Eliminate the tools of future terrorism
Article in The Boston
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
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
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
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
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.