Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can the "Superpowers" Abolish Nuclear Weapons?

One of the arguments I often hear from supporters of nuclear weapons and skeptics of nuclear disarmament in the United States is that Russia would never agree to fully abolish nuclear weapons, so there is no reason to even pursue it.

Next week (October 11-12) is the 25th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit, where Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev came close to an agreement to abolish all strategic nuclear weapons within 10 years.

Can you imagine? In the thick of the Cold War, the Presidents of the United States and the Soviet Union seriously discussed getting rid of all of their nuclear weapons, and almost accomplished it. Of course, there would have been a lot of details to work out - among them tactical nuclear weapons and missile defense (Reagan's insistence upon missile defense is what ultimately derailed the summit).

So why is it that now, 20 years after the Cold War ended, there are still over 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world? Why do the US and Russia each have about 1,000 nuclear weapons on high-alert? Come on, President Obama and Prime Minister Medvedev. If Reagan and Gorbachev can almost accomplish it, certainly you can at least start talking about it! A Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons is within reach if the leaders will lead.

For more background on the Reykjavik Summit of 1986, see NAPF President David Krieger's essay "Looking Back at Reykjavik."

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