20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War
by Alan F. Phillips, M.D.
Ever since the two adversaries in the Cold War, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., realized that their nuclear arsenals were sufficient to do disastrous damage to both countries at short notice, the leaders and the military commanders have thought about the possibility of a nuclear war starting without their intention or as a result of a false alarm. Increasingly elaborate accessories have been incorporated in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems to minimize the risk of unauthorized or accidental launch or detonation. A most innovative action was the establishment of the “hot line” between Washington and Moscow in 1963 to reduce the risk of misunderstanding between the supreme commanders.
Despite all precautions, the possibility of an inadvertent war due to an unpredicted sequence of events remained as a deadly threat to both countries and to the world. That is the reason I am prepared to spend the rest of my life working for abolition of nuclear weapons.
One way a war could start is a false alarm via one of the warning systems, followed by an increased level of nuclear forces readiness while the validity of the information was being checked. This action would be detected by the other side, and they would take appropriate action; detection of the response would tend to confirm the original false alarm; and so on to disaster. A similar sequence could result from an accidental nuclear explosion anywhere. The risk of such a sequence developing would be increased if it happened during a period of increased international tension.
On the American side many “false alarms” and significant accidents have been listed, ranging from trivial to very serious, during the Cold War. Probably many remain unknown to the public and the research community because of individuals’ desire to avoid blame and to maintain the good reputation of their unit or command. No doubt there have been as many mishaps on the Soviet side. One has been reported in which a Russian officer, on 23 September 1983, decided on his own initiative not to report an apparently grave warning on his computer screen, in the correct belief that it was a false warning. He may have saved the world, but was disgraced for failing to follow his orders; his career was ruined, and he suffered a mental breakdown.
Working with any new system, false alarms are more likely. The rising moon was misinterpreted as a missile attack during the early days of long-range radar. A fire at a broken gas pipeline was believed to be enemy jamming by laser of a satellite’s infrared sensor when those sensors were first deployed.
The risks are illustrated by the following selections of mishaps. If the people involved had exercised less caution, or if some unfortunate coincidental event had occurred, escalation to nuclear war can easily be imagined. Details of some of the events differ in different sources: where there have been disagreements, I have chosen to quote those from the carefully researched book, “The Limits of Safety” by Scott D. Sagan. Sagan gives references to original sources in all instances.
These examples represent only a fraction of the false alarms that have been reported on the American side. Many on both sides probably remain unreported, or are hidden in records that remain classified.
1956, Nov.5: Suez Crisis coincidence.
British and French Forces were attacking Egypt at the Suez Canal. The Soviet Government had suggested to the U.S. that they combine forces to stop this by a joint military action, and had warned the British and French governments that (non-nuclear) rocket attacks on London and Paris were being considered. That night NORAD HQ received messages that: (i) unidentified aircraft were flying over Turkey and the Turkish air force was on alert (ii) 100 Soviet MIG-15’s were flying over Syria (iii) a British Canberra bomber had been shot down over Syria (iv) the Soviet fleet was moving through the Dardanelles. It is reported that in the U.S.A. General Goodpaster himself was concerned that these events might trigger the NATO operations plan for nuclear strikes against the U.S.S.R.
The four reports were all shown afterwards to have innocent explanations. They were due, respectively, to: (i) a flight of swans (ii) a routine air force escort (much smaller than the number reported) for the president of Syria, who was returning from a visit to Moscow (iii) the Canberra bomber was forced down by mechanical problems (iv) the Soviet fleet was engaged in scheduled routine exercises.
1961, Nov.24: BMEWS communication failure.
On the night of 24 November 1961, all communication links went dead between SAC HQ and NORAD. The communication loss cut off SAC HQ from the three Ballistic Missile Early Warning Sites (BMEWS) at Thule (Greenland,) Clear (Alaska,) and Fylingdales (England,). There were two possible explanations facing SAC HQ: either enemy action, or the coincidental failure of all the communication systems, which had redundant and ostensibly independent routes, including commercial telephone circuits. All SAC bases in the United States were therefore alerted, and B-52 bomber crews started their engines, with instructions not to to take off without further orders. Radio communication was established with an orbiting B-52 on airborne alert, near Thule. It contacted the BMEWS stations by radio and could report that no attack had taken place.
The reason for the “coincidental” failure was that the redundant routes for telephone and telegraph between NORAD and SAC HQ all ran through one relay station in Colorado. At that relay station a motor had overheated and caused interruption of all the lines.
[NOTE: Long after I wrote this, a reader informed me that he was a technician at Plattsburgh Air Force Base at the time. The order reached that Base as an “Alpha” alert, the highest level, at which nuclear-armed bombers were to fly direct to their targets and bomb, without waiting at the failsafe point for further orders. Before any bomber could take off the correction arrived making it a third-level “Cocoa” alert, at which the bombers stayed on the runway with engines running and waited for further orders. If even one bomber had taken off, it might have been very difficult to recall it or stop it.]
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS LASTED FOR THE TWO WEEKS 14-28 OCTOBER 1962. MANY DANGEROUS EVENTS TOOK PLACE IN RELATION TO THE CRISIS, SOME OF THEM BECAUSE OF CHANGES MADE TO ENHANCE MILITARY READINESS. ELEVEN HAVE BEEN SELECTED:
1962, Aug.23: B-52 Navigation Error.
SAC Chrome Dome airborne alert route included a leg from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, SW across the Arctic Ocean to Barter Island, Alaska. On 23 August 1962, a B-52 nuclear armed bomber crew made a navigational error and flew a course 20 degrees too far towards the north. They approached within 300 miles of Soviet airspace near Wrangel island, where there was believed to be an interceptor base with aircraft having an operational radius of 400 miles.
Because of the risk of repetition of such an error, in this northern area where other checks on navigation are difficult to obtain, it was decided to fly a less provocative route in the future. However, the necessary orders had not been given by the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October, so throughout that crisis the same northern route was being flown 24 hours a day.
Aug.-Oct.1962: U2 flights into Soviet airspace.
U2 high altitude reconnaissance flights from Alaska occasionally strayed unintentionally into Soviet airspace. One such episode occurred in August 1962. During the Cuban missile crisis on October of 1962, the U2 pilots were ordered not to fly within 100 miles of Soviet airspace.
On the night of 26 October, for a reason irrelevant to the crisis, a U2 pilot was ordered to fly a new route, over the north pole, where positional checks on navigation were by sextant only. That night the aurora prevented good sextant readings and the plane strayed over the Chukotski Peninsula. Soviet MIG interceptors took off with orders to shoot down the U2. The pilot contacted his U.S. command post and was ordered to fly due east towards Alaska. He ran out of fuel while still over Siberia. In response to his S.O.S., U.S. F102-A fighters were launched to escort him on his glide to Alaska, with orders to prevent the MIG’s from entering U.S. airspace. The U.S. interceptor aircraft were armed with nuclear missiles. These could have been used by any one of the F102-A pilots at his own discretion.
1962, Oct.24: Russian satellite explodes.
On 24 October a Soviet satellite entered its own parking orbit, and shortly afterward exploded. Sir Bernard Lovell, director of the Jodrell Bank observatory wrote in 1968: “the explosion of a Russian spacecraft in orbit during the Cuban missile crisis… led the U.S. to believe that the USSR was launching a massive ICBM attack.” The NORAD Command Post logs of the dates in question remain classified, possibly to conceal reaction to the event. Its occurrence is recorded, and U.S. space tracking stations were informed on 31 October of debris resulting from the breakup of “62 BETA IOTA.”
