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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 23, February 1998

Nuclear Abolition Statement by International Civilian Leaders:
An Assessment and An Appeal
By Alan Cranston

The abolition statement by international civilian leaders, made public on 2 February 1998 by General Lee Butler and the State of the World Forum - the full text of which follows this article - follows the pattern set by the two widely noted statements made by retired generals and admirals made public in late 1996 by General Andrew Goodpaster, General Butler and the Forum. Like the military professionals, the civilian leaders advocate that specific steps be taken now to reduce ongoing nuclear weapon dangers still facing us all after the end of the Cold War, and they urge that the nuclear powers declare umabiguously that their goal is eventual abolition.

The unexpected and surprising position taken by so many prominent generals gave a significant boost to the abolition cause. Drafted by leaders from several lands, primarily Americans and Russians, the civilian statement is designed to do likewise. Leaders are still adding their names to it. So far, as of 4 March, 128 noted individuals from 48 nations have signed it, including 52 past or present Presidents and Prime Ministers.Many of these heads of State guided their nations during the Cold War.

Among the signatories are former heads of State or Government from four of the five declared nuclear powers: Prime Minister Michel Rocard of France, President Mikhail Gorbachev and Prime Minister Egor Gaidar of the Soviet Union and Russia, Prime Minsiter Lord James Callaghan of the UK, and President Jimmy Carter of the US. All of these men are active today in public affairs.

China, the fifth nuclear power, is represented by two people, one a prominent leader of what the Chinese uniquely call a GONGO - a Government Organized Non-Governmental Organization. China's official policy was stated at the UN on 25 September, 1996, by Vice-President and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen who said, "We always stand for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons."

The three principal nations under the nuclear 'umbrella' are represented by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of Germany, former Prime Minister Shin Hyon-Hwak of Korea and - not surprisingly - five former prime ministers of Japan, including the most recent, Tomiichi Murayama. These, too, remain active in public life. All five Japanese are members of the Diet at present. Particularly notable among the present heads of State on the list are President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, leader of the only nation to develop its own nuclear weapons and then abandon them, and President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia, who as Soviet Foreign Minister did so much, along with President Gorbachev, President Reagan, and Secretary of State Schultz, to reverse the superpower nuclear arms race.

Also signatories are leaders of four nations known to have commenced and then abandoned programs to develop nuclear weapons: former president Raul Alfonsin of Argentina, former prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating of Australia, former Prime Minister Jose Sarney of Brazil, and present Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden and his predecessor, Ingvar Carlsson. Also from Australia is Ambassador Richard Butler, who today as Chair of the UN Special Commission is directing the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Butler signed the civilian statement before taking on the Iraq task.

Among the signatories are past and present heads of State and important figures from other countries playing particularly active roles in the movement to steer the world toward abolition, countries such as Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Sri Lanka that view this effort as vitally necessary if proliferation is to be prevented. One of the Sri Lankan signatories is Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, who is heading the international diplomatic team in the Iraq weapon search. Like Ambassador Butler, Dhanapala signed the statement prior to his UN appointment.

No past or present head of State was enlisted from the three threshold nuclear States where ambiguity about nuclear matters is deemed so important, India, Israel and Pakistan. However, prominent individuals are on the list from each of those nations.

Various individuals and NGOs in several countries and on several continents and islands lent a significant hand in signing up these leaders. It is clear that only lack of sufficient time and adequate access prevented many more countries and eminences from appearing among the signatories. The very task of seeking them out - and, when necessary, convincing them to sign on - in itself promotes the goal of abolition. Since gathering additional appropriate civilian signatures would strengthen the statement and the cause, we would welcome any efforts to add past or present heads of State, foreign and defense ministers, parliamentary leaders, and other prominent individuals whose qualifications and experience are comparable to those already enlisted. I thank those of you reading these words for whatever you might do to this end. We do not need actual signatures, just authority to use names. The names, past and present titles, affiliations and countries of any leaders who authorize adding their names to the statement should be sent to:

The Presidio
PO Box 29434
San Francisco, CA 94129
FAX: 415-561-2323
email: forum@worldforum.org
web site: www.worldforum.org

A few days after the release of the civilian statement in Washington, Moscow, and elsewhere, I traveled to Moscow with several other Americans for discussions with Russian leaders and experts from other countries regarding nuclear weapons and other matters related to global security. Great interest was shown in the statement and its proposals.

