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Earl Turcotte – Letter to The Hill TimeAs. Published in modified form on Nov. 2, 2020.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), negotiated in 2017 has been endorsed by 122 nations. Since that time, 50 nations have signed and ratified the Treaty, triggering its entry into force in 90 days.
While most of the world will celebrate this historic event, almost 75 years to the day after the UN’s first-ever resolution that called for the elimination of atomic weapons, the United States of America is doing its level best to sabotage the Treaty.
In a now widely circulated ‘non-paper’ sent to countries that have joined the TPNW, the US registers its outrage and requests that they withdraw from the Treaty. Why? Among the long list of reasons cited by the Americans, because “Russia and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) are engaged in a nuclear arms buildup with the goal of military dominance that if left unimpeded, will result in a new nuclear arms race. Should they succeed, the result will be profoundly negative for the future of the democratic way of life… And let’s be frank: The TPNW will not stand in Russia’s or the PRC’s way in remaking the global order in their own cynical, autocratic image.”
Leave aside that China has approximately 300 nuclear weapons, compared to the US and Russia that have 6,000 each and that the US spends more on defence each year than the next 10 countries combined. It is precisely this kind of ham-fisted rhetoric, combined with the US’ own actions in recent years, that render nuclear disarmament a global imperative.
The United States itself triggered the new nuclear arms race when it announced that it would budget $1.5 Trillion dollars over the next 30 years to ‘modernize’ its nuclear arsenal. Donald Trump, in addition to increasing tension with adversaries and allies alike, has threatened “fire and fury” on North Korea, withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran and the Intermediate-range Nuclear forces Treaty with Russia, stated his intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and has not to date agreed to renew the critically important New START Treaty with Russia that will expire in February 2021 – despite repeated offers by Russia to extend the Treaty without preconditions.
While there is indeed cause for concern about an ascendant China and Mr. Putin’s clear longing for the glory days of the former USSR, it is lunacy to engage in this kind of brinkmanship. All hell could break loose – deliberately or accidentally – plunging the world into an existential crisis that could make a global pandemic feel like a day at the beach.
What to do? Looking (and praying) for change south of our border after November 3rd, Joe Biden has indicated that, if elected, he would try to scale back Trump’s buildup in nuclear weapons spending and would make the US less reliant upon the world’s deadliest weapons. There could be an opportunity here, to engage a more rational and mature administration in the United States. Either way, the rest of the world has to make it clear to all nuclear armed states that enough is enough! We’ve got to get rid of these damned weapons before they get rid of us!
Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons