56 World Leaders Call for Nuclear Abolition
Gem Romuld / International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Australia
Special to Environmentalists Against War
(September 20, 2020) — We’re excited to share with you an open letter from former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defense ministers in countries allied to nuclear-armed states, in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Released today, it has been signed by 56 people in 22 countries, including former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and two former Secretary-Generals of NATO, Javier Solana and Willy Claes.
The former leaders and ministers state that their countries, by claiming protection from an ally’s nuclear forces, are “promoting the dangerous and misguided belief that nuclear weapons enhance security” and “perpetuating nuclear dangers” when they should instead be “enabling progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons”. They urge current leaders to “show courage and boldness — and join the treaty”.
You can find the full letter with the list of co-signers on the ICAN website (and below) and an article about it in the New York Times (also available below).
The co-signers are from Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey. They have joined forces in this letter, demonstrating significant high-level support for the treaty within nuclear-allied countries. We hope it will inspire current decision-makers to push harder for the ban.
56 Former Leaders and Ministers of US Allies Urge States to Join the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty
International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons
This open letter in support of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been signed by 56 former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defense ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as Japan and South Korea. All of these states currently claim protection from US nuclear weapons and have not yet joined the treaty. The letter will be sent to the current leaders of these states. The co-signers include the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and two former NATO secretaries-general, Javier Solana and Willy Claes.
Open Letter in Support of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The coronavirus pandemic has starkly demonstrated the urgent need for greater international cooperation to address all major threats to the health and welfare of humankind. Paramount among them is the threat of nuclear war. The risk of a nuclear weapon detonation today — whether by accident, miscalculation or design — appears to be increasing, with the recent deployment of new types of nuclear weapons, the abandonment of longstanding arms control agreements, and the very real danger of cyber-attacks on nuclear infrastructure.
Let us heed the warnings of scientists, doctors and other experts. We must not sleepwalk into a crisis of even greater proportions than the one we have experienced this year.
It is not difficult to foresee how the bellicose rhetoric and poor judgment of leaders in nuclear-armed nations might result in a calamity affecting all nations and peoples. As past leaders, foreign ministers and defense ministers of Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey — all countries that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons — we appeal to current leaders to advance disarmament before it is too late.
An obvious starting point for the leaders of our own countries would be to declare without qualification that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate military or strategic purpose in light of the catastrophic human and environmental consequences of their use. In other words, our countries should reject any role for nuclear weapons in our defense.
By claiming protection from nuclear weapons, we are promoting the dangerous and misguided belief that nuclear weapons enhance security. Rather than enabling progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons, we are impeding it and perpetuating nuclear dangers — all for fear of upsetting our allies who cling to these weapons of mass destruction. But friends can and must speak up when friends engage in reckless behavior that puts their lives and ours in peril.
Without doubt, a new nuclear arms race is under way, and a race for disarmament is urgently needed. It is time to bring the era of reliance on nuclear weapons to a permanent end. In 2017, 122 countries took a courageous but long-overdue step in that direction by adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — a landmark global accord that places nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as chemical and biological weapons and establishes a framework to eliminate them verifiably and irreversibly. Soon it will become binding international law.
To date, our countries have opted not to join the global majority in supporting this treaty. But our leaders should reconsider their positions. We cannot afford to dither in the face of this existential threat to humanity. We must show courage and boldness — and join the treaty. As states parties, we could remain in alliances with nuclear-armed states, as nothing in the treaty itself nor in our respective defense pacts precludes that.
But we would be legally bound never under any circumstances to assist or encourage our allies to use, threaten to use or possess nuclear weapons. Given the very broad popular support in our countries for disarmament, this would be an uncontroversial and much-lauded move.
The prohibition treaty is an important reinforcement to the half-century-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, which, though remarkably successful in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries, has failed to establish a universal taboo against the possession of nuclear weapons.