In these meetings and conversations - part of a systematic, ongoing effort to explore nuclear issues with decision makers and opinion leaders in key countries - the incredible financial cost to the US and to Russia of these weapons came up repeatedly. The difficulty Russia will face in maintaining not only the shrinking arsenal of nuclear weapons authorized in START II, if ratified, but even the lower levels agreed to at Helsinki by Clinton and Yeltsin as targets for START III, was stressed. Cited in turn was the total cost to the US of nuclear weapons and related expenditures since 1940, now estimated at $6 trillion, and a forthcoming estimate by the Brookings Institute that the cost in this year's US budget will exceed $34 billion. This led to discussions of whether nuclear weapons really have any military or political value in today's world. This point was considered in the context of the fact that the US and Russia have traded positions on nuclear weapons: during the Cold War the US placed primary reliance upon nuclear forces because of a perceived relative weakness in conventional forces, while now it is Russia that places primary reliance upon nuclear forces because of a perceived weakness in conventional forces. It was acknowledged that this new Russian posture led Russia to abandon the Soviet Union's No First Use policy, and threatens to impede progress toward reducing mutual reliance on nuclear weapons. Several Russians expressed the belief, however, that these problems are transitory and in time will recede as the long road to abolition is traversed.

Jonathan Schell, the eloquent and thoughtful author of several remarkable books on nuclear weapons and the editor of the recent special issue of The Nation devoted to abolition, was a member of the US delegation, and several times he and I pointed out the following little noted fact: All five nations possessing nuclear weapons have refrained from using them while losing wars to nations that did not possess nuclear weapons: the US in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, China in Vietnam, France in Algeria, the UK at Suez.

"You can add Chechnya to the list," muttered one Russian. Another remarked, "The weapons are not only useless militarily, they are useless politically as well. Who is now going to believe the threats that they might be used under almost any circumstances that can be imagined?"

In a public appearance in Washington on February 5, 1998, Robert McNamara rattled off the names of every US president since Harry Truman and flatly declared that no one of them under any circumstances would have ordered first use of nuclear weapons. McNamara told Jonathan Schell in a recent interview that while serving as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, he advised both to threaten to follow NATO policy to resort to nuclear weapons if the Soviets launched a conventional attack on Western Europe - but that he also told them:

"Don't ever do it...even if the Soviet Warsaw Pact is, in fact, overrunning West Germany."

McNamara also said that during the Cuban missile crisis - in which he played a central role - the US and Russia "came within a hairbreadth of nuclear war" due to misinformation and miscalculation.

It is increasingly recognized that other incidents - many of them - have brought the world close to accidental nuclear war, and that there is a rising threat that nuclear weapons will be acquired by terrorists, rogues, or criminals who will not be likely to share the compunctions that have prevented any leader of a nation possessing nuclear weapons from ordering their use since World War II.

In is facts like these - above all the continuing reliance upon deterrence by the US, Russia and other nations, and the realization that if it ever fails the consequences will be apocalyptic - that are causing so many leaders to speak out for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. More leaders from other realms, leaders whose views cannot be ignored, will be heard from in the time ahead.

Alan Cranston represented California in the US Senate frrom 1969 to 1993. He is Chair of the State of the World Forum and the Gorbachev Foundation USA.

Full Text of Statement "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 US/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 US 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 international safeguards.

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."


On the day of its release - 2 February - the Statement had attracted 117 signatures. By 4 March, the total had risen to 128, from the following 48 States:

