51 Countries (and Counting) Ratify UN Nuclear Weapons Ban
September 21, 2017 AntiWar.com & World Beyond War & Susi Snyder / PAX & National Public Radio
Nuclear weapons are terrifying. A blinding flash, a burning wind, the sound of a thousand thunderstorms, a cry for water too poisoned to drink, for help that isn't coming, only to end by begging for death. Those are the realities of nuclear weapons. We cannot allow these 15,000 doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children's future. Under the ban's language, it takes effect 90 days after the 50th nation ratifies it. Only the nuclear powers reject this ban.
51 Countries Ratify UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Ban Will Officially Go Into Effect in 90 Days Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 20, 2017) -- The UN General Assembly has served as an opportunity to hold a signing ceremony for the UN on the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. The language of the ban was initially passed back in July, with 122 countries in favor.
The signing ceremony was a success, with 51 nations having now ratified it. Under the ban's language, it takes effect 90 days after the 50th nation ratifies it. This means the clock has started on the treaty.
Not that it really matters to the major powers. None of the world's nuclear-armed states voted in favor of the treaty, let alone ratified it, so it carries no immediate consequences to the world's nuclear arsenals.
Which doesn't mean the treaty is totally worthless, either. The treaty sets at least some of the world in favor of global nuclear disarmament, and as we've seen in the past with things like the land mine and chemical weapons bans, even a modest start could eventually expand into something impactful.
Unfortunately, not a single NATO member nation has ratified the treaty. The Netherlands conspicuously voted in favor of it back in July, but did not appear to follow through with a ratification, likely reflecting the US opposition to the matter.
More Than 40 Nations Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty in First Hour: Interviews Available World Beyond War
"Forty-two states signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the first hour after it opened for signature. This demonstrates the overwhelming urge of the international community to outlaw and eliminate all nuclear weapons without delay."
-- Susi Snyder
NEW YORK (September 20, 2017) -- Reuters reports today: "Dozens of countries signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons on Wednesday amid tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, although the United States, Britain, France and others boycotted the event at the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders.
"The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it . . . .
"'There remain some fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in existence. We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children's future,' UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened the treaty for signing.
"Earlier this month North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear weapons test. US President Donald Trump told the 193-member UN General Assembly on Tuesday that if threatened, the United States would 'totally destroy' the country of 26 million people and mocked its leader, Kim Jong Un, as a 'rocket man.'
"The treaty was adopted in July by two-thirds of the 193 UN member states after months of talks, which the United States, Britain, France and others skipped."
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons states: "Forty-five nations have now signed the UN #nuclearban. Three of these nations have also ratified it."
Meanwhile, NPR reports "Stanislav Petrov, 'The Man Who Saved The World,' Dies At 77." "In 1983, he was on duty when the Soviet Union's early warning satellite indicated the US had fired nuclear weapons at his country. He suspected, correctly, it was a false alarm."
The following analysts can discuss the above news items and nuclear policy generally. They are among the speakers at the No War 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. which begins Friday and will be live streamed.
Susi Snyder is nuclear disarmament program manager at the group Pax in the Netherlands. [In NYC and D.C. until Sunday]
Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War. In July, she wrote the piece "Democracy Breaks Out at the UN as 122 Nations Vote to Ban the Bomb" for The Nation.
For more information, contact:
Sam Husseini, (202) 421-6858, David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Institute for Public Accuracy
980 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * accuracy.org * firstname.lastname@example.org 42 Countries Sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty Susi Snyder / PAX
(September 20, 2017) -- On Wednesday 20 September, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons officially opened for signature, and responsible countries from around the world started signing up. Brazil was the first country to sign the Treaty, followed by 40 other countries representing all regions of the world: from Africa, Europe, South-America to the Pacific.
Secretary General Mr. Guterres of the United Nations opened the ceremony, noting the important role civil society had played in making the treaty happen. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, represented civil society. She remembered the victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, noting that this treaty gives them a voice.
She also recognized the efforts of the core group of countries and civil society in achieving the treaty: "Groundbreaking steps forward do not start with consensus agreement . . . someone has to be brave and lead."
The threat of nuclear weapons is all over the news right now. Donald Trump's threats to "totally destroy" North Korea if they do not end their nuclear weapons programme are not the only nuclear threats there are also nearly 15,000 weapons scattered around the world in the arsenals of eight other countries. Still, for the first time, since, maybe the 1980s people are scared about nuclear weapons. They should be.
Nuclear weapons are terrifying. A blinding flash, a burning wind, the sound of a thousand thunderstorms, a cry for water too poisoned to drink, for help that isn't coming, only to end by begging for death. Those are the realities of nuclear weapons.
But, responsible governments are taking action to end the nuclear weapons threat. Those that sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons recognise that the risk of nuclear weapons is too high, and that the only way to protect anyone from getting nuked is to get rid of nukes altogether.
This treaty doesn't solve every nuclear weapons problem, but it does start dealing with the root of the problem.
As long as having nuclear weapons is considered useful, no one will want to get rid of them (and in fact, more people will want to get them). The new treaty reinforces nonproliferation commitments, while at the same time taking away the political legitimacy attached to nuclear weapons.
Richard Nixon reportedly walked around the White House claiming that he could kill 70 million people with the push of a button. That should be illegal, and thanks to the responsible governments of the world, it now is.
Susi Snyder is the Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager for Pax in the Netherlands.
(September 18, 2017) -- Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union's Air Defense Forces, and his job was to monitor his country's satellite system, which was looking for any possible nuclear weapons launches by the United States.
He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the US had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word 'launch' on it," Petrov told the BBC in 2013.
It was already a moment of extreme tension in the Cold War. On Sept. 1 of that year, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a US congressman. The episode led the US and the Soviets to exchange warnings and threats.
Petrov had to act quickly. US missiles could reach the Soviet Union in just over 20 minutes.
"There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike," Petrov told the BBC. "But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union's military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay.
"All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan."
Petrov sensed something wasn't adding up. He had been trained to expect an all-out nuclear assault from the US, so it seemed strange that the satellite system was detecting only a few missiles being launched. And the system itself was fairly new. He didn't completely trust it.
Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis recalled the episode in an interview last December on NPR: "[Petrov] just had this feeling in his gut that it wasn't right. It was five missiles. It didn't seem like enough. So even though by all of the protocols he had been trained to follow, he should absolutely have reported that up the chain of command and, you know, we should be talking about the great nuclear war of 1983 if any of us survived."
After several nerve-jangling minutes, Petrov didn't send the computer warning to his superiors. He checked to see if there had been a computer malfunction.
He had guessed correctly.
"Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened," he said in 2013. "If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief."
That episode and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis are considered to be the closest the US and the Soviets came to a nuclear exchange. And while the Cuban Missile Crisis has been widely examined, Petrov's actions have received much less attention.
Petrov died on May 19, at age 77, in a suburb outside Moscow, according to news reports Monday. He had long since retired and was living alone. News of his death apparently went unrecognized at the time.
Karl Schumacher, a German political activist who had highlighted Petrov's actions in recent years, tried to contact Petrov earlier this month to wish him a happy birthday. Instead, he reached Petrov's son, Dmitri, who said his father had died in May.
Petrov said he received an official reprimand for making mistakes in his logbook on Sept. 26, 1983. His story was not publicized at the time, but it did emerge after the Soviet Union collapsed. He received a number of international awards during the final years of his life. In 2015, a docudrama about him featuring Kevin Costner was called The Man Who Saved The World.
But he never considered himself a hero.
"That was my job," he said. "But they were lucky it was me on shift that night."
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.
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