1962, Oct.25: Duluth intruder.
At around midnight on 25 October, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center saw a figure climbing the security fence. He shot at it, and activated the “sabotage alarm”. This automatically set off sabotage alarms at all bases in the area. At Volk Field, Wisconsin, the alarm was wrongly wired, and the Klaxon sounded which ordered nuclear armed F-106A interceptors to take off. The pilots knew there would be no practice alert drills while DEFCON 3 was in force, and they believed World War III had started.
Immediate communication with Duluth showed there was an error. By this time aircraft were starting down the runway. A car raced from command centre and successfully signalled the aircraft to stop.
The original intruder was a bear.
1962, Oct.26: ICBM Test Launch.
At Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, there was a program of routine ICBM test flights. When DEFCON 3 was ordered all the ICBM’s were fitted with nuclear warheads except one Titan missile that was scheduled for a test launch later that week. That one was launched for its test, without further orders from Washington, at 4 a.m. on the 26th.
It must be assumed that Russian observers were monitoring U.S. missile activities as closely as U.S. observers were monitoring Russian and Cuban activities. They would have known of the general changeover to nuclear warheads, but not that this was only a test launch.
1962, Oct.26: Unannounced Titan missile launch.
During the Cuba crisis, some radar warning stations that were under construction and near completion were brought into full operation as fast as possible. The planned overlap of coverage was thus not always available.
A normal test launch of a Titan-II ICBM took place in the afternoon of 26 October, from Florida towards the South Pacific. It caused temporary concern at Moorestown Radar site until its course could be plotted and showed no predicted impact within the United States. It was not until after this event that the potential for a serious false alarm was realized, and orders were given that radar warning sites must be notified in advance of test launches, and the countdown be relayed to them.
1962, Oct.26: Malmstrom Air Force Base.
When DEFCON 2 was declared on 24 October, solid-fuel Minuteman-1 missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base were being prepared for full deployment. The work was accelerated to ready the missiles for operation, without waiting for the normal handover procedures and safety checks. When one silo and the first missile were ready on 26 October no armed guards were available to cover transport from the normal separate storage, so the launch enabling equipment and codes were all placed in the silo. It was thus physically possible for a single operator to launch a fully armed missile at a SIOP target.
During the remaining period of the Crisis the several missiles at Malmstrom were repeatedly put on and off alert as errors and defects were found and corrected. Fortunately no combination of errors caused or threatened an unauthorized launch, but in the extreme tension of the period the danger can be well imagined.
October 1962: NATO Readiness.
It is recorded that early in the crisis, in order to avoid provocation of the U.S.S.R., British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and NATO Supreme Commander General Lauris Norstad agreed not to put NATO on alert. When the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered DEFCON 3, Norstad was authorized to use his discretion in complying, and Norstad did not order a NATO alert. However, several NATO subordinate commanders did order alerts to DEFCON 3 or equivalent levels of readiness at bases in West Germany, Italy, Turkey, and United Kingdom. This seems to have been largely due to the action of General Truman Landon, CINC U.S. Air Forces Europe, who had on his own initiative started alert procedures on 17 October in anticipation of a serious crisis over Cuba.
October 1962: British Alerts.
When the U.S. SAC went to DEFCON 2, on 24 October, the British Bomber Command was carrying out an unrelated readiness exercise. On 26 October, Air Marshall Cross, CINC of Bomber Command, decided to prolong the exercise because of the Cuba crisis, and later increased the alert status of British nuclear forces, so that they could launch in 15 minutes.
It seems likely that Soviet intelligence would perceive these moves as part of a coordinated plan in preparation for immediate war. They could not be expected to know that neither the British Minister of Defence nor Prime Minister Macmillan had authorized them.
It is disturbing to note how little was learned from these errors in Europe. McGeorge Bundy wrote in “Danger and Survival” (New York: Random House 1988), “the risk [of nuclear war] was small, given the prudence and unchallenged final control of the two leaders.”
1962, Oct.28: Moorestown false alarm.
Just before 9 a.m. on 28 October the Moorestown, New Jersey, radar operators informed the national command post that a nuclear attack was under way. A test tape simulating a missile launch from Cuba was being run, and simultaneously a satellite came over the horizon. Operators became confused and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ that impact was expected 18 miles west of Tampa at 9:02 a.m. The whole of NORAD was alerted, but before irrevocable action had been taken it was reported that no detonation had taken place at the predicted time, and Moorestown operators reported the reason for the false alarm.
During the incident overlapping radars that should have been available to confirm or disagree, were not in operation. The radar post had not received routine information of satellite passage because the facility carrying out that task had been given other work for the duration of the crisis.
1962, Oct.28: False warning due to satellite sighting.
At 5:26 p.m. on 28 October, the Laredo radar warning site had just become operational. Operators misidentified a satellite in orbit as two possible missiles over Georgia and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ. NORAD was unable to identify that the warning came from the new station at Laredo and believed it to be from Moorestown, and therefore more reliable. Moorestown failed to intervene and contradict the false warning. By the time the CINC, NORAD had been informed, no impact had been reported and the warning was “given low credence.”
END OF CUBA CRISIS EVENTS
1962, Nov.2: The Penkovsky False Warning.
In the fall of 1962, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was working in Russia as a double agent for the CIA He had been given a code by which to warn the CIA if he was convinced that a Soviet attack on the United States was imminent. He was to call twice, one minute apart, and only blow into the receiver. Further information was then to be left at a “dead drop” in Moscow.
The pre-arranged code message was received by the CIA on 2 November 1962. It was not known at the CIA that Penkovsky had been arrested on 22 October. Penkovsky knew he was going to be executed. It is not known whether he had told the KGB the meaning of the code signal or only how it would be given, nor is it known exactly why or with what authorization the KGB staff used it. When another CIA agent checked the dead drop he was arrested.
1965, November: Power failure and faulty bomb alarms.
Special bomb alarms were installed near military facilities and near cities in the U.S.A., so that the locations of nuclear bursts would be transmitted before the expected communication failure. The alarm circuits were set up to display a red signal at command posts the instant that the flash of a nuclear detonation reached the sensor, and before the blast could put it out of action. Normally the display would show a green signal, and yellow if the sensor was not operating or was out of communication for any other reason.
During the commercial power failure in the NE United States in November 1965, displays from all the bomb alarms for the area should have shown yellow. In fact, two of them from different cities showed red because of circuit errors. The effect was consistent with the power failure being due to nuclear weapons explosions, and the Command Center of the Office of Emergency Planning went on full alert. Apparently the military did not.
1968, Jan.21: B-52 crash near Thule.
Communication between NORAD HQ and the BMEWS station at Thule had 3 elements: 1. Direct radio communication. 2. A “bomb alarm” as described above. 3. Radio Communication relayed by a B-52 bomber on airborne alert.
On 21 January 1968, a fire broke out in the B-52 bomber on airborne alert near Thule. The pilot prepared for an emergency landing at the base. However the situation deteriorated rapidly, and the crew had to bale out. There had been no time to communicate with SAC HQ, and the pilotless plane flew over the Thule base before crashing on the ice 7 miles miles offshore. Its fuel, and the high explosive component of its nuclear weapons exploded, but there was no nuclear detonation.
