Nuclear Weapons: The zero option

Nuclear weapons and their terrifying power to destroy us all are back on the agenda. Russia has just ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and START II treaties. The five main nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France – have pledged ‘unequivocally’ to ‘ultimately’ eliminate such weapons, though no timetable has been set. But critics at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference which ended in May, say the process is open ended and too slow. The time is right for two of the smaller nuclear states – Britain and France – to take a radical new initiative for progressive disarmament.

The World Today Updated 28 October 2020 Published 1 August 2000 6 minute READ

David Martin

Vice President, European Parliament

Michel Rocard

Former Prime Minister of France

For more than half a century, nuclear weapons have given a few heads of state the right of life and death over the rest of humankind. During the East-West conflict, that risk was considered legitimate because the survival of our civilisation was thought to be at stake. After the end of the Cold War, it was possible to hope that in the longer term the threat would fade and finally disappear.

In fact it looked as if that was going to happen. The agreements on the elimination of intermediate range weapons in 1987 and on the reduction of strategic weapons in 1991 and 1993, provided for significant cuts in the American and Russian arsenals.

Argentina, Brazil and South Africa gave up their military programmes. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine agreed to transfer all the weapons on their soil to Russia. China and France acceded to the Non- Proliferation Treaty, which was extended indefinitely in 1995.

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