We still need to rid the world of nuclear weapons

15 July 2017

We still need to rid the world of nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction, and they’re highly dangerous. Destruction of people, animals and the environment is a constant menace. The Dutch government must, if it is concerned about our security, take the lead in bringing about a world free of nuclear arms. It can do this by signing the United Nations treaty banning them that was concluded last week. This would not only establish a clear norm for nuclear armed states, it would also correspond to the wishes of the 122 countries which have already signed up.

By Sadet Karabulut

135 countries held talks during the last few months at the UN in New York. As a result of pressure from the peace movement and Parliament, the government has shown leadership by being the only NATO country to take an active part in the negotiations, in doing so calling into question the NATO doctrine that member states must not call for a ban on nuclear arms.

The dangers arising from nuclear weapons have only grown over the years. They are now stronger and more destructive than those which killed hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The chance that they will be used is very real. Growing tensions between the US and Russia, the US and North Korea and between India and Pakistan show that this is true, as these are all nuclear armed states which refuse to rule out first use.

However much some nuclear armed states and their leaders may want to hold on to weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent, nuclear arms have a destructive effect on humanity. They make the world less safe. We simply cannot cope with the consequences of any deployment and use of such weapons. The International Red Cross has stressed, and not without good cause, that no adequate help can be offered in the wake of the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The choice is between a nuclear weapon free world and the destruction of a large part of the human race.

Not much will result immediately from these discussions about nuclear disarmament. The number of nuclear weapons may have been reduced in the past from 70,000 to 15,000, but they are a long way from having had their day. Nuclear armed states are investing billions in modernising their nuclear arsenals, in the case of the US some trillion dollars. In the Netherlands too US nuclear weapons are stationed, and it is expected that next year these will be modernised, though they could long ago have been sent back.

We have a right to be informed as to when the American nuclear weapons will be returned to the United States for modernisation. Signing the treaty banning nuclear arms would represent a fine opportunity to make agreements with the US that these weapons would not be returned to Dutch soil. The Netherlands has shown courage by participating in the talks and now needs to join deed to word by signing this excellent treaty calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Sadet Karabulut is a Member of Parliament for the SP and the party’s parliamentary spokeswoman on defence issues. This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the national daily Algemeen Dagblad.

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