At that time, the “one point safe” condition of the nuclear weapons could not be guaranteed, and it is believed that a nuclear explosion could have resulted from accidental detonation of the high explosive trigger. Had there been a nuclear detonation even at 7 miles distant, and certainly if one happened nearer the base, all three communication methods would have given an indication consistent with a successful nuclear attack on both the base and the B-52 bomber. The bomb alarm would have shown red, and the other two communication paths would have gone dead. It would hardly have been anticipated that the combination could have been caused by accident, particularly as the map of the routes for B-52 airborne flights approved by the President showed no flight near to Thule. The route had been apparently changed without informing the White House.
1973, Oct.24-25: False alarm during Middle East crisis.
On 24 October 1973, when the U.N. sponsored cease fire intended to end the Arab-Israeli war was in force, further fighting started between Egyptian and Israeli troops in the Sinai desert. U.S. intelligence reports and other sources suggested that the U.S.S.R. was planning to intervene to protect the Egyptians. President Nixon was in the throes of the Watergate episode and not available for a conference, so Kissinger and other U.S. officials ordered DEFCON 3. The consequent movements of aircraft and troops were of course observed by Soviet intelligence. The purpose of the alert was not to prepare for war, but to warn the U.S.S.R. not to intervene in the Sinai. However, if the following accident had not been promptly corrected then the Soviet command might have made a more dangerous interpretation.
On 25 October, while DEFCON 3 was in force, mechanics were repairing one of the Klaxons at Kinchole Air Force Base, Michigan, and accidentally activated the whole base alarm system. B-52 crews rushed to their aircraft and started the engines. The duty officer recognized the alarm was false and recalled the crews before any took off.
1979, Nov.9: Computer Exercise Tape.
At 8:50 a.m. on 9 November 1979, duty officers at 4 command centres (NORAD HQ, SAC Command Post, The Pentagon National Military Command Center, and the Alternate National Military Command Center) all saw on their displays a pattern showing a large number of Soviet Missiles in a full scale attack on the U.S.A. During the next 6 minutes emergency preparations for retaliation were made. A number of Air Force planes were launched, including the President’s National Emergency Airborne Command Post, though without the President! The President had not been informed, perhaps because he could not be found.
With commendable speed, NORAD was able to contact PAVE PAWS early warning radar and learn that no missiles had been reported. Also, the sensors on the satellites were functioning that day and had detected no missiles. In only 6 minutes the threat assessment conference was terminated.
The reason for the false alarm was an exercise tape running on the computer system. U.S. Senator Charles Percy happened to be in NORAD HQ at the time and is reported to have said there was absolute panic. A question was asked in Congress. The General Accounting Office conducted an investigation, and an off-site testing facility was constructed so that test tapes did not in the future have to be run on a system that could be in military operation.
1980, June 3-6: Faulty Computer Chip.
The Warning displays at the Command Centers mentioned in the last episode included windows that normally showed:
0000 ICBMs detected
0000 SLBMs detected
At 2:25 a.m. on 3 June 1980, these displays started showing various numbers of missiles detected, represented by 2’s in place of one or more 0’s. Preparations for retaliation were instituted, including nuclear bomber crews starting their engines, launch of Pacific Command’s Airborne Command Post, and readying of Minutemen missiles for launch. It was not difficult to assess that this was a false alarm because the numbers displayed were not rational.
While the cause of that false alarm was still being investigated 3 days later, the same thing happened and again preparations were made for retaliation. The cause was a single faulty chip that was failing in a random fashion. The basic design of the system was faulty, allowing this single failure to cause a deceptive display at several command posts.
The extreme boredom and isolation of missile launch crews on duty must contribute to occasional bizarre behaviour. An example is reported by Lloyd J.Dumas in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists vol.36, #9, p.15 (1980) quoting Air Force Magazine of 17 Nov. 71. As a practical joke, a silo crew recorded a launch message and played it when their relief came on duty. The new crew heard with consternation what appeared to be a valid launch message. They would not of course have been able to effect an actual launch under normal conditions, without proper confirmation from outside the silo.
Launch on Warning
There are still thousands of nuclear weapons deployed. At the time of writing (December 2001) Russia and the U.S.A. still have the policy of “Launch on Warning”: that is to say, they plan to launch a salvo of nuclear-armed rockets if the warning systems show that a missile attack appears to be on the way. The retaliatory salvo would be launched before any of the incoming missiles arrived, so it could be launched as a result of a false warning. Thus a nuclear war could start for no military or political reason whatever.
The following event could have caused the final disaster if, for example, the rocket guidance system or the radar tracking had malfunctioned:
1995, Jan.25: Norwegian Rocket Incident.
On 25 January, 1995, the Russian early warning radars detected an unexpected missile launch near Spitzbergen. The estimated flight time to Moscow was 5 minutes. The Russian Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff were informed. The early warning and the control and command systems switched to combat mode. President Yeltsin was handed the “nuclear suitcase” ready to give the launch signal.
Within 5 minutes, the radars determined that the missile’s impact point would be outside the Russian borders. The missile was carrying instruments for scientific measurements. On 16 January Norway had notified 35 countries including Russia that the launch was planned. Information had apparently reached the Russian Defence Ministry, but failed to reach the on-duty personnel of the early warning system. (See article in Scientific American, November 1997, by Bruce G. Blair, Harold A. Feiveson and Frank N. von Hippel.)
Comment and Note On Probability
The probability of actual progression to nuclear war on any one of the occasions listed may have been small, due to planned “fail-safe” features in the warning and launch systems, and to responsible action by those in the chain of command when the failsafe features had failed. However, the accumulation of small probabilities of disaster from a long sequence of risks add up to serious danger. There is no way of telling what the actual level of risk was in these mishaps but if the chance of disaster in every one of the 20 incidents had been only 1 in 100, it is mathematical fact that the chance of surviving all 20 would have been 82%, i.e. about the same as the chance of surviving a single pull of the trigger at Russian roulette played with a 6 shooter. With a similar series of mishaps on the Soviet side: another pull of the trigger. If the risk in some of the events had been as high as 1 in 10, then the chance of surviving just seven such events would have been less than 50:50. [Note that there is no attempt here to calculate an actual probability. This is merely an example to illustrate the cumulative effect of any low-probability risk that is taken repeatedly, or accepted continuously, over a period of time.]
BMEWS: Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site
CIA: Central Intelligence Agency
CINC: Commander in Chief
DEFCON: Defence Readiness Condition (DEFCON 5 is the peacetime state; DEFCON 1 is a maximum war readiness).
ICBM: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (land based)
KGB: Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopaznosti (Soviet Secret Police and Intelligence)
NORAD: North American Aerospace Defense Command
PAVE PAWS: Precision Acquisition of Vehicle Entry Phased-Array Warning System
SAC: Strategic Air Command
SIOP: Single Integrated Operational Plan
SLBM: Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile
Britten, Stewart: The Invisible Event, (London: Menard Press, 1983).
Calder, Nigel: Nuclear Nightmares, (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1979)
Peace Research Reviews, vol. ix: 4, 5 (1984);
vol. x: 3, 4 (1986) (Dundas, ON.: Peace Research Institute, Dundas).
Sagan, Scott D.: The Limits of Safety, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, (1993).
Alan F. Phillips M.D., 11 January, 1997; revised April, 2002.
What did the World Hearth Organization say about nuclear weapons?
World Health Organization, 1987
After a nuclear war “famine and diseases would be widespread; social, communication, and economic systems around the world would be disrupted…It is obvious that the health services in the world could not alleviate the situation in any significant way.”
