2. Brief history of nuclear weapons
3. Perils of nuclear weapons
4. Need to eliminate nuclear weapons
5. Global zero initiative
6. Is this goal achievable? Yes:
a. Historical support
b. Political will
c. Strong public support
d. New leadership
7. How to achieve it? Procedure/Strategy:
a. Ratification of NPT/CTBT
b. Reduction by the US and Russia
c. Elimination by all nuclear states
d. Follow up: a control mechanism
8. Creation of International Nuclear Fuel-Bank
9. Advantages of nuclear zero
“This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons” (Barak Obama)
Man has achieved tremendous progress in developing scientific technology for the welfare and well-being of humanity, but simultaneously, he has also developed weapons for his own destruction.
To acquire power–the most flagrant of all passions–he created weapons including explosive, chemical, biological and nuclear.
Now, with the evolving of a multi-cultural globalized world, there is an increase in momentum to develop a consensus for achieving Global Zero- elimination of all nuclear weapons.
To succeed in this initiative, the need is to sit together, contemplate, devise a strategy and agree to divert this capability from weapons to the welfare of humanity.
The most resounding argument, generating the urge to achieve this surpassable task lies in the brief history of apocalyptic perils of nuclear weapons.
The perils of atomic weapons were manifest as the two cities of Japan were wreaked when the bombs were dropped on them. In Hiroshima, some 75,000 people were immediately killed by blast, fire, and radiation. Another 70,000 died by the end of 1945.
Three days later in Nagasaki, the plutonium bomb killed about 40,000 people immediately, another 75,000 died by the end of 1945.
Five days after Nagasaki’s flattening, Japan surrendered. But the impact didn’t stop there. Thousands of people died in the following years due to radiation. Tens of thousands became disabled. Not only the people present at the time suffered but the ‘unborn’ as well. Thousands of others were born with deformities and genetic disorders due to which successive generations have suffered.
The Americans and Japanese learned different lessons from these bombings. “The Americans lesson was; the nuclear weapons win wars and therefore have value. The Japanese learned that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist.” (David Krieger, President Nuclear Age Peace Foundation). However, the danger posed by nuclear weapons today is far greater than the destruction they caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Today, the number of nuclear weapons around the world is about 30,000 bombs with far greater weight and destruction power. Even a fraction of these weapons could put an end to humans as well as other species on our planet. It is clear that if we don’t achieve ‘Global Zero’, our planet is always at risk, of being converted into a ‘Ground Zero’. This could happen not only due to a deliberate act but also to an accidental incident.
The need to eliminate nuclear weapons is not only because these can be used for destruction in war but also because they pose an equal danger in times of peace. There have been “Close Calls” to annihilation on various occasions. [In 1995] President Boris Yeltsin was informed that a nuclear missile was speeding towards the heart of Russia.
Russian nuclear forces, already on hair-trigger alert, were put on an even higher alert. Russian policy called for a “launch on warning”. The fate of the planet hung in the balance. Yeltsin wisely waited. And within those moments, the alarm declared false. “An unimaginable nuclear disaster had barely been avoided”, declared America’s Defense Monitor, Center for Defence Information, December 26, 1999.
Another important incident took place in the US on August 31, 2007. Air Force crew loaded six live nuclear warheads onto an 8-52 Bomber and flew from ‘Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to ‘Barksdak Air Force Base’ in cruising over the country’s heartland (Around 15 states).
Each warhead was 10 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An analysis report, America’s Defence Science Board (DSB) revealed that ‘six of the planet’s most powerful weapons were missing and no one noticed until they had landed in Louisiana after flight of 3 ½ hours.’ The report concluded that ‘human error was at the heart of the incident.’
This incident underscores the risk of accidental nuclear explosion threat due to ‘human error’ even in the country of its origin and in the ‘peace times’.
