CAPE TOWN – Eliminating nuclear weapons is the democratic wish of the world’s people. Yet no nuclear-armed country currently appears to be preparing for a future without these terrifying devices. In fact, all are squandering billions of dollars on modernization of their nuclear forces, making a mockery of United Nations disarmament pledges. If we allow this madness to continue, the eventual use of these instruments of terror seems all but inevitable.
The nuclear power crisis at Japan’s Fukushima power plant has served as a dreadful reminder that events thought unlikely can and do happen. It has taken a tragedy of great proportions to prompt some leaders to act to avoid similar calamities at nuclear reactors elsewhere in the world. But it must not take another Hiroshima or Nagasaki – or an even greater disaster – before they finally wake up and recognize the urgent necessity of nuclear disarmament.
This week, the foreign ministers of five nuclear-armed countries – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China – will meet in Paris to discuss progress in implementing the nuclear-disarmament commitments that they made at last year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. It will be a test of their resolve to transform the vision of a future free of nuclear arms into reality.
If they are serious about preventing the spread of these monstrous weapons – and averting their use – they will work energetically and expeditiously to eliminate them completely. One standard must apply to all countries: zero. Nuclear arms are wicked, regardless of who possesses them. The unspeakable human suffering that they inflict is the same whatever flag they may bear. So long as these weapons exist, the threat of their use – either by accident or through an act of sheer madness – will remain.