Press Release WHO/69 – 12 September 1995
NUCLEAR WEAPONS TESTING
Speaking today at the Forty-sixth session of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, the Philippines, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, WHO Director-General, addressed the issue of testing of nuclear weapons.
“Within the framework of the United Nations, WHO has consistently supported nuclear disarmament, the non-proliferation treaty, and the nuclear test ban treaty currently under negotiation”, said Dr Nakajima. “WHO is firmly opposed to the production, testing, stockpiling, transport or use of nuclear weapons. This position is implicit in the WHO Constitution which opposes any common danger or risk to the attainment of Health for All. WHO has carried out extensive studies on the effects of nuclear war on health and health services, as well as the health effects of nuclear accidents particularly at Chernobyl. At the request of the World Health Assembly (Resolution WHA46.40 of 14 May 1993) and the UN General Assembly (Resolution 49/75K of 15 December 1994), the question of the lawfulness of the use of nuclear weapons has been referred by WHO and the UN to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the matter will be before the Court in November this year”.
It is evident that besides the immediate catastrophic effects in terms of death, casualties and material damage, the use of nuclear weapons will cause long term human suffering and environmental disturbance beyond our capacity to accurately predict. As WHO stated some ten years ago, “the only approach to the treatment of the health effects of nuclear explosions is primary prevention of such explosions, that is the prevention of atomic war”.
In 1991, a WHO Management Group* noted that “with the positive changes in the world situation it was the peacetime uses of atomic energy that had become the greater cause for concern”. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons are still being produced, tested and stockpiled; therefore the potential danger of the consequences of their use has not yet been eliminated, and there are significant costs and dangers associated with their transport, testing and disposal.
Although most of the information concerning the health and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons comes from the two bombings that took place in 1945, other investigations are under way based on retrospective analysis as well as simulation of nuclear tests underground and in the atmosphere. We know that nuclear detonation produces three major sources of death and injury: blast, heat wave and release of radiation. Exposure to instantaneous radiation (gamma rays and neutrons) causes sickness and, possibly, death. At relatively low doses, it damages blood cells. At higher doses, damage occurs to the gastrointestinal tract, and at very high doses injury to the brain. Suppression of the body’s immune system is recognized as a consequence of radiation over-exposure.
Long-term effects such as cancer induction and genetic damage result from instantaneous radiation exposure during the explosion and the longer-term contamination of the environment. Long-term psychological effects continue to be noted among the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
An account of the health effects of nuclear weapons must also include consideration of the production cycle of these weapons including mining and production of materials, fuel enrichment, development, manufacture, testing, stockpiling, maintenance, transport, dismantling, storage and disposal. Each of these stages presents direct risks to the health of the personnel involved and the general population. The costs of safe disposal often exceed those of development.
At least 1950 nuclear tests have been carried out since 1945. Testing can be carried out in space, in the air, on the earth’s surface or under water (all called “atmospheric”), or underground, the latter being the only method used at the present time. To date, it is reported that approximately 1420 underground tests have been conducted in different parts of the world. Simulation technology for nuclear explosions has been developed to such an extent that renewed tests for more advanced weapons would be totally unnecessary if the simulation technology were shared among states.
Resumption or continuation of underground tests is of particular concern especially in the case of “shallow” tests. Not only does this entail the risk of instantaneous leaks of short-lived and long-lived radioisotopes to the ground, to water and air, but it may trigger potential long-term effects that are not immediately apparent. Changes to the structural integrity of the ground, temperature and stress are likely to increase the number and size of crevices in the surrounding rock or ground. Such crevices would provide paths for long- term exchanges with the surroundings, in particular ground water, rivers and oceans, in ways that are difficult to predict.
Isotopes likely to dominate long-term radioactivity are Caesium-137, Strontium-90, Plutonium -239 and Americium-241. Furthermore, Caesium-137 and Strontium-90 are known to be transported by water and remain in the food- chain. As for Plutonium-239 and Americium-241, their most significant potential exposure route is by inhalation. In addition to the possible release of these radionuclides, radioisotopes from previous tests which had already settled or lodged in the rock are feared to be freed by the new tests.
“In short, there is no such thing as a “fail-safe” nuclear weapon testing, and we cannot be assured that testing will be without risk to present and future generations. The best way to ensure human health and peace, is for all nations of the world to share knowledge about nuclear energy, and to forswear the production, testing and use of nuclear weapons. The World Health Organization, and I as its Director-General, stand for a “nuclear-weapons-free world. Greater transparency on the part of nuclear powers would certainly help”, said Dr Nakajima.
For further information, please contact Valery Abramov, Health Communications and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Tel (41 22) 791 2543. Fax (41 22) 791 4858.
* Established by the Director-General in 1983 to follow up Resolution WHA 36.28 “Effects of nuclear war on health and health services”. The Group consists of six international experts appointed by the Director-General.
Church Resolution – National Missile Defence
Resolution – National Missile Defence
Whereas we believe that we are stewards of the creation and that Canada must therefore comply with its legal obligation to negotiate an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons as such weapons threaten all of creation;
Whereas we believe that international security will be enhanced best through political and economic cooperation, reassurance and nuclear arms reductions rather than by threats;
Whereas the Missile Defence program of the US plans to intercept incoming missiles at a cost likely exceeding $100 billion (US), with the cost for Canadian participation remaining unknown;
Whereas the interceptors can be easily overcome by the use of decoys, chaff or other inexpensive methods or, alternatively, that states may simply use other methods of delivering weapons such as ships or trucks;
Whereas the interception of missiles would result in radioactive materials falling to earth and the creation of debris in space which would hinder both use of satellites and future space travel;
Whereas all states are obligated by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to engage in a process of disarmament;
Whereas planning the use of interceptors will encourage other states to increase their nuclear arsenals to overcome the interceptors, thus encouraging the spread of nucler weapons in breach of the NPT;
Whereas the Outer Space Treaty states that Outer Space…shall be free for exploration and use by all States and that Outer Space…is not subject to national appropriation …by means of use or occupation..
Whereas the long term plan (Vision 2020″) for the US Space Command anticipates the US developing an ability..to deny others the use of space and global surveillance with the potential for a space-based global precision strike capability with space becoming another medium of warfare in breach of the Outer Space Treaty;
It is hereby resolved by _____________________ that the Government of Canada should be strongly encouraged to:
1. Strongly oppose the American proposal for Missile Defence and object to the US Space Commands proposed Vision for 2020″;
2. Study options for a multilateral system for monitoring missile launches;
3. Call for the negotiation of a ban on military missile flight launches;
4. Call for the negotiation of a ban on all weapons in space; and
5. Proceed urgently to support the negotiation of an international agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.
General Lee Butler’s Address to Canadian Peaceworkers
Ottawa, March 11, 1999
A Round Table was hosted in the Department of Foreign Affairs by the Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development and the Canadian Network Against Nuclear Weapons to allow presentations by Gen. Butler, Mr. Robert McNamara (former U.S. Secretary of Defence) and Ambassador Tom Graham (former Presidential Advisor on Arms Control).
General Butler is a 1962 graduate of the US Air Force Academy. He attended the University of Paris as an Olmsted Scholar where he attained a master’s degree in international affairs. His military career included a wide range of flying and staff positions. He attained the rank of General in 1991. In this capacity he served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Air Command and subsequently Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. In this capacity, General Butler had the responsibility for all US Air Force and U.S. Navy strategic nuclear forces which support the national security objective of strategic defense. Over his career, he served in numerous policy positions in the Pentagon, his last one as the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The following are the opening remarks by Gen. Butler:
Let me begin by simply expressing my appreciation to those of you in the room who have labored in this vineyard for so many years, most I suspect, simply understanding intuitively what took years for those of us, presumably experts in this business, to appreciate.
