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Eliminate the tools of future terrorism

Article in The Boston Globe

by Mikhail S. Gorbachev

Two weeks ago marked the anniversary of the historic exchange of mutual commitments between the United States and the Soviet Union on nuclear de-alerting
and disarmament. Together, these commitments amount to one of the deepest and most comprehensive programs to reduce the nuclear threat to date.

I am reminded of the importance of these historic Soviet-American agreements by the tragedies of Sept. 11. My first reaction to the attacks on the United States was
to send a cable to President Bush expressing my profound condolences and feelings of solidarity with the American people. These terrible crimes were committed not only
against the United States but against all humankind, which is now facing an unprecedented challenge.

Only by common efforts will we be able to find the effective response to this challenge.
Included in any long-term response must be a thoughtful analysis of the root causes of violence, fanaticism, and terrorism, and a strategy for dealing with them. It must be
responsible, wise, and effective.

The tragedy of Sept. 11 was a heartbreaking reminder of the fragility of life and civilization.
Like the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, it should make us think hard about the dangers posed by today's society, in particular weapons of mass destruction.

The detonation of just one nuclear warhead equals the impact of 100 Chernobyl explosions.
We must work together in reducing this ultimate danger, especially now during this time of crisis and uncertainty. I therefore encourage efforts to control the threat of nuclear weapons, too many of which are still intact more than 10 years after the end of the Cold War, still on alert within minutes of launch.

Indeed, one of my greatest regrets and concerns is that the decade of the 1990s was not used effectively to do away with the political, military, and environmental legacies of the Cold War.
The opportunities opened up by the end of that decades-long confrontation were missed; too often, the inertia of Cold War thinking defined the actions of our political leaders. Not nearly enough was done to redirect the resources of the world's leading powers to essential preventive tasks such as bridging the gap between rich and poor nations, healing the environment, feeding the impoverished, and keeping peace between potential enemies. Herein lie the roots of today's extremism.

I believe the steps that former President George Bush and I took 10 years ago to take nuclear weapons off high alert and to secure reductions in nuclear stockpiles can serve as a model for action today. A good place for both nations to start would be to abandon the Cold War policy of

If the United States and Russia were to stand down the thousands of nuclear weapons they still maintain on hair-trigger status, it would be a major step toward reducing the threat of nuclear war.

The time has come to relegate to the past the Cold War mind-set and dismantle the dangerous apparatus that it created. Let us remember that the United States and Russia are under the obligation they assumed by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to eventually eliminate
and abolish all nuclear weapons.

I attach equal importance to unilateral arms-reduction commitments and to bilateral and multilateral disarmament treaties. It would be a cause of great concern if major nuclear powers abandoned or neglected multilateral forums, or took steps that would endanger the entire structure of arms control treaties, many of which, such as the 1972 ABM Treaty, are of as much value today as they were during the decades of nuclear confrontation.

Nuclear powers should display special responsibility setting an example for the rest of the world and avoiding any steps that might lead to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
I address this request to all nuclear powers, not just Russia and the United States. It is time for the nuclear powers to reconsider their positions and to join the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

In my role as president of Green Cross International, I have continued to build upon the work we began with the INF, SALT, and START treaties, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the 1991 unilateral commitments of the United States and Russia.

Our organization has been a key player in the United States and in Russia to eliminate the threat of chemical weapons, to build new coalitions to facilitate their environmentally safe dismantlement,and to help encourage public engagement in the disarmament process. Now we are expanding our work toward reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, the single greatest environmental threat we face.

We will also need international institutions like the United Nations to play a much greater role if we are to deal successfully with the threats and challenges we are facing in this new century. But first and foremost, we must use this historic opportunity of heightened public awareness and concern to continue on the path toward the ultimate abolition of all weapons of mass destruction - nuclear,
chemical, and biological - before they abolish us.

Mikhail S. Gorbachev was the last president of the Soviet Union.
He is president of Green Cross International.

Mikhail Gorbaciov