Nuclear Weapons

Will Africa Say No to Nukes?

When two more African na­tions ratify the Pelindaba anti-nuclear weapons treaty, the globe’s Southern hemisphere will become a nuclear weapons-free zone. In March 2008, Mozambique unanimously ratified the treaty, and it is likely that Namibia and Zambia will follow suit in 2009. When that happens, Africa will join the other nuclear weapons-free zones of Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South­east Asia, and Central Asia. “The global majority is sending a signal to the small minority in the north that it is possible to secure your defense without these abominable weapons,” Jonathan Frerichs, from the World Coun­cil of Churches, told Sojourners.

Nuclear weapon-free zones, said Mozambique’s foreign minister when introducing the ratification bill, “are one of the most effective means of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promoting general and complete disarmament,” according to All­Africa news. No African countries have nuclear weapons. Under Nelson Mandela, South Africa became the only country to ever dismantle an existing nuclear weapons program.

The Pelindaba Treaty, unlike previous nonproliferation agree­ments, mandates that members dismantle and de­stroy any nuclear explosive device manufactured prior to the treaty coming into force. In addition, the treaty makes possible regulations on exporting uranium that require mining companies to certify the uranium for non-weapons use.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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The Dangerous Trade-off

Last fall, large majorities in Congress approved a U.S.- India nuclear trade agreement that allows full civil nuclear cooperation—the sale of fuel, technology, and reactors—to India. This agreement may provide opportunity for the U.S. nuclear industry, but it is a myopic tradeoff: It benefits corporations but threatens to escalate the global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

One big problem with the deal is that India could reprocess plutonium from civilian nuclear facilities for use in weapons. India has the necessary production capability; in fact, India tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and again in 1998, and is estimated to have stockpiled between 50 and 250 such weapons.

For three decades, the U.S. restricted nuclear commerce with India because of its refusal to comply with international nonproliferation standards for nuclear weapons. India is still one of only three states never to have signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Under the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, non-nuclear powers agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons technology. In exchange, nuclear powers would help them obtain nuclear energy for peaceful uses—and would commit to eventually eliminating their own nuclear arsenals.

But, far from working toward a nuclear weapons-free world, the U.S. is now encouraging India to flout the NPT. Nor has India ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, unlike 145 other countries. By legitimizing India’s nuclear program outside the regime of the NPT—that is, outside the commitment to global nuclear disarmament—the recent U.S.-India deal undermines the world’s security and the rule of law.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2009
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New Nukes Trounced

Last week, Congress refused - for a second time - to fund the Bush administration's demand for a new nuclear weapon system, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). However, cutting funding for the RRW is one of those big moves destined to generate little fanfare.

It is a little too technical and incremental to be heralded as a decisive step towards nuclear abolition, and yet the RRW program - which over the next decade or so would have upgraded the core workings of all U.S. nuclear [...]

'Toward a Nuclear-Free World'

In January 4, 2007, former Reagan administration officials George Shultz and Henry Kissinger joined Democrats William Perry and Sam Nunn in publishing “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” in TheWall Street Journal. A year later, this past January 15, the co-authors expanded on their original proposal in a second op-ed, “Toward a Nuclear-Free World.” The two titles describe a bold vision that must be worked toward with concrete actions.

The authors’ logic is simple: If we cling to our own nuclear weapons in contravention of our treaty obligations, we will not be able to prevent global proliferation and an undeterrable terrorist bomb. The only choice now is to lead the world toward the prohibition and verifiable elimination of all nuclear arsenals and bomb material.

No, really. Kissinger said that.

But this isn’t as surprising if you know the history of the 1986 Reykjavik summit, when Ronald Reagan proposed to Mikhail Gorbachev that they work together to abolish nuclear weapons. Reagan even suggested a victory party at which he and Gorbachev would return to Iceland in 10 years with the last two nuclear missiles, dismantle them, and “have a tremendous party for the whole world.”

That dream was scuttled by differences over missile defense. But on the 20th anniversary of Reykjavik, Reagan’s former staff gathered to consider the nuclear danger anew. The consensus document of that conference, endorsed by 16 top foreign policy officials from the Reagan administration, became the first Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The co-authors now have catalyzed a quiet effort to develop nuclear weapon abolition as a serious policy option. And more than two-thirds of the 24 living former national security advisers and secretaries of state and defense—from both parties—have given their general support to the project.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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