And that is, that at the heart of the matter, nuclear weapons are the enemy of humanity. Indeed, they’re not weapons at all. They’re some species of biological time bombs whose effects transcend time and space, poisoning the earth and its inhabitants for generations to come.
So for those of you in the NGO community, I tell you right at the onset, that I personally take heed and encouragement from what you have done so assiduously all these years. I say in the same breath that for most of my life, certainly my years in uniform, I’d never heard of NGOs, and now I suppose I am one!
I think in that regard that I would begin by recalling a comment from what I understand was a Reform Party member at the hearing yesterday, who observed at the outset of his comments (a bit acerbic I might add, but that’s okay, we tend to be a lightning rod for that kind of view): “Say, weren’t you and McNamara two of those folks who used to advocate all this business, deterrence, etc?” I think Bob would join me in saying that we’re guilty as charged, if the charge is that we now consider it our responsibility to reflect, free from the emotional cauldron of the Cold War, and with greater access to the principals and the archives of that period. Guilty of the responsibility to reappraise our positions and certainly guilty of a keen sense of obligation to understand and to expound upon the lessons that we draw from that experience.
I recall the words of a wonderful American novelist of the Deep South, Flannery O’Connor, who once put this delicious line in the mouth of one her characters. “You should know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” And in deference to our interlocutor yesterday, yes it can certainly appear odd. I appreciate that and that is why I am infinitely patient with people who are either surprised, shocked, or in some cases outraged that someone like myself or perhaps like Bob McNamara now express views that in an earlier part of our life we might have seen as antithetical.
But truth, in my own case, took me almost 40 years to grasp. What I now see as the truth of the nuclear era as I understand it in retrospect. It required 30 years simply to reach the point in my career where I had the responsibilities and most importantly, the access to information and the exposure to activities and operations that profoundly deepened my grasp of what this business of nuclear capability is all about.
What I have come to believe is that much of what I took on faith was either wrong, enormously simplistic, extraordinarily fragile, or simply morally intolerable. What I have come to believe is that the amassing of nuclear capability to the level of such grotesque excess as we witnessed between the United States and the Soviet Union over the period of the 50 years of the Cold War, was as much a product of fear, and ignorance and greed, and ego and power, and turf and dollars, as it was about the seemingly elegant theories of deterrence.
Let me just take a moment and give you some sense of what it means to be the Commander of Strategic Nuclear Forces, the land and sea-based missiles and aircraft that would deliver nuclear warheads over great distances. First, I had the responsibility for the day-to-day operation, discipline, training, of tens of thousands of crew members, the systems that they operated and the warheads those systems were designed to deliver. Some ten thousand strategic nuclear warheads. I came to appreciate in a way that I had never thought, even when I commanded individual units like B52 bombers, the enormity of the day-to-day risks that comes from multiple manipulations, maintenance and operational movement of those weapons. I read deeply into the history of the incidents and the accidents of the nuclear age as they had been recorded in the United States. I am only beginning to understand that history in the former Soviet Union, and it is more chilling than anything you can imagine. Much of that is not publicly known, although it is now publicly available.
Missiles that blew up in their silos and ejected their nuclear warheads outside of the confines of the silo. B52 aircraft that collided with tankers and scattered nuclear weapons across the coast and into the offshore seas of Spain. A B52 bomber with nuclear weapons aboard that crashed in North Carolina, and on investigation it was discovered that one of those weapons, 6 of the 7 safety devices that prevent a nuclear explosion had failed as a result of the crash. There are dozens of such incidents. Nuclear missile-laden submarines that experienced catastrophic accidents and now lie at the bottom of the ocean.
I was also a principal nuclear advisor to the President of the United States. What that required of me was to be prepared on a moment’s notice, day or night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to be within three rings of my telephone and to respond to this question from the President: “General, the nation is under nuclear attack. I must decide in minutes how to respond. What is your recommendation with regard to the nature of our reply?”
In the 36 months that I was a principal nuclear advisor to the President, I participated every month in an exercise known as a missile threat conference. Virtually without exception, that threat conference began with a scenario which encompassed one, then several, dozens, then hundreds and finally thousands of inbound thermonuclear warheads to the United States. By the time that attack was assessed, characterized and sufficient information available with some certainty in appreciation of the circumstance, at most he had 12 minutes to make that decision. 12 minutes. For a decision, which coupled with that of whatever person half a world away who may have initiated such an attack, held at risk not only the survival of the antagonists, but the fate of mankind in its entirety. The prospect of some 20,000 thermonuclear warheads being exploded within a period of several hours. Sad to say, the poised practitioners of the nuclear art never understood the holistic consequences of such an attack, nor do they today. I never appreciated that until I came to grips with my third responsibility, which was for the nuclear war plan of the United States.
Even at the late date of January 1991, when the Cold War had already been declared over with the signing of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty in Paris in December of 1990, when I went downstairs on my first day in office to meet my war planners in the bowels of my headquarters. I finally for the first time in 30 years was allowed full access to the war plan. Even having some sense of what it encompassed, I was shocked to see that in fact it was defined by 12,500 targets in the former Warsaw Pact to be attacked by some 10,000 nuclear weapons, virtually simultaneously in the worst of circumstances, which is what we always assumed.
I made it my business to examine in some detail every single one of those targets. I doubt that that had ever been done by anyone, because the war plan was divided up into sections and each section was the responsibility of some different group of people. My staff was aghast when I told them I intended to look at every single target individually. My rationale was very simple. If there had been only one target, surely I would have to know every conceivable detail about it, why it was selected, what kind of weapon would strike it, what the consequences would be. My point was simply this: Why should I feel in any way less responsible simply because there was a large number of targets. I wanted to look at every one.
At the conclusion of that exercise I finally came to understand the true meaning of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. With the possible exception of the Soviet nuclear war plan, this was the single most absurd and irresponsible document I had ever reviewed in my life. I was sufficiently outraged that as my examination proceeded, I alerted my superiors in Washington about my concerns, and the shortest version of all of that is, having come to the end of a three decade journey, I came to fully appreciate the truth that now makes me seem so odd. And that is: we escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.
The saving grace was that truly the Cold War was ending at this very moment and therefore I was faced with a decision of great personal consequence. Now having fully to appreciate the magnitude of our nuclear capability and what it implied, when joined in an unholy alliance with its Soviet counterpart, what was I to do? Awaiting in my inbox were $40 billion of new strategic nuclear weapons modernization programs, wanting only my signature. What should be our goals for the next rounds of arms control negotiations? How hard should I fight to maintain the budget of strategic forces, to keep bases open in the face of base closure commissions? And what to do with the nuclear war plan in all of its excess? My conclusion was very simple, that I of all people had the responsibility to be at the forefront of the effort to begin to close the nuclear age. That mankind, having been spared a nuclear holocaust, had now as its principle priority to begin to walk back the nuclear cat, to learn the lessons of the nuclear dimensions of the Cold War, in the interest that others might never go down that path again.
