Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

23 November 2009

Hans Blix, former Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, said nuclear weapons still pose a threat to world peace. Governments spend billions of dollars on arms, but claim they are desperate for funds to counter the economic recession.

When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, governments took steps to disarm, with agreements to downgrade nuclear weapons. Sadly political leaders failed to build on these, as there was then considerable backsliding in the 2000s, and various treaties have not been implemented.

However with a new President in the White House, who says he wants to revive disarmament, there have been steps forward, with the Russian President also agreeing it is time to move beyond Cold War mentalities. As the big players, like US, Russia, China or the EU, are becoming increasingly interdependent, they have to adjust to each others’ demands.

On North Korea and Iran, Dr Blix said the former refuses to drop its nuclear weapons’ programme despite being offered many incentives, and it is difficult to see what else they are playing for, although domestic issues may be hindering the process. On Iran, he welcomed President Obama’s moves to negotiate, but felt the US could offer similar incentives as it had to North Korea, but he was unclear what Tehran hoped to gain from its nuclear programme.

Perhaps the solution is to create a Middle East free of nuclear power plants, enrichment installations and plutonium production, said Dr Blix. Given Washington’s and Moscow’s changed approach, it might be possible to embark on an ambitious agenda for global nuclear disarmament, and this approach could help the situation in the Middle East.