BY MARIE BRAUN
Two days after Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, nations around the world will celebrate the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Wea-pons. This international treaty makes it illegal to “develop, test, produce, manufacture … use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.” The treaty was negotiated at the United Nations and has the support of over 120 countries, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, the Pope, the Dalai Lama and millions of ordinary people across the globe. This treaty is the product of work by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. This campaign was inspired by the successful international campaigns that led to the prohibition, under international law, of biological, chemical and other inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is unwilling to sign the treaty, and, in fact, boycotted the negotiations. The other eight nuclear nations—Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea—will not sign it either. In fact, the U.S. and the other nuclear powers are pursuing new nuclear weapons, even ones designed for battlefield use, rather than pursuing diplomatic courses to de-escalate tensions and reduce the chance that nuclear weapons will ever be used.
The U.S. could help avoid the possibility of a nuclear disaster by entering into arms control agreements with other nations. We can dismantle the 400 missiles that are on hair-trigger alert. We should preserve the treaties that have already been negotiated, including the Open Skies Arms Treaty, which increases confidence and transparency on military activities of states through information gathering from aerial imaging, and the Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty (INF), a treaty that bans missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles. President-elect Biden should also renew the New START Treaty, a nuclear arms reduction treaty, which expires in February 2021. President Putin has already expressed a willingness to extend this treaty for five years. As the cost of the escalation of the arms race and the modernizing and developing of nuclear weapons and other weaponry continues, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.
Disarming nuclear weapons is not a difficult process, since we have the technical expertise and verification procedures in place. The Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, is capable of disarming thousands of nuclear weapons in a relatively short time. In 1991, some 4,000 nukes in Europe were disarmed without a treaty under the cooperative leadership of President George Walker Bush, President Michel Gorbachev, William Perry, Sam Nunn and Sen. Richard Lugar.
We can continue this process of disarmament, but we need the political will and popular support to do so.
As citizens, we can call on our legislators to take immediate steps to alleviate the threat of nuclear war. In working toward this goal, we must confront the reality that one of the reasons our government has failed to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction from our arsenals is that there are 26 powerful corporations that profit from making nuclear weapons. And these companies have significant control over the reelection budgets of many legislators.
And lastly, the U.S., the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons, should take the lead in convening talks with the other eight nuclear nations with the goal of working toward the elimination of these horrendous weapons and becoming signatories of the new landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Impossible? Let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”