The substance is that I withdrew my support for every single one of those $40 billion of nuclear weapons programs and they were all cancelled. I urged the acceleration of the START I accords and that Minuteman 2 be taken out of the inventory at an accelerated pace. I recommended that for the first time in 30 years bombers be taken off alert. The President approved these recommendations and on the 25th of September 1991, I said in my command center and with my red telephone I gave the orders to my bomber troops to stand down from alert. I put 24 of my 36 bases on the closure list. I cut the number of targets in the nuclear war plan by 75%, and ultimately I recommended the disestablishment of Strategic Air Command, which the President also approved. I took down that flag on the first of June 1992.
As you can imagine, I went into retirement exactly five years ago with a sense of profound relief and gratitude. Relief that the most acute dangers of the Cold War were coming to a close, and gratitude that I had been given the opportunity to play some small role in eliminating those dangers. You can also imagine, then, my growing dismay, alarm and finally horror that in a relatively brief period of time, this extraordinary momentum, this unprecedented opportunity began to slow, that a process I call the creeping re-rationalization of nuclear weapons began, that the bureaucracy began to work its way. The French resumed nuclear testing, the START 2 treaty was paralyzed in the US Senate for three years and now in the Duma for three more. The precious window of opportunity began to close, and now today we find ourselves in the almost unbelievable circumstance in which United States nuclear weapons policy is still very much that of 1984, as introduced by Ronald Reagan. That our forces with their hair-trigger postures are effectively the same as they have been since the height of the Cold War.
Even if the START 2 treaty were ratified, it is virtually irrelevant, its numbers 3000 to 35000 works meaningless. The former Soviet Union, today Russia, a nation in a perilous state, can barely maintain a third of that number on operational ready status, and to do so devotes a precious fraction of shrinking resources. NATO has been expanded up to its former borders, and Moscow has been put on notice that the United States is presumably prepared to abrogate the ABM treaty in the interest of deploying limited national ballistic missile defense.
What a stunning outcome. I would never have imagined this state of affairs five years ago. This is an indictment. The leaders of the nuclear weapons states today risk very much being judged by future historians as having been unworthy of their age, of not having taken advantage of opportunities so perilously won at such great sacrifice and cost of reigniting nuclear arms races around the world, of condemning mankind to live under a cloud of perpetual anxiety.
This is not a legacy worthy of the human race. This is not the world that I want to bequeath to my children and my grandchildren. It’s simply intolerable. This is above all a moral question and I want to reiterate to you and to those who may be watching these proceedings a quote that I gave yesterday to the joint committees. I took this quote to heart many years ago. It is from one of my heroes, one of my professional heroes – General Omar Bradley, who said on the occasion of his retirement, having been a principal in World War II and having witnessed the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “We live in an age of nuclear giants and ethical infants, in a world that has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We have solved the mystery of the atom and forgotten the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about dying than we know about living.”
We have a priceless opportunity to elevate, to nudge higher, the bar of decent, civilized behaviour, to expand the rule of law, and to learn to live on this planet with mutual respect and dignity. This is an opportunity we must not lose. My concern was such that I could not sit in silent acquiescence to the current folly.
And so, I have come back into the arena to join my voices with yours, to serve in the company of distinguished colleagues like Bob McNamara and Ambassador Tom Graham who share these concerns and convictions.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today. Thank you for the work you have done over these many years. It is a privilege to have this opportunity to talk with you. Thank you.
Canadian Church Leaders’ Statement
The leaders of the following churches signed the letter of February 18, 1998 to Prime Minister Chrétien which included these comments:
The willingness, indeed the intent, to launch a nuclear attack, in certain circumstances, bespeaks spiritual and moral bankruptcy. We believe it to be an extraordinary affront to humanity for nuclear weapons states and their allies, including Canada, to persist in claiming that nuclear weapons are required for their security…. Nuclear weapons have no moral legitimacy, they lack military utility, and, in light of the recent judgement of the World court, their legality is in serious question. The spiritual, human and ecological holocaust of a nuclear attack can be prevented only by the abolition of nuclear weapons it is our common duty to pursue that goal as an urgent priority……
The time has come for Canada to take a strong, principled stand against the continued possession of nuclear weapons by any state, affirming abolition as the central goal of Canadian nuclear weapons policy and adding Canadas voice to the call to immediately begin negotiations on a nuclear Weapons Convention.
Anglican Church in Canada
Armenian Orthodox Church (Canadian diocese)
Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec
British Methodist Episcopal Church
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Coptic Orthodox Church in Canada
Council of Christian Reformed Churches
Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Canada
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Canada
Mennonite Central Committee (Canada)
Orthodox Church in America
The Presbyterian Church
The Polish National Catholic Church
Reformed Church in Canada
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada
The Salvation Army
The United Church of Canada
February 2, 1998
Statement by Alan Cranston
Former U.S. Senator, Chair of the State of the World Forum
February 2, 1998, Washington, D.C. National Press Club
First, I’ll read the statement by heads of state and civilian leaders worldwide, advocating that specific steps be taken now to reduce ongoing nuclear weapon dangers still facing us all after the end of the Cold War.
These leaders, many of whom led their nations during the Cold War, urge that the nuclear states declare unambiguously that their goal is ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.
The statement is as follows:
Statement on Nuclear Weapons by International Civilian Leaders
The end of the Cold War has wrought a profound transformation of the international political and security arena. Ideological confrontation has been supplanted by burgeoning global relations across every field of human endeavor. There is intense alienation but also civilized discourse. There is acute hostility but also significant effort for peaceful resolution in place of violence and bloodshed.
Most importantly, the long sought prospect of a world free of the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons is suddenly within reach. This is an extraordinary moment in the course of human affairs, a near miraculous opportunity to realize that noble goal. But, it is also perishable: the specter of nuclear proliferation cannot be indefinitely contained. The urgent attention and best efforts of scholars and statesmen must be brought to bear.
Leaders of the nuclear weapons states, and of the de facto nuclear nations, must keep the promise of nuclear disarmament enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and clarified and reaffirmed in 1995 in the language codifying its indefinite extension. They must do so by commencing the systematic and progressive reduction and marginalization of nuclear weapons, and by declaring unambiguously that their goal is ultimate abolition.
Many military leaders of many nations have warned that all nations would be more secure in a world free of nuclear weapons. Immediate and practical steps toward this objective have been arrayed in a host of compelling studies, most notably in the Report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Among these proposals, we, the undersigned, fully subscribe to the following measures:
1. Remove nuclear weapons from alert status, separate them from their delivery vehicles, and place them in secure national storage.
2. Halt production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
3. End nuclear testing, pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
4. Launch immediate U.S./Russian negotiations toward further, deep reductions of their nuclear arsenals, irrespective of START II ratification.
5. Unequivocal commitment by the other declared and undeclared nuclear weapon states to join the reduction process on a proportional basis as the U.S. and Russia approach their arsenal levels, within an international system of inspection, verification, and safeguards.
6. Develop a plan for eventual implementation, achievement and enforcement of the distant but final goal of elimination.
The foregoing six steps should be undertaken immediately.
The following additional steps should be carefully considered, to determine whether they are presently appropriate and feasible:
Repatriate nuclear weapons deployed outside of sovereign territory.
Commit to No First Use of nuclear weapons.
Ban production and possession of large, long-range ballistic missiles.
Account for all materials needed to produce nuclear weapons, and place them under
The world is not condemned to live forever with threats of nuclear conflict, or the anxious, fragile peace imposed by nuclear deterrence. Such threats are intolerable and such a peace unworthy. The sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons invokes a moral imperative for their elimination. That is our mandate. Let us begin.