Argentina (1): Raul Alfonsin, Former President
Australia (6): Malcolm Fraser, Former Prime Minister; Paul J. Keating, Former Prime Minister; Gough Whitlam, Former Prime Minister & Foreign Minister; Kim C. Beazley, Leader of the Opposition & Former Deputy Prime Minister; Richard Butler, Ambassador to UN, Chair, UN Special Commission on Iraq, Chair, Canberra Commission; Gareth Evans, Former Foreign Minister & Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Bangladesh (2): A.D.M.S. Chuwdhury, Deputy Opposition Leader & Former Deputy Prime Minister; Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank.
Brazil (1): Jose Sarney, Former Prime Minister.
Bulgaria (3): Nicolai Dobrev, Chair, National Security Committee & Former Minister of Interior; Nicolai Kamov, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee; Dimitra Pavlov, Minister of Defense.
Canada (2): Pierre Trudeau, Former Prime Minister; Douglas Roche, Former Ambassador for Disarmament.
Chile (1): Juan Somavia, Ambassador to UN.
China (2): Qian Jiadong, Former Chinese Ambassador to UN; Chen Jifeng, Secretary General, Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament
Colombia (1): Micael Pastrana Borrero, Former President (Deceased August 1997).
Costa Rica (5): Jose Figueres, President; Oscar Arias, Former President; Rodrigo Carazo, Former President; Rebeca Grynspan Mayufis, Second Vice President; Rodrigo Oreamuno B., First Vice President.
Cyprus (1): George Vassiliou, Former President.
Egypt (1): Esmat Abdul Meguid, Secretary General, League of Arab States & Former Foreign Minister.
Finland (1): Kalevi Sorsa, Former President.
France (2): Michel Rocard, Former Prime Minister; Jacques Attali, Former Special Advisor to President Mitterand.
Georgia (1): Eduard A. Shevardnadze, President.
Germany (10): Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor; Hans Modrow, Former Prime Minister, East Germany; Egon Bahr, Former Minister for Special Affairs; Angelika Beer, Spokesperson for Defense, Alliance 90/Green Party; Alfred Dregger, Hon. Chair, Christian Democratic Party; Hans Koschnik, Former Administrator, European Union, Mostar; Markus Meckel, Former Foreign Minister, East Germany; Dr. Walter Romberg, Former Minister of Finances, East Germany; Lothar Spath, Former Minister-President, Baden-Wurttemberg; Hans-Jochen Vogel, Former Mayor, Berlin, Former Minister of Justice & Former Chair, Social Democratic Party.
Hungary (1): Ervin Laszlo, Founder and President, Club of Budapest.
India (1): Dr.Karan Singh, Former Ambassador to the US & Former Cabinet Minister.
Italy (1): Giuliano Amato, Former Prime Minister.
Israel (1): Yael Dayan, Member, Knesset.
Japan (12): Tsutomu Hata, Former Prime Minister; Morihiro Hosokawa, Former Prime Minister; Kiichi Miyazawa, Former Prime Minister; Tomiichi Murayama, Former Prime Minister; Noboru Takeshita, Former Prime Minister; Takako Doi, Former Speaker, House of Representatives; 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; Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate. Kyrgyz Republic (3): Askar Akaev, President; Muratbek S. Imanaliev, Foreign Minister; Rosa Otunbaeva, Former Foreign Minister, Ambassador to UK.
Lebanon (1): Sadim El Hoss, Former Prime Minister.
Malaysia (1): Ismail Razali, President, UN General Assembly.
Mexico (1): Miguel de la Madrid, Former President.
Mongolia (2): Punsalmaa Ochirbat, Former President; Jalbuu Choinhor, Ambassador to US.
Namibia (1): Sam Junoma, President.
Nauru (3): Lagumont Harris, Former President; Ruben Kun, Former President; David Peter, Former Speaker, Parliament.
Netherlands (9): Ruud Lubbers, Former Prime Minister; Andries van Agt, Former Prime Minister; E. Korthals Altes, Former Ambassador to Madrid; A.L. ter Beek, Former Minister of Defence; J. van Houwelingen, Former Deputy Minister of Defence; J.G. Kraaijeveld-Wouters, Former Deputy Minister of Culture; 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.
New Zealand (2): David Lange, Former Prime Minister; Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Former Prime Minister.
Northern Ireland (1): Mairead Maguire, Honorary President, Peace People, Nobel Peace Laureate.
Pakistan (2): Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Mahbub ul Haq, President, Human Development Centre, Former Minister of Finance.
Panama (1): Ricardo de la Espriella, Former President.
Philippines (1): Corazon Aquino, Former President.
Portugal (1): Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, Former Prime Minister. Republic of Korea (1): Shin Hyon-Hwak, Former Prime Minister.
Russia (9): Egor Gaidar, Former Prime Minister; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; Georgi Arbatov, President, Governing Board, Institute of USA and Canada; Alexander Bessmertnykh, Former Soviet Foreign Minister; Vitaly Goldansky, President, Russian Pugwash Committee; Roland Timerbaev, Former Permanent Representative of the USSR and Russia in IAEA; Oleg Troynavsky, Former USSR Representative to the UN; Evgeny Velikhov, Member, National Security Council; Alexander N. Yakovlev, Former Member, Politburo, Principal Domestic Advisor to President Gorbachev.
South Africa (4): Nelson Mandela, President; Thabo Mbeki, Executive Deputy President; F.W. De Klerk, Former President; Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Spain (2): Enrique Baron Crespo, Former President, European Parliament; Fernando Moran Lopez, Former Foreign Minister.
Sri Lanka (3): A.T. Ariyaratne, Leader, Sarvodaya Movement; Anura Bandaranaike, Former Minister of Education & Former Leader of Opposition; Jayantha Dhanapala, President, NPT Review and Extension Conference.
Suriname (1): I.M. Djwalapersad, Speaker, Assembly.
Sweden (3): Goran Persson, Prime Minister; Ingvar Carlsson, Former Prime Minister; Maj Britt Theorin Former Chair, UN Commission of Experts on Nuclear Weapons
Tanzania (4): Al Hassan Mwinyi, Former President; Julius K. Nyerere, Former President; Salim Ahmed Salim, Former Prime Minister; Joseph Warioba, Former Prime Minister.
Thailand (1): Anand Panyarachun, Former Prime Minister.
Uganda (4): Milton Obote, Former President; 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.
United Kingdom (4): Lord James Callaghan, Former Prime Minister; Lord Denis Healey, Former Secretary of Defense & Chancellor of Exchequer; John Edmonds, Former Chief Negotiator, CTBT & Former Head, Arms Control & Disarmament, Foreign Office; Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate.
United States (5): Jimmy Carter, Former President; Robert McNamara, Former Secretary of Defense; Paul H.Nitze, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense & Former Ambassador-at-Large on Arms Control; Elliot Richardson, Former Secretary of Defense; Cyrus Vance, Former Secretary of State.
Zimbabwe (1): Dr. Robert Mugabe, President.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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