Nuclear Disarmament, a case for inverted thinking? – Dr Penny Burns

With the Honduras, 50 countries have now ratified the UN Global Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty and there was much celebration. There are 84 signatories, so 34 are still to ratify. None of the 84 have nuclear weapons. Meanwhile countries that do, like the USA, Russia, the UK, France and China, India, Pakistan and North Korea (and likely Israel) have not signed.   Australia also has not signed. It does not have nuclear weapons but it does possess the uranium which makes them possible. So effectively those that have signed, even if they haven’t yet ratified, are those who have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

We are now just a few months away from the end of the ten year agreement between the USA and Russia to limit nuclear research and testing.

No wonder the world is getting nervous!

But is treating nuclear disarmament as a moral issue the most effective way forward?

It certainly is a moral issue, and ‘Ban the Bomb’ marches such as the one that I took part in last year, keep the issue in the public mind, but is this the most effective way to bring about change?

When we look at the issue clear eyed we can see that it is those who have nuclear weapons who are the most at risk, both physically and morally. They are the ones who have the difficult decisions to make, not the 84 signatories from the non-nuclear countries. And after the experience of Ukraine, a country that did have nuclear weapons but ceded them to Russia in the breakup of the USSR and then suffered the consequences, it is not surprising that those who currently possess nuclear arms are in no hurry to dispossess themselves.

So is it not time to invert our thinking?

Instead of collecting masses of signatories from non-nuclear nations, which only serves to make us feel we are doing something, when we really aren’t, perhaps we would be more effective if world organisations thought about how they could make things safer for nuclear weapons countries to dispossess, particularly for Russia and the USA.

I realise that thinking of nuclear armed nations as needing protection, rather than us being protected from them, is not the normal way of looking at the problem.  But this ‘inverted’ thinking might serve us well in all of our encounters with others.  It puts us all on the same side, rather than in ‘us v. them’ opposition. This idea can be used everywhere.

Below: This photo illustrates the short life span of major technologies. Kerry McGovern at the one of the sites built to implement the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), nicknamed the “Star Wars program“, by the USA in the 1980s. This dish is on Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The technology terrorised the Russians. By the time of her visit in 2007, it was a rusting hulk.
 

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