The five nuclear-armed nations that had nuclear weapons at the time of the NPT’s negotiation — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — apparently view it as a licence to retain their nuclear forces in perpetuity. Instead of disarming, they are investing heavily in upgrades to their arsenals, with plans to retain them for many decades to come. This is patently unacceptable.
The prohibition treaty adopted in 2017 can help end decades of paralysis in disarmament. It is a beacon of hope in a time of darkness. It enables countries to subscribe to the highest available multilateral norm against nuclear weapons and build international pressure for action. As its preamble recognizes, the effects of nuclear weapons “transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and the health of current and future generations, and have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including as a result of ionizing radiation”.
With close to 14,000 nuclear weapons located at dozens of sites across the globe and on submarines patrolling the oceans at all times, the capacity for destruction is beyond our imagination. All responsible leaders must act now to ensure that the horrors of 1945 are never repeated. Sooner or later, our luck will run out — unless we act. The nuclear weapon ban treaty provides the foundation for a more secure world, free from this ultimate menace. We must embrace it now and work to bring others on board. There is no cure for a nuclear war. Prevention is our only option.
Lloyd AXWORTHY — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
BAN Ki-moon — Former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Korea
Jean-Jacques BLAIS — Former Minister of National Defense of Canada
Kjell Magne BONDEVIK — Former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Ylli BUFI — Former Prime Minister of Albania
Jean CHRÉTIEN — Former Prime Minister of Canada
Willy CLAES — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium and Secretary General of NATO
Erik DERYCKE — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium
Joschka FISCHER — Former Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany
Franco FRATTINI — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy and Vice-President of the European Commission
Ingibjörg Sólrún GÍSLADÓTTIR — Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
Bjørn Tore GODAL — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense of Norway
Bill GRAHAM — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defense of Canada
HATOYAMA Yukio — Former Prime Minister of Japan
Thorbjørn JAGLAND — Former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Ljubica JELUŠIČ — Former Minister of Defense of Slovenia
Tālavs JUNDZIS — Former Minister of Defense of Latvia
Jan KAVAN — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and President of the UN General Assembly
Alojz KRAPEŽ — Former Minister of Defense of Slovenia
Ģirts Valdis KRISTOVSKIS — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, and Minister of the Interior of Latvia
Aleksander KWAŚNIEWSKI — Former President of Poland
Yves LETERME — Former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium
Enrico LETTA — Former Prime Minister of Italy
Eldbjørg LØWER — Former Minister of Defense of Norway
Mogens LYKKETOFT — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
John McCALLUM — Former Minister of National Defense of Canada
John MANLEY — Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
Rexhep MEIDANI — Former President of Albania
Zdravko MRŠIĆ — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia
Linda MŪRNIECE — Former Minister of Defense of Latvia
Fatos NANO — Former Prime Minister of Albania
Holger K. NIELSEN — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
Andrzej OLECHOWSKI — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
Kjeld OLESEN — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense of Denmark
Ana de PALACIO Y DEL VALLE-LERSUNDI — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain
Theodoros PANGALOS — Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece
Jan PRONK — Former Minister of Defense (Ad Interim) and Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands
Vesna PUSIĆ — Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia
Dariusz ROSATI — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
Rudolf SCHARPING — Former Federal Minister of Defense of Germany
Juraj SCHENK — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia
Nuno SEVERIANO TEIXEIRA — Former Minister of National Defense of Portugal
Jóhanna SIGURÐARDÓTTIR — Former Prime Minister of Iceland
Össur SKARPHÉÐINSSON — Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
Javier SOLANA — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain and Secretary General of NATO
Anne-Grete STRØM-ERICHSEN — Former Minister of Defense of Norway
Hanna SUCHOCKA — Former Prime Minister of Poland
SZEKERES Imre — Former Minister of Defense of Hungary
TANAKA Makiko — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan
TANAKA Naoki — Former Minister of Defense of Japan
Danilo TÜRK — Former President of Slovenia
Hikmet Sami TÜRK — Former Minister of National Defense of Turkey
John N. TURNER — Former Prime Minister of Canada
Guy VERHOFSTADT — Former Prime Minister of Belgium
Knut VOLLEBÆK — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Carlos WESTENDORP Y CABEZA — Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain
Former World Leaders Urge Ratification of Nuclear Arms Ban Treaty
In an open letter, the onetime leaders implored their own governments to embrace an arms treaty negotiated at the UN three years ago. It is six ratifications short of the 50 needed to go into effect.
