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A total ban on nuclear arms to save the planet
© Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

A total ban on nuclear arms to save the planet

As a peace movement, we have a major responsibility for making the fight against nuclear weapons a priority.

The nuclear age started in 1945, in the New Mexico desert, when American scientists conducted "Trinity," the first nuclear weapons test. Just a few weeks later the world was witness to the cruel nuclear attacks against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed tens of thousands of civilians in a blink of an eye

The world saw the devastating effects of the atomic bomb and peace movements held big campains, marches and actions for nuclear disarmament. Nevertheless, throughout the first decades after the second World War the planet was in the grip of a nuclear arms race. It's only at the end of the sixties that the awarness grew that nuclear disarmement became necessary to save the planet from destruction. Under pressure of the peace movement humanity entered a hopeful area of believe that nuclear disarmament was possible and could be realised. Political leaders on all sides became aware of the extreme dangers of a nuclear war and the possession of nuclear weapons and agreed upon a series of disarmament and nonproliferation treaties.

A key moment was the signing of the non proliferation treaty in 1968, that came into force two years later, with its three pillars: to limit the spread of nuclear weapons; disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology. This was followed by other important treaties as SALT I & II, ABM, INF, Start I & II, CTBT… etc. Nuclear stockpiles were effectively being reduced. But unfortunately, there still are nearly 14.000 nuclear weapons and the first two central ideas of the NPT never fully materialised.

Four New states developed nuclear arms and contrary to the NPT, nuclear armed states modernise and develope new nuclear weapon systems. There is a continuing preparation for nuclear war – as we see in nuclear doctrines – a daily practice of nuclear blackmail and the growing risk of miscalculations and accidents that are bringing humanity to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. Since last year the doomsday clock has been put forward to two minutes before midnight. Never before we have been so close to nuclear nightmare. According to the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this is due to world leaders that not only failed to deal adequately with nuclear and climate threats, but also to the fact that they increased these threats “through a variety of provocative statements and actions, including careless rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons and the wanton defiance of scientific truths.”

Let’s face it. The world’s arms control architecture that has been built over the last decades is collapsing. In June 2002 the United States withdrew unilaterally from the ABM-treaty, leading to its termination. And especially, last year was a disastrous year! The US unilaterally withdrew from a multilateral nuclear agreement that prevented IRAN from producing nuclear weapons, while Iran reportedly adhered scrupulously to the agreement. That same year Trump announced that the US would pull back from the INF treaty. Hence this year, August 2, the INF treaty stopped to exist. The 1987 INF treaty ensured the elimination of 2,700 of the most destabilizing nuclear weapons and put an end to the nuclear arms race between the US and the then Soviet Union. Millions of people in Europe protested in the 1980s against the placement of these weapons of mass destruction in our countries. Now, nothing can hold back the US and Russia from re-producing nuclear weapons with a range between 500 and 5500 km. and that is exactly what the US-military announced. Only a few weeks ago, the US tested for the first time a cruise missile previously banned by the INF-treaty against medium-range missiles.

What’s next? The New-START treaty that limits the amount of deployed strategic nuclear weapons between the US and Russia expires in 2021. John Bolton - Trump's national security adviser - called it "unlikely" that New-START will be extended after 2021. Although, Bolton has been relieved of his duties recently, the question is open if this will be enough to save New START?

And while international treaties are falling apart new nuclear weapons are put in place: the American tactical B61 nuclear bombs in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey will be replaced by a modern B61-12 version. Russia has announced the first regiment armed with the Avangard weapons would take up combat duty by the end of 2019. Avangard is a strategic missile system with an intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with a planning hypersonic winged combat unit- that could be outfitted with a Nuclear Warhead up to 2 Megaton! That is more than 130 times the nucleair explosion on Hiroshima!

For the first time in decades, the frightening reality of a world without any kind of nuclear weapons control emerges! Every nuclear weapon state can simply produce and deploy as many nuclear weapons as it wants. It looks like we're once again saddled/confronted? with a nuclear weapons race!

The one bright spot is that the majority of the states worldwide is aiming for a total ban of nuclear arms. On July 7 2017 after long but fruitful negotiations, 122 nations voted a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). 70 countries signed the treaty. That’s a hopeful development and for us as a peace movement, it should be an important political target to convince our governments to join this new important treaty in stead of boycotting it.

For all this we need a strong Peace Movement. So what is the current state of the Peace Movement? Today the peace movement is far from as strong as it used to be and it is facing difficulties in finding a structural connection with the younger generations. However, the peace movement stays absolutely right to defend the international legal system, with the UN Charter and the disarmament regime that it helped bring about, hopefully soon extended with the TPNW! Another plus for the peace movement is that it stands up for the people's interests, and not those of the economic or militarist oligarchies prepared to kill people in the name of power and profits.

As a peace movement, we have a major responsibility for making the fight against nuclear weapons a priority.

I want to conclude with some priorities for the Peace Movements:

First. We must demand our place more forcefully, and with active, creative and above all clear forms of action and communication, addressing young people. My personal view is that we need to put far more energy into this, for instance into street demonstrations and digital actions. Is it for example not time for new, major mobilisations or more relentless forms of civil disobedience to protect the interests of the majority and make ourselves more visible? Have we not become too much lobbyists and neglected direct contact with the people?

Second. We would benefit from better maintaining and deploying alliances across the various sectors. That was the successl formula of the mass mobilisations of the 1980s against the installation of new nuclear missiles, which resulted eventually into the INF treaty. Environmental movements, trade unions, North-South solidarity movements, youth-, women's- and anti-racist organisations could all reinforce each other. This should include a better international grounding. Our connections are our strength. We need to work together with the young climate movement to help us putting nuclear arms back on the top of the political agenda’s

Third. A European campaign against the stationing of new nuclear bombs, conducted in cooperation with the US peace movement, seems to me now an absolute must. We must make every effort for a ban on nuclear weapons, penalise banks for investing in the production of nuclear arms, and name and shame politicians for their refusal to support nuclear disarmament, on the grounds that nuclear weapons are an infringement of international humanitarian law. In particular in Europe we need a strong cross border coalition againts the new deployment of the new B612 bomb, but also against the possibility of a deployment of new conventional or nuclear middle range missiles.

 

Fourth. Our sound ideological foundation in which the importance of solidarity, of justice, diversity, peace and respect for the environment are central, remains fundamental. We must continue to stress that a policy of peace is realistic, and a policy of war extremist. Quitting NATO and dissolving the alliance are not radical ideas, but simple logic. In opposition to expensive militarisation we must bring a coherent story to the table, a story of disarmament coupled with peaceful coexistence, cooperative security, investment in human security and a preventive approach to the causes of violent conflicts. This broad vision of peace is a condition for building coalitions with other social movements.

 

In sum, we have the potential to have a huge impact again!

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