It is important to note that this incident occurred in the US, which claims to employ the world’s best safety standards for nuclear weapons. While the US itself keeps expressing concern over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Therefore, wisdom calls for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in order to make the future of humanity—our generation and our future generations – safe and secure.
In addition, the Cold War which was the pushing force behind the nuclear race has ended two decades ago. Also due to the interdependence of states in the current scenario, there is unlikeness of revival of such conflicts.
Moreover, the presence of nuclear weapons in some states provides reason and pretext for other ambitious nations to acquire the same status. This unwise race has itself caused devastating effects on the economy and human development, particularly in developing countries.
One of the major world powers, the USSR too, collapsed under the heavy burden of extraordinary defense spending on the economy. The developing countries like India, Pakistan, and North Korea also joined the race. They did succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons but their poor population is suffering from abject poverty.
A country like Pakistan, which is merely surviving at the edge of economic insolvency, could gain much economic growth, had the resources been utilized for the welfare of people.
Iranians are bearing the sanctions imposed by western powers through the UN for pursuing nuclear technology, which according to them, is aimed at acquiring weapons.
Besides, the argument to possess nuclear weapons to maintain deterrence capability has also lost its ground. The more the states acquire ‘nukes’, the more the risk of their use builds up. Moreover, the presence of nukes always poses a risk of slipping into the hands of terrorists. Admiral Noel Gayler, former commander-in-chief of the Pacific Command of US Navy, asks, “Is the difference of nuclear weapons still possible?” He answers, “No”.
“Does it make sense to risk the future of our cities and even the human species on an unprovable theory?”, David Krieger, founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
This is why, fortunately, the initiative of achieving peace of the world without nuclear weapons is gaining support among both the senior military and the political leaders of the world.
The increasing number of leaders have realized what Abraham Lincoln said, “We must think anew and act anew.” Recently many world leaders have expressed willingness to move towards this goal.
British Prime Minister Gorden Brown said in March 2008 that the UK was ready to work for “a world that is free from nuclear weapons.” On December 5, 2008, Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, while holding EU Presidency, wrote a letter to UN General Secretary, outlining an EU plan to advance global progress toward nuclear disarmament.
In order to seize this positive trend, to achieve the commitment of the entire international community, and to re-energize effort for complete nuclear disarmament, a new initiative “Global Zero” was launched on December 9, 2008, in Paris.
The signatories included former US President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket, Queen Noor of Jordan, Ehsan ul Haq, former Joint Chief of the Staff Committee (JCSC) of Pakistan, former Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra.
There are many positive indicators that indicate why this goal is achievable. First; there is strong historical support. Throughout the nuclear age, even at the height of the Cold War, leaders foresaw a day when the world could be free of nukes.
In 1986, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan agreed that: “A nuclear war could never be won and must never be fought.”
In 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin stated: “There is no reason why nuclear weapons should not be comprehensively banned and completely destroyed.”
Second; as Jiang Zemin had emphasized in his statement, ‘What it takes to reach this objective is no more than a strong political will.’
The world leaders agree with the idea of a world without nukes and have the means to achieve it. What they only need is the ‘Political will’.
Some analysts argue that even if the major world powers agree to eliminate nuclear weapons, countries like Iran might not agree to abandon their ambition.
Though Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions are a fallacy, there is a strong reason why Iran would follow the course.
“If there is growing support by nuclear powers and public opinion worldwide, I think it becomes harder for any government, including Iran, to cross that barrier”, said Richard Burt, who was Washington’s chief negotiator in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) talks in the early 1990s. Naturally, no country can afford to be on the one side and the whole of the world on the other.
Third; there is strong support among the majority of the people around the world. A poll of 21 countries conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), USA, shows that global public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of an international agreement for eliminating all nuclear weapons. 76 percent of respondents, across all countries polled, favor such an agreement.
Fourth; at this time particular, there is a new and great opportunity. US President Barak Obama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have signaled to work on nuclear disarmament.