Raul Alfonsin Former President
Malcom Fraser, Former Prime Minister
Gough Whitlam, Former Prime Minister, Former Foreign Minister
Kim C. Beazley, Leader of the Opposition ,Former Deputy Prime Minister
Richard Butler, Ambassador to U.N. , Chair, U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, Chair, Canberra Commission
Gareth Evans, Former Foreign Minister Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Member, Parliament
A.D.M.S. Chuwdhury, Deputy Opposition Leader, Parliament, Former Deputy Prime Minister
Managing Director, Grameen Bank
Jose Sarney, Former Prime Minister, Senator
Calso L.N. Amorim, Former Foreign Minister
Nicolai Dobrev , Chair, National Security Committee, Parliament; Former Minister of Interior
Nicolai Kamov , Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament
Dimitra Pavlov, Minister of Defense
Pierre Trudeau, Former Prime Minister
Former Ambassador for Disarmament
Juan Somavia, Ambassador to U.N.; Past President, UN Security Council
Qian Jiadong, Former Chinese Ambassador to U.N.
Chen Jifeng, Secretary General, Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament
Misael Pastrana Borrero , Former President
(Deceased Aug. 1997)
Jose Figueres, President
Oscar Arias, Former President
Rodrigo Carazo , Former President
Rebeca Grynspan Mayufis
Second Vice President
Rodrigo Oreamuno B.
First Vice President
President, United Democrats
Esmat Abdul Meguid
Secretary General, League of Arab States
Former Foreign Minister
Former Prime Minister
Chair, Committee on Development and Cooperation, European Parliament
Former Special Advisor to
Eduard A. Shevardnadze
Honorary Chair, International Council
Former Prime Minister, East Germany
Egon Bahr Former Minister for Special Affairs
Spokesperson for Defense,
Alliance 90/Green Party
Hon. Chair, Christian Democratic Party
Hans Koschnik, Former Administrator, European Union, Mostar
Markus Meckel, Former Foreign Minister, East Germany; Member, Bundestag
Dr. Walter Romberg, Former Minister of Finances, East Germany
Lothar Spth, Former Minister-President, Baden-Wurttemberg
Hans-Jochen Vogel, Former Mayor, Berlin; Former Minister of Justice; Former Chair, Social Democratic Party
Ervin Laszlo, Founder and President, Club of Budapest
Tsutomu Hata, Former Prime Minister; Member, Diet
Morihiro Hosokawa, Former Prime Minister; Member, Diet
Kiichi Miyazawa, Former Prime Minister; Member, Diet
Tomiichi Murayama, Former Prime Minister; Member, Diet
Noboru Takeshita, Former Prime Minister; Member, Diet
Takako Doi, Former Speaker, House of Representatives; Member, Diet
Masaharu Gotoda, Former Vice Prime Minister
Takashi Hiraoka, Mayor, Hiroshima
Iccho Ito, Mayor, Nagasaki
Yohei Kono, Former Vice Prime Minister
Hyosuke Kujiraoka Former Vice Speaker, House of Representatives; Member, Diet
Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate
Askar Akaev, President
Muratbek S. Imanaliev,
Former Foreign Minister
Ambassador to U.K.
Former Prime Minister
President, UN General Assembly
Miguel de la Madrid
Ambassador to U.S.
Former Speaker, Parliament
Ruud Lubbers Former Prime Minister
Minister of State
Andries van Agt
Former Prime Minister
Chair, Interaction Council
E. Korthals Altes
Former Ambassador to Madrid
J. van Houwelingen
Former Deputy Minister of Defence
Former Minister of Defence
Dr. D.J.H. Kruisinga
Former Minister of Defence
Mr. J. de Ruiter
Former Minister of Defence
Prof. Dr. J.C. Terlouw
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Economic Affairs
Former Prime Minister
Sir Geoffrey Palmer
Former Prime Minister
Honorary President, Peace People
Nobel Peace Laureate
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees
President, Bellerive Foundation
Mahbub ul Haq
President, Human Development Centre
Former Minister of Finance
Principal Architect of UN’s Annual Human Development Report
Ricardo de la Espriella
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo
Former Prime Minister
Republic of Korea
Former Prime Minister
Former Prime Minister
Director, Research Institute for the Economy in Transition
Former President, S.U.
President, Governing Board, Institute of USA and Canada
Former Soviet Foreign Minister
Former Soviet Ambassador to US
President, Foreign Policy Association
President, Russian Pugwash Committee
Former Permanent Representative of the USSR and Russia in IAEA
President, Center for Political Studies of Russia
Member, National Security Council
Alexander N. Yakovlev
Chair, President’s Commission on Rehabilitation of Repression Victims
Chair, Russian Public Television;
Former Member, Politburo
Principal Domestic Advisor to President Gorbachev
F.W. De Klerk
National Leader, National Party
Bishop Desmond Tutu
Enrique Baron Crespo
Member, European Parliament
Former President, European Parliament
Fernando Moran Lopez
Chair, Committee on InstitutionalAffairs, European Parliament
Former Foreign Minister
Leader, Sarvodaya Movement
Gandhi Peace Prize, 1996
Former Minister of Education
Former Leader of Opposition
President, NPT Review and Extension Conference, 1995
Former Ambassador to U.S.
Former Prime Minister
Maj Britt Theorin
Former Chair, UN Commission of Experts on Nuclear Weapons
Member, European Parliament
Al Hassan Mwinyi
Julius K. Nyerere
Chair, South Commission
Salim Ahmed Salim
Former Prime Minister
Secretary General, Organization of African Unity
President, U.N. General Assembly, 34th Session
Former Prime Minister
Judge, International Tribunal on Law of the Seas
Former Prime Minister
Dr. Paul Kaeanga Ssemogerere
Former Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister
Dr. Naphali Akena Adoko
Former Chief of State Security
Justice Emmanuel Oteng
Former Acting Chief Justice
Lord James Callaghan
Former Prime Minister
Member, House of Lords
Lord Denis Healey
Former Secretary of Defense
Former Chancellor of Exchequer
Former Chief Negotiator, CTBT
Former Head, Arms Control & Disarmament, Foreign Office
Nobel Peace Laureate
Dr. Robert Mugabe
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 weapons in the armories 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 a 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. Treaties provide that only delivery systems, not nuclear warheads, will be destroyed. This permits the United States and Russia to keep their warheads in reserve storage, thus creating a “reversible nuclear potential.”
However, in the post-Cold 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. There is nothing incompatible between defense by individual countries of their territorial integrity and progress toward nuclear abolition.
The exact circumstances and conditions that will make it possible to proceed, finally, to abolition cannot now be foreseen or prescribed. One obvious prerequisite would be a worldwide program of surveillance and inspection, including measures to account for and control inventories of nuclear weapon materials. This will ensure that no rogues or terrorists could undertake a surreptitious effort to acquire nuclear capacities without detection at an early stage An agreed procedure for forcible international intervention and interruption of covert efforts in a certain and timely fashion is essential.
The creation of nuclear-free zones in different parts of the world, confidence-building and transparency measures in the general field of defense, strict implementation of all treaties in the area of disarmament and arms control, and mutual assistance in the process of disarmament are also important in helping to bring about a nuclear-free world. The development of regional systems of collective security, including practical measures for cooperation, partnership, interaction and communication are essential for local stability and security.
