06:04 PDA Bulletin - an important reminder of a vital commitment
- Don't Forget Those Other 27,000 Nukes
by Hans Blix
Stockholm, Sweden -- During the Cold War, it proved possible to reach
many significant agreements on disarmament. Why does it seem so
impossible now, when the great powers no longer feel threatened by
Almost all the talk these days is about the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction to states like Iran and North Korea, or to
terrorists. Foreign ministers meet again and again, concerned that
Iran has enriched a few milligrams of uranium to a 4 percent level.
Some want to start waving the stick immediately. They are convinced
that Iran will eventually violate its commitment under the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty to forego nuclear weapons.
While it's desirable that the foreign ministers talk about Iran, they
don't seem to devote any thought to the fact that there are still
some 27,000 real nuclear weapons in the United States, Russia and
other states, and that many of these are on hair-trigger alert.
Nor do the ministers seem to realize that the determination they
express to reduce the nuclear threat is diminished by their failure
to take seriously their commitment, made within the framework of the
NPT, to move toward the reduction and elimination of their own
The stagnation in global disarmament is only part of the picture. In
the United States, military authorities want new types of nuclear
weapons; in Britain, the government is considering the replacement,
at tremendous cost, of one generation of nuclear weapons by another -
as defense against whom?
Last year a UN summit of heads of states and governments failed to
adopt a single recommendation on how to attain further disarmament or
prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For nearly
a decade, work at the disarmament conference in Geneva has stood
still. It is time for a revival.
One can well understand that policymakers in the United States, as
elsewhere, feel disappointment and concern that the global
instruments against nuclear proliferation - the NPT and international
inspection - have proved to be insufficient to stop Iraq, North
Korea, Libya and possibly Iran on their way to nuclear weapons.
This may help explain their inclination to use the enormous military
potential of the U.S. as either a threat or a direct means of
However, after three years of a costly and criticized war in Iraq to
destroy weapons that did not exist, doubts are beginning to arise
about the military method, and a greater readiness may emerge to try
global cooperation once again to reduce and eventually eliminate
weapons of mass destruction.
A report with 60 concrete recommendations to the states of the world
on what they could do to free themselves from nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons, worked out by an independent international
commission of which I was the chairman, is now available at
Apart from proposals for measures to prevent the spread of weapons of
mass destruction to more states and terrorists, the report points to
two measures that could turn current concerns about renewed arms
races into new hopes for common security. In both cases, success
would depend on the United States.
A U.S. ratification of the comprehensive test-ban treaty would, in
all likelihood, lead other states to ratify and bring all such tests
to an end, making the development of nuclear weapons more difficult.
Leaving the treaty in limbo, as has been done since 1996, is to risk
new weapons testing.
The second measure would be to conclude an internationally verified
agreement to cut off the production of highly enriched uranium and
plutonium for weapons purposes.
This would close the tap everywhere for more weapons material and
would be of special importance if an agreement on nuclear cooperation
with the United States were to give India access to more uranium than
it has at the moment.
It is positive that the U.S. has recently presented a draft cutoff
agreement, but hard to understand why this agreement does not include
international inspection. Do the drafters think that the recent
record of national intelligence indicates that international
verification is superfluous?
Hans Blix is a former chief UN weapons inspector.
Published on Thursday, June 8 2006 by the International Herald Tribune