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Tom Mludzinski: Nuclear disarmament is vital

Tom Mludzinski, a Warwick University student and Research Assistant for BASIC, wants more momentum towards a nuclear weapon free world.

Obama’s slogan is simple and effective… Yes we can. It can be applied to anything and yet it rarely is. His brilliant and inspiring speeches succeed in breeding hope and inspiration, but what can the change be? Try putting this question in front of Obama’s beloved answer: Nuclear disarmament? … Yes we can. 

The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) aim to see a nuclear weapon free world, although this sounds impossible and the inevitable first reaction is ‘it will never happen’ there are movements to suggest otherwise. Barack Obama and indeed David Cameron talk of real change, new agendas, making a difference, so why not. Nuclear disarmament? Yes we can.

January 4th 2007 saw a seismic shift in movement toward a nuclear weapon free world when a group of former Secretaries of State and Defense published an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. The politicians involved are not those you may expect. Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Sam Nunn and William Perry, hardly representatives of the liberal-left wing of American politics, but nevertheless concerned about the threat nuclear weapons pose to the world. Twelve months later they produced a follow up highlighting the urgency of the need to disarm.

If Obama wins the Presidency will he do anything about nuclear disarmament? He says he will, “I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” If he wants to prove that he is not just talk, and he really does want to make a difference, offer hope, surely moving towards nuclear disarmament is a great way of doing it. Not only would it show substance and sincerity but the alternative to not disarming is frightening. When addressing an audience including Douglas Hurd, Geoffrey Howe and other Tory ex-Cabinet members, Schultz outlined how he believed that the US and UK were rapidly becoming the most likely places where nuclear weapons would be used. He believes that these attacks would be carried out either by terrorists or states with a less than effective deterrent relationship with us. Obviously the argument of having nuclear weapons as a deterrent does not apply to terrorists who are willing to blow themselves up, while trusting the likes of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to act rationally is always a risk. 

The Nuclear Proliferation Treaty provides the best hope towards disarmament, with 189 signatories. Those not signed up make for uncomfortable reading: India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. The Treaty requires ‘Nuclear Weapon States’ to engage in negotiations for disarmament as well as agreeing not to transfer "nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices" and "not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce" a non-nuclear weapon state to acquire nuclear weapons.

Having a nuclear weapon is becoming a badge of honour, a way of getting noticed, even establishing power and so is becoming extremely attractive to the likes of Iran, India, Pakistan, North Korea and possibly increasingly to other second tier states such as Brazil, Egypt, Turkey and some Gulf States.  The more states with nuclear weapon capability, the more dangerous the global situation becomes, and the more likely that this capability will fall into the wrong hands. 

Can it be done? Reagan came close, Bush is reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons, Brown told the Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi that his government will be at the forefront of global efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. He and Sarkozy recently pledged to reinforce non-proliferation. The biggest challenge is to make disarming seem possible. Having the likes of Kissinger et al raise the issue brings credibility and moves talk of disarmament away from ‘airy-fairy, loony-lefty, ambition’ to political reality. Now is the time to build on that momentum. It’s not an easy or a short battle, but a worthwhile one. It may take years, possibly decades but the consequences could secure stability in some of the most dangerous regions. 

So, nuclear disarmament? Yes we must.


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