Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals

Arms Control Today, November/December 1996 | Go to article overview
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Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals


We, military professionals, who have devoted our lives to the national security of our countries and our peoples, are convinced that the continuing existence of nuclear powers, and the ever present threat of acquisition of these weapons by others, constitutes a peril to global peace and security and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect.

Through our variety of responsibilities and experiences with weapons and wars in the armed forces of many nations, we have acquired an intimate and perhaps unique knowledge of the present security and insecurity of our countries and peoples.

We know that nuclear weapons, though never used since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, represent a clear and present danger to the very existence of humanity. There was an immense risk of superpower holocaust during the Cold War. At least once, civilization was on the very brink of catastrophic tragedy. That threat has now receded, but not forever-unless nuclear weapons are eliminated.

The end of the Cold War created conditions favorable to nuclear disarmament. Termination of military confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States made it possible to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, and to eliminate intermediate range missiles. It was a significant milestone on the path to nuclear disarmament when Belarus, Kazakhastan, and Ukraine relinquished their nuclear weapons. Indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995 and approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the UN General Assembly in 1996 are also important steps towards a nuclear-free world. We commend the work that has been done to achieve these results.

Unfortunately, in spite of these positive steps, true nuclear disarmament has not been achieved. This permits the United States and Russia to keep their warheads in reserve storage, thus creating a "reversible nuclear potential." However, in the postCold War security environment, the most commonly postulated nuclear threats are not susceptible to deterrence or are simply not credible. We believe, therefore, that business as usual is not an acceptable way for the world to proceed in nuclear matters.

It is our deep conviction that the following is urgently needed and must be undertaken now:

First, present and planned stockpiles of nuclear weapons are exceedingly large and should now be greatly cut back;

Second, remaining nuclear weapons should be gradually and transparently taken off alert, and their readiness substantially reduced both in nuclear weapon states and in de facto nuclear weapon states;

Third, long-term international nuclear policy must be based on the declared principle of continuous, complete and irrevocable elimination of nuclear weapons.

The United States and Russia should-without any reduction in their military security-carry forward the reduction process already launched by START: they should cut down to 1000 to 1500 warheads each and possibly lower. The other three nuclear states and the three threshold states should be drawn into the reduction process as still deeper reductions are negotiated down to the level of hundreds.

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