The Vanishing Bomb

WARSAW – The agreement by the American and Russian presidents to renew strategic arms reductions has revived hope for the global abolition of nuclear arms. The urgency can hardly be exaggerated: nuclear weapons may come into the possession of states that might use them, as well as of stateless terrorists – creating new threats of unimaginable proportion.

A noble dream just several years ago, the elimination of nuclear arms is no longer the idea only of populists and pacifists; it has now been adopted by professionals – politicians known for their realism and academics known for their sense of responsibility.

The invention of nuclear weapons – which served the goal of deterrence during the Cold War, when the world was divided into two opposing blocs – answered the needs and risks of the time. Security rested on a balance of fear, as reflected in the concept of mutually assured destruction.

In that bipolar world, nuclear weapons were held by only five global powers, all permanent members of the UN Security Council. Today, the global picture is different. Sparked by Poland’s Solidarity movement, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the bipolar world and its East-West divide vanished.