Byline: Sol Schindler, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Fifty-eight years ago, the United States effectively ended World War II by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan. Since then, atomic weapons have not been used in any conflict and the number of countries possessing them has remained limited. Nevertheless, so potentially catastrophic is their mere existence that they do present the "gravest danger."
In a book by that same name, eminent scientist Sidney Drell and seasoned diplomat James Goodby analyze what has occurred in the spread of atomic weapons and the danger the world now faces in their deployment. The authors do so in a sober manner, without the hyperbole that seems the hallmark of our age, but with a deadly seriousness that makes them all the more convincing.
Mr. Drell and Mr. Goodby view the non-use of atomic weapons during the past 58 years as a triumph of American diplomacy. True, the then-Soviet Union was equally aware that there could be no winner in an atomic war, and, was as anxious as we, that one should not take place. But it was American initiative and perseverance that played the significant role in building safeguards, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), against atomic weapons' use.
The demise of the Soviet Union brought both relief and new worries. The rigid control over all aspects of Soviet life loosened, creating the potential of misplaced, stolen or embezzled nuclear arms. This problem has been met in part by the Nunn-Luger Cooperation Threat Reduction Program, funded by Congress since 1992, which is methodically disposing of nuclear armaments in Eastern Europe. Enormous amounts of nuclear material remain, however, and the authors make this a compelling reason for greater and closer Russian-American cooperation.
In "The Gravest Danger," the authors list the following countries as having nuclear weapons: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. Israel has never acknowledged possession but everyone assumes it has them. North Korea pretends it has them and is working hard to secure them. Iran has laid the groundwork for an atomic bomb, and if it continues in that direction could have one in several years.