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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 34 New Delhi August 10, 2019

Threat from Nuclear Weapons is Increasing

Sunday 11 August 2019, by Bharat Dogra


Nuclear weapons have been with us for 74 years. The potential of nuclear weapons to cause catastrophic damage and pose an existential threat to all forms of life is so high that the world should have got rid of these weapons a long time back, but instead what we see in year 2019 is that our world has nearly 1450 nuclear weapons and in several important contexts the threat from these weapons has increased in recent times.

It is true that some years back some agreements reached between the USA and Soviet Union/Russia led to reduction in the total number of reported weapons. But were the weapons actually eliminated? A recent UN document has stated, “As of 2018, while the number of deployed nuclear weapons has appreciably declined since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are under way.” What is more important, existing treaties (for restricting nuclear weapons) between the USA and Russia are not being renewed.

The nine nuclear weapon countries have been making big investments in modernising their nuclear weapon systems. Overall tensions between some of these countries have been increasing. The chances of more countries going in for the nuclear weapons option are increasing. At the same time the possibility of a very destructive war started in the name of preventing all this is even nearer.

The possibilities of accidental use of nuclear weapons remain high. Such grave risks have been highlighted in several reliable publications such as In the Limits of Safety by Scott Sagan. With the weapon delivery systems becoming more and more rapid, the chances of catastrophic destruction triggered by human error or misunderstanding are becoming higher while the possibility of correcting a mistaken action in time are becoming lesser.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has said in its latest statement, “ The global nuclear order has been deteriorating for many years...The architecture of nuclear arms control built over half-a-century continues to decay...”

What we need to learn from failed efforts made earlier is that the only effective answer to this problem is complete worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction. Half-hearted and half-way solutions will simply not work.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was right on mark when he stated recently, “The only sure way to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons is to eliminate the weapons themselves.” This should be one of the topmost priorities for our deeply threatened world in the near future.

The author is the Coordinator, Save the Earth New Campaign.

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