Rick Gladstone / The New York Times
(September 20, 2020} — Fifty-six former prime ministers, presidents, foreign ministers and defense ministers from 20 NATO countries, plus Japan and South Korea, released an open letter Sunday imploring their current leaders to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — the pact negotiated in 2017 that is now just six ratifications shy of the 50 needed to take effect.
The letter, released on the eve of the United Nations 75th anniversary commemoration at the annual General Assembly, asserted that the risks of nuclear-weapons use have escalated in recent years “whether by accident, miscalculation or design.”
Pointing to the coronavirus pandemic — which UN officials have called the greatest challenge in the organization’s history — the letter writers said, “We must not sleepwalk into a crisis of even greater proportions than the one we have experienced this year.”
The signers included former prime ministers of Canada, Japan, Italy and Poland; former presidents of Albania, Poland and Slovenia; more than two dozen former foreign ministers; and more than a dozen former defense ministers. Two of the signers are former secretaries-general of NATO: Javier Solana of Spain and Willy Claes of Belgium. Ban Ki-moon, the former secretary-general of the United Nations and a former foreign minister of South Korea, also signed.
Their letter amounts to one of the highest-profile endorsements of the treaty since it was completed more than three years ago and was opened to member states of the United Nations for signing and ratification.
“All responsible leaders must act now to ensure that the horrors of 1945 are never repeated,” the letter urged, referring to the atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the United States, the only wartime use of nuclear weapons. “Sooner or later, our luck will run out — unless we act. The nuclear weapon ban treaty provides the foundation for a more secure world, free from this ultimate menace.”
The letter was released against the backdrop of heightened nuclear threats.
North Korea has hinted at resumed testing of its atomic arsenal. An international pact designed to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons may be unraveling. And the last and most important nuclear arms-limitation pact between Russia and the United States is set to expire in February 2021, with its prospects for extension still unclear.
The letter’s release was coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Geneva-based group that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in negotiations that led to the treaty.
The world’s nine nuclear-armed powers — Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States — boycotted those negotiations and said they would never sign the treaty. American officials called its premise dangerously flawed, arguing that the treaty could even elevate the risk of a nuclear conflict.
NATO’s current secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, has criticized the treaty, saying it “does not move us closer to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Nonetheless, delegates from 122 countries — nearly two-thirds of the UN membership — participated in the negotiations for the treaty, and 84 have signed it. As of Sunday, 44 of those countries had ratified the treaty, which would come into force 90 days after the 50th ratification. At least one or two more countries may ratify it in coming days or weeks.
Under the treaty, all nuclear-weapons use, threat of use, testing, development, production, possession, transfer and stationing in a different country would be prohibited. For nuclear-armed countries that join, the treaty outlines a process for destroying stockpiles and enforcing the promise to remain free of nuclear weapons.
Signers of the letter are all from countries that have declined to join the treaty, arguing that the nuclear forces of the United States are essential for their own security. They are Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey.
Five of those countries — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey — are believed to house American nuclear weapons on their territory and would therefore be required to remove them if they joined the treaty.
Proponents of the treaty have said they never expected any of the nuclear-armed states to move quickly to sign the treaty and scrap their arsenals. But they hoped that widespread acceptance of the treaty would raise public pressure and that the “shaming effect” on the holdouts to change their position.
Such a strategy was used by advocates of the treaties that banned chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster bombs.
Tim Wright, treaty coordinator for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the letter showed that even in countries that officially oppose the treaty, “there is a very significant high-level support” for it.
Rick Gladstone is an editor and writer on the International Desk, based in New York.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.