The former declared, “This is the moment to begin the works of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Similarly, Russian Prime Minister Putin expressed in a speech in September 2008 to “Close this Pandora’s Box”.
This new and unprecedented political support from the heads of the world’s most important governments’ for zero nuclear weapons has made this goal possible. This moment offers both the possibilities and dangers. Possibilities; because of new leadership in the US which appears to support the goal of nuclear abolition.
Dangers; because, if this moment passes without action, then the nuclear race could quickly gather pace with many more states acquiring weapons and the risk of weapons falling into the hands of terrorists would increase.
It is the time for a new beginning to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This moment calls for embracing possibilities and dispelling dangers. The phased and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons is possible.
Firstly; the ratification of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The NPT, which was sponsored by the US, UK, and the USSR, was aimed “to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapon technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament”.
The treaty was signed by 187 states and was ratified in 1975.
However, the US, its sponsors, did not ratify it. The other four countries which have not signed it are India, Pakistan, Israel, and Cuba. Similarly, CTBT, introduced in 1995, has not been ratified by many states, including the US.
“Early the US ratification would do much to encourage the few remaining states to follow suit,” wrote David Miliband, UK’s former Foreign Secretary, in The Washington Post on December 8, 2008.
Secondly; negotiations between Washington and Moscow should start to cut back nuclear stockpiles to a minimum. According to moderate estimates, the US and Russia have about 26000 of a total of 27000 weapons in the world.
As both these states possess the largest stockpiles—96 percent of all the nuclear weapons in the world—they should reduce their arsenal in the first step.
“Process needs to start with American and Russian leaderships”, argues Richard Burt.
The successful conclusion of ‘START NEW’ between both powers strengthens the possibility of reaching an agreement on nuclear disarmament.
Once the powerful countries lead the course, the rest will follow them. Perhaps others seem poised to welcome such a move.
The willingness of China, the UK, and France has already been mentioned. The two South Asian countries India and Pakistan are also ready to shun the nukes.
Last June, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, backed the same goal, saying that: “The only effective form of nuclear disarmament and elimination of nuclear weapons is global disarmament.”
President Zardari has also talked of “nuclear-weapon-free South Asia”. North Korea is already on-board in six-party talks and has also committed to abolishing nuclear weapons for economic incentives. The only country which has stayed silent is Israel which is an undeclared nuclear state. But given the leverage, Washington enjoys over it, Israel will have to be part of the process.
Lastly, having achieved the complete and verified elimination of nuclear weapons from the world, all the countries will have to conclude a joint treaty at the UN platform banning any development of nuclear weapons and technology
. As Queen Noor of Jordan told BBC, “We have to work on de-legitimizing the status of nuclear weapons.” This is vital for making the elimination of nukes irreversible. This would require establishing many mechanisms to constitute an eventual regime for overseeing the global ban.
The NPT also underscores ‘to promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And, every country has the right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
But given the element of conflict in international affairs and atmosphere of mistrust, all the countries can’t be trusted as reliable for not pursuing the ambitions of acquiring nuclear weapons again. This situation warrants a new approach, which would allow the use of nuclear energy and deny the weapons technology.
“An agreement on a new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) led system that would help states wishing to develop a civil nuclear energy industry to do so without increasing the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation,” says David Miliband.
The creation of such an international fuel bank would also end the conflicts in the world like the Iran Nuclear Issue. This novel idea has attracted the EU and an American billionaire ‘Warren Buffett’ for financing the project.
The resources that go into weapons would help keep people safe and healthy and to give them opportunities.
Nuclear power possesses tremendous energy and simultaneously it is clean energy. Its use in agriculture enhances crop yield which would help mitigate the food crisis.
Global Zero offers two-pronged benefits: achieving safety by eliminating nuclear weapons and achieving prosperity by using nuclear energy.
As Benazir Bhutto said, “We owe it to our children to build a world free of the threat of nuclear annihilation.”