities.
The EU’s fight to prevent radicalization
Although the main responsibility for addressing radicalization lies with the EU countries, tools have been developed to help at EU level:
- The Radicalization Awareness Network is a network of frontline practitioners from across Europe, such as teachers, policy officers and prison authorities, who work with people who have been or are vulnerable to radicalisation.
- Europol’s Internet Referral Unit scans the web for online terrorist material and refers it to host platforms. Since its creation in 2015, it has referred more than 130,000 pieces of content to internet companies (over 25,000 in 2019).
- In December 2020, the European Parliament endorsed the EU Security Union strategy 2020-2025 and the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda, which aims to prevent radicalisation by providing, for example, opportunities for young people at risk and supporting the rehabilitation of radicalized prisoners.
- At the end of 2020 Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on rules forcing online platforms to remove terrorist content within one hour. Endorsed by Parliament’s civil liberties committee, the agreement has to be formally approved by Parliament and the Council before entering into force.
US air force personnel arrive for first-ever Norway deployment
For the first time in Norway, more than 200 US Air Force personnel from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, with an expeditionary B-1 Lancer bomber squadron, will arrive to support upcoming Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions out of Orland Air Base, Norway. The Airman will be a part of the advance team for scheduled missions in the coming weeks which will occur for a limited time. Training for the US Air Force personnel will include a variety of areas ranging from operating in the high north to improving interoperability with allies and partners across the European theatre.
"Operational readiness and our ability to support Allies and partners and respond with speed is critical to combined success," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe and Africa commander. "We value the enduring partnership we have with Norway and look forward to future opportunities to bolster our collective defense."
In keeping with force health protection measures aligned with the Department of Defense, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Norwegian policy, all U.S. Air Force personnel will immediately practice a ten-day COVID-19 Restriction of Movement (ROM). All personnel were medically screened in Texas prior to arriving in Norway.
While details of specific missions or numbers of events are not discussed aspart of routine operational security standards, US Air Forces in Europe routinely host a variety of US aircraft and units across the theater insupport of USEUCOM objectives.
US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operationsacross Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and AtlanticOcean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilianpersonnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command isone of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.
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