The extent to which the existence of nuclear weapons and fear of their use may have deterred war – in a world that in this year alone has seen 30 military conflicts raging – cannot be determined. It is clear, however, that nations now possessing nuclear weapons will not relinquish them until they are convinced that more reliable and less dangerous means of providing for their security are in place. It is also clear, as a consequence, that the nuclear powers will not now agree to a fixed timetable for the achievement of abolition.
It is similarly clear that, among the nations not now possessing nuclear weapons, there are some that will not forever forswear their acquisition and deployment unless they, too, are provided means of security. Nor will they forgo acquisition if the present nuclear powers seek to retain everlastingly their nuclear monopoly.
Movement toward abolition must be a responsibility shared primarily by the declared nuclear weapons states – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; by the de facto nuclear states, India, Israel and Pakistan; and by major non-nuclear powers such as Germany and Japan. All nations should move in concert toward the same goal.
We have been presented with a challenge of the highest possible historic importance: the creation of a nuclear weapons-free world. The end of the Cold War makes it possible.
The dangers of proliferation, terrorism, and a new nuclear arms race render it necessary. We must not fail to seize our opportunity. There is no alternative.
INTERNATIONAL GENERALS AND ADMIRALS WHO HAVE SIGNED STATEMENT
ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Johnson, Major General Leonard V.. (Ret.) Commandant, National Defence College
Kristensen, Lt. General Gunnar (Ret.) former Chief of Defense Staff
Sanguinetti, Admiral Antoine (Ret.) former Chief of Staff, French Fleet
Erskine, General Emmanuel (Ret.) former Commander in Chief and former Chief of Staff UNTSO
(Middle East), Commander UMFII (Lebanon)
Capellos, Lt. General Richard (Ret.) former Corps Commander Konstantinides,
Major General Kostas (Ret.), former Chief of Staff, Army Signals
Koumanakos, Lt. General Georgios (Ret.) former Chief of Operations
Rikhye, Major General Indar Jit (Ret.), former military advisor to UN Secretary General Dag
Akmmerskjold and U Thant
Surt, Air Marshall N. C. (Ret.)
Sakonjo, Vice Admiral Naotoshi (Ret.) Sr. Advisor, Research Institute for Peace and Security
Shikata Lt. General Toshiyuki (Ret.) Sr. Advisor, Research Institute for Peace and Security
Ajeilat, Major General Shafiq (Ret.) Vice President Military Affairs Muta University
Shiyyab, Major General Mohammed K. (Ret.) former Deputy Commander, Royal Jordanian Air
van der Graaf, Henry J. (Ret.) Brigadier General RNA Director Centre Arms Control &
Verification, Member, United National Advisory Board for Disarmament Matters
Breivik, Roy, Vice Admiral Roy (Ret.) former Representative to NATO, Supreme Allied
Malik Major General Ihsun ul Haq (Ret.) Commandant, Joint Services Committee
Gomes, Marshal Francisco da Costa (Ret.) former Commander in Chief, Army; former President
Belous, General Vladimir (Ret.) Department Chief, Dzerzhmsky Military Academy
Gareev, Army General Makhmut (Ret.) former Deputy Chief, USSR Armed Forces General Staff
Gromov, General Boris, (Ret.) Vice Chair, Duma International Affairs Committee; former
Commander of 40m Soviet Arms in Afghanistan: former Deputy Minister, Foreign Ministry, Russia
Koltounov, Major General Victor (Ret.) former Deputy Chief, Department of General Staff,
USSR Armed Forces
Larionov, Major General Valentin (Ret.) Professor, General Staff Academy
Lebed, Major General Alexander (Ret.) former Secretary of the Security Council
Lebedev, Major General Youri V. (Ret.) former Deputy Chief, Department of General Staff,
USSR Armed Forces
Makarevsky, Major General Vadim (Ret.) Deputy Chief, Kouibyshev Military Engineering
Medvedev, Lt. General Vlad~rmr (Ret.) Chief. Center of Nuclear Threat Reduction
Mikhailov, Colonel General Georg~· (Ret.) former Deputy Chief, Department of General Staff,
USSR Armed Forces
Nozhin Major General Eugenq (Ret.) former Deputy Chief Department of General Staff, USSR
Rokhlin Lt. General Lev (Ret.) Chair, Duma Defense Committee; former Commander, Russian 4th
Sleport, Lt. General Ivan (Ret.) former Chief, Department of General Staff, USSR Armed Forces
Simonyan, Major General Rair (Ret.) Head of Chair, General Staff Academy
Surikov, General Boris T., (Ret.) former Chief Specialist, Defense Ministry
Tehervov, Colonel General Nikolay (Ret.) former Chief, Department of General Staff USSR
Vinogradov, Lt. General Michael S. (Ret.) former Deputy Chief, Operational Strategic Center,
USSR General Staff
Zoubkov, Rear Admiral Radiy (Ret.) Chief, Navigation, USSR Navy
Karunaratne, Major General Upali A. (Ret.) (Sri Lanka)
Silva, Major General C.A.M.N., (Ret.) USF, U.S.A. WC (Sri Lanka)
Lupogo, Major General H. C. (Ret.) former Chief Inspector General, Tanzania Armed Forces
Beach, General Sir Hugh (Ret.) Member, U. K. Security Commission
Carver, Field Marshal Lord Michael (Ret.) Commander in Chief for East British Army
(1967-1969), Chief of General Staff (1971-73) Chief of Defence Staff (1973-76)
Harbottle, Brigadier Michael (Ret.) former Chief of Staff, UN Peacekeeping Force, Cyprus
Mackie, Air Commodore Alistair (Ret.) former Director Air Staff Briefing
Becton, Lt. General Julius (USA) (Ret.)
Bums, Maj. General William F. (USA) (Ret.) JCS Representative, INF Negotiations (1981-88)
Special Envoy to Russia for Nuclear Weapon Dismantlement (1992-93)
Carroll, Jr., Rear Admiral Eugene J. (USN) (Ret.) Deputy Director, Center for Defense
Cushman, Lt. General John H. (USA) (Ret.) Commander, I. Corps (ROK/US) Group (Korea)
Galvin, General John R., Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (1987-92)
Gavler, Admiral Noel (USN) (Ret.) former Commander, Pacific
Homer, General Charles A. (USAF) (Ret.) Commander, Coalition Air Forces, Desert Storm
(1991); former Commander U. S. Space Command
James, Rear Admiral Robert G. (USNR) (Ret.)
Kingston, General Robert C. (USA) (Ret.) former Commander. U.S. Central Command
Lee, Vice Admiral John M. (USN) (Ret.)
Odom, Gen. William E. (USA)(Ret.) Director, National Security Studies, Hudson Institute; Deputy
Assistant and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (1981-85); Director, National Security
O’Meara, General Andrew (USA) (Ret.) former Commander U.S. Army, Europe
Pursley, Lt. General Robert E., USAF (Ret.)
Read, Vice Admiral William L. (USN) (Ret.), former Commander, U.S. Navy Surface Force,
Rogers, General Bemard W. (USA) (Ret.), former Chief of Staff, U.S, Army, former NATO
Supreme Allied Commander(1979-87)
Seignious, II, Lt. General George M. (USA) (Ret.), former Director Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency (1978-1980)
Shanahan, Vice Admiral John J. (USN) (Ret.) Director, Center for Defense Information
Smith, General William Y., (USAF) (Ret.) former Deputy Commander, U.S. Command Europe
Wilson, Vice Admiral James B (CSN) (Ret.), former Polaris Submarine Captain.