Nuclear Weapons: What have we learned?

A nuclear fireball lights up the night in the United States nuclear test Upshot-Knothole Badger on April 18, 1953. (from Wikipedia)

A nuclear fireball lights up the night in the United States nuclear test Upshot-Knothole Badger on April 18, 1953. (from Wikipedia)

By Bronek Korczynski

In a world preoccupied with tragic regional conflicts and their sorrowful impact on humanity and the environment, there seems to be less inclination to consider the terrifying reality of the nuclear weapons in our midst.

During these years when we are commemorating the disasters of the First World War, it should not be lost on us that this conflict brought to the fore the destructive capacities of the new technologies as applied to warfare. Over 20 million deaths resulted from the use of these new (conventional) weapons.

But nuclear weapons were used twice later in the twentieth century, with horrific results. What lessons have been learned from these events? What lessons remain?

This year (2015) marks the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the United Nations in April, the Permanent Representative of the Catholic Church offered an impassioned plea to continue to work to remove the nuclear threat from our globe.

It is worth a read … and a follow-up action.

Do you agree? Let the Harper government know that Canada must be a voice for nuclear disarmament in the world. Sending snail mail to your MP and to the Prime Minister is always free of charge.


Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernadito C. Auza (Source)

Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York

At the Ninth Review Conference of the

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

New York, 29 April 2015

Madam President,

At  the  very  outset,  my  Delegation  wishes  to  express  its  solidarity  and  closeness  to  the  populations  struck  by  a  powerful  earthquake  in  Nepal  and  in neighboring countries.

Madam President,

My  Delegation  is  pleased  to  congratulate  you  and  the  Bureau  for  your election, and to assure you of its active participation and collaboration.

Madame President,

This  year  marks  the  seventieth  anniversary  of  the  nuclear  bombing  of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The victims are still with us. The Hibakusha are a living  testimony calling all of us to take the right decisions today if we do not want to face  similar situations tomorrow.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki  should be a reminder on the  importance of the NPT Review Conferences as an instrument to rid humanity of  the risks of nuclear war.  The very reason of the NPT is anchored in the dignity of  the  human  person  and  in  the  collective  recognition  of  the  catastrophic  humanitarian consequences of any nuclear detonation.  The world’s nuclear arsenals still contain far too many of these weapons.  The  theory of nuclear deterrence is too ambiguous to be a stable and global basis of  world security and international order. On the contrary, these weapons are per se  inhumane and unethical. This is why the NPT was negotiated. The hopes that have  been  placed  by  some  in  the  system  of  deterrence  as  a  strategy  for  preventing  nuclear weapons use and for providing a stable security did not deliver the sort of  peace and stability expected.

The  risks  of nuclear weapons are well known.  The nuclear weapons states and  non-nuclear  states  alike  are  aware  of  the  exceptional  instability  caused  by  these weapons. The instability is greater in some regions than  in others and more  acute  in  some  periods  than  others.  The  consequences  of  this  instability  are  too  important to be adopted as a basis for a genuine, peaceful and stable international  order. The NPT is far from the idea that the balance of terror is the best basis for  the political, economic and cultural stability in the world.  The  risks  and  the  instability  connected  with  the  existence  of  nuclear  weapons  are  an  urgent  call  to  take  concrete  and  effective  steps  to  address  this  situation by renewing collectively the commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and  nuclear disarmament which stand at the heart of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation  Treaty.  There is no  doubt that the safest and surest  path toward non-use is the  mutual and total renunciation of these weapons, and the effective dismantling of  the infrastructure on which they depend.  It is this vision  and  commitment  of  a future without nuclear weapons that brings us together. The NPT is an important  instrument  for  the  security  of  all.  The  failure  to  translate  in  good  faith  the  obligations contained therein constitutes a real threat to  the survival of humanity  as a whole.

Madam President,

The  discriminatory  nature  of  the  NPT  is  well  known.  The  discrimination between  countries  with  and  countries  without  nuclear  weapons  cannot  be  a  permanent solution.  This situation was meant to be provisory.  The status quo is unsustainable  and  undesirable.  If  it  is  unthinkable  to  imagine  a  world  where nuclear  weapons  are  available  to  all,  it  is  reasonable  to  imagine,  and  to  work  collectively for, a world  where nobody  has them.  Moreover, this  is  our reading of the letter and the spirit of the NPT.

The  very  possession  of  nuclear  weapons  will  continue  to  come  at  an  enormous  financial  cost.  The  expenditures,  current  and  projected,  represent  resources  that  could,  and  indeed  should,  be  put  toward  the  development  of  societies and people. Pope Francis put it strongly in his message to the President  of the Vienna Conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons:

“Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations. To prioritize such  spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources which would be far better  invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the  fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and  the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.”

In  fact,  the  world  faces  enormous  challenges:  extreme  poverty,  environmental problems, migration flows, military conflicts, economic crises, etc. Only  cooperation  and  solidarity  among  nations  is  able  to  confront  them.  To  continue  investing in  expensive  weapon systems  is paradoxical.  In particular, to  continue investing in the production and the modernization of nuclear weapons is not logical.  Billions are  wasted  each  year  to develop and maintain  stocks that will  supposedly never be used.  Is it not legitimate to ask the question whether these  investments are not in contradiction with the spirit of the NPT?

The  possession of nuclear weapons and the reliance on nuclear deterrence  have a very negative impact on the inter-relations of states. National security often  comes up in  discussions on  nuclear weapons.  This concept  shouldn’t be used in a partial and biased manner and never in contradiction with the common good.  All  States  have the right to  national security.  Why is it that  the  security  of some  can  only be  met with a particular type of  weapon,  whereas other States must  ensure  their security  without them?  On the  other hand,  reducing peace and  the security  of States, in practice,  to  its military dimension  is artificial and  simplistic.  Socioeconomic  development,  political  participation,  respect  for  fundamental  human  rights, strengthening the rule of law, cooperation and solidarity at the regional and  international  level,  etc.  are  essential  to  the  national  security  of  States.  Is  it  not  urgent  to revisit  in a transparent  and honest  manner  the definition  made by States,  especially the nuclear weapons states, of their national security?

We are all  aware that  the goal of a  world without nuclear weapons  is not easy to achieve. As many say, it is a complex and difficult issue. All human realities are  difficult and complex. But this is neither a reason nor an excuse not to implement  the obligations undertaken in conformity with the NPT.  For this,  all energies  and  commitments  are  necessary.  They  are  even  more  necessary  in  the  times  of international  tensions.  The  role  of  international  organizations,  religious  communities, civil  society, and academic institutions  is vital  to not let  hope  die, nor to let  cynicism and  realpolitik  take over.  Ethics based  on the threat  of mutually assured destruction is not worthy of future generations.

Lack of concrete and effective nuclear disarmament will lead sooner or later  to real risks of nuclear proliferation. This Review Conference is a challenge for all  States parties. Failure is not an option. The erosion of the credibility of the NPT  could  have  catastrophic  consequences  for  all  countries  and  for  the  future  of  humanity as a whole.

To conclude, I would like to quote again Pope Francis: “Nuclear deterrence  and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of  fraternity and peaceful coexistence among people and states. The youth of today  and tomorrow deserve far more. They deserve a peaceful world order based on the  unity  of  the  human  family,  grounded  on  respect,  cooperation,  solidarity  and  compassion.” This is the raison d’être of the NPT.

I thank you, Madam President.