The Cold War is Over: Civil Leaders' Statement

by Alan Cranston, former ceneter of U.S.A.


I met Albert Einstein shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He warned me, as he warned others, that all-out nuclear war could exterminate human life -- conceivably all life on earth. That caught my attention. Ever since I've been devoted to the cause that brings us together.

Today, with the Cold War oer, with the United States reducing its nuclear arsenal and helping Russia to reduce hers, the danger of a nuclear holocaust is greatly reduced. But not totally. And not forever. Not as long as the United States and Russia still possess thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons. Not as long as those weapons, along with those of China, France and the United Kingdom, are kept on an incredibly perilous hair- trigger alert posture. Not as long as nuclear weapons exist. And today there is a rising threat that terrorists or rogue states will acquire and use nuclear weapons.

Yet interest and concern has waned all around the world as memories of the first shock over the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have faded and largely forgotten are the fearsome days of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- when American parents frantically dug bomb shelters and their children were taught to cower under their desks. With the Cold War over, with the United States and Russia reducing their nuclear arsenals and apparently no longer targeting each other, why worry?

There's been no real public outcry in my own country since the nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980s and anti-nuclear demonstrations are dwindling even in Japan. But many people in many countries are wisely still deeply concerned. Like you.

Thoughtful, experienced and active leaders in many nations believe that a great opportunity presently exists to reduce, restrain, and ultimately abolish all nuclear weapons. They also know that it is imperative that we seize this opportunity. How long it will last, no one can foretell. So now is the time for resolute, determined, and creative action.

Mitsuru Kurosawa in his fine speech told us of much that has been done recently that is very encouraging. But there is much yet to do. Much to do that will require pressure by the people and leadership by the leaders in many countries.Most of all, and first of all, in my country and in Russia, but also, I think, in Japan.

The U.S. and Japan bear a special responsibility for substantive and symbolic reasons. It clearly falls to my country, the creator of the bomb, the only country ever to use it, the only nation -- along with Russia -- to possess so many, to lead the way. I am glad that President Clinton's administration played an important part in:

achieving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,

inducing North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapons program, and

securing U.S. Senate ratification of START II, which will reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles to 3,500 each.

I am glad that President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed at Helsinki to do down in START III to 2,500 or 2,000. At the height of the Cold War, each country possessed 35,000 nuclear weapons! More than enough to destroy the world.

I am glad that President Clinton said on April 30, 1997:

"Lifting the threat of nuclear weapon destruction and limiting their dangerous spread has been and remains at the top of my foreign policy agenda..."

However, there is much more for the U.S. to do.

Japan has a unique right to leadership:

As the only nation ever to suffer a nuclear attack, Japan knows these agents of death and doom as no others do;

as a Nation proclaiming 3 "Non-nuclear Principles" -- not manufacturing, not possessing, and not introducing nuclear weapons in to the country -- and as a nation with a constitution "Forever renouncing war as the sovereign right of the nation," Japan has assumed a mantle of leadership;

and as one of the foremost nations in the world in terms of power and influence, with an economy second only to the U.S., Japan is already in a practical position of leadership.

I am glad that while Tomiichi Murayama was your Prime Minister he provided the sort of leadership millions of people expect of your nation, for calling the meeting held in Kyoto last December for the specific purpose of considering how to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

I am glad that two of Japan's former professional military leaders, Admiral Naotoshi Sakonjo and General Toshiyuki Shikata, signed the statement which I organized which was made public last December, likewise calling for abolition. It was signed by 60 generals and admirals from 17 countries, including 17 Russians and 21 Americans.

I am glad that you who are Japanese who are here today, and those you represent, are doing what you are doing. However, there is much more for Japan to do. Please permit me to make one suggestion.

One argument advanced by opponents of abolition is that if the U.S. ended its reliance on nuclear weapons and moved toward eliminating them, Japan, along with other nations like Germany that rely on the American "Nuclear Umbrella," would proceed to develop their own nuclear forces, and this would lead to widespread proliferation and new dangers.

I find it hard to believe that Japan, knowing the horror, would do this. I know that there are important Japanese, however, as there are important Americans, who want to maintain the nuclear option. But it would be tremendously helpful if Japan would make it unmistakenly clear that Japan would not develop nuclear weapons if those who now possess them move to abandon them.

In many nations many individuals who are highly respected and greatly experienced in security affairs have come to the view that the presence on this planet of nuclear weapons is unworthy of civilization and incompatible with human survival. Among these are influential Russian civilian and military leaders, citizens of another country that must fulfill a vital leadership role. They share the conviction that significant steps far beyond those now planned are realistic, attainable, and necessary -- and that they can open the door to final abolition.

A concensus is rapidly developing among these individuals that the following steps must be taken:

further and deeper reductions and dismantlings of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, and drawing China, France and the United Kingdom, and ultimately India, Israel and Pakistan into the process;

banning further production of fissile material;

transferring existing fissile material into internationally monitored storage;

banning production and possession of ballistic missiles;

rendering remaining nuclear weapons inoperable for surprise attacks, or accidental or unauthorized launches, by transparent separation of warheads from delivery systems, and by going to zero alert.

Taking nuclear weapons off alert is of supreme and urgent importance. The United States and Russia are no longer enemies. Why do we both still have nuclear weapons on alert? Why do we both still hold to a policy of Launch on Warning?

The Launch on Warning doctrine means that if either the U.S. or Russia fires missiles at the other, the nation under attack will fire back at the aggressor before their missiles reach their targets -- thus preventing the missiles of the attacked nation from being destroyed in their silos.

The nation under attack has only between 5 and 15 minutes to decide whether actually to fire back. This is a hair-trigger set- up for false alarms -- and for miscalculations, mistakes, accidents, hysteria, and tragedy. There have been many false alarms. I will give you two examples:

When Jimmy Carter was President of the U.S., his top security aide was awakened in the middle of the night by a call from a top general who informed him that Russia had launched nuclear weapons at the U.S. The President's aide said, "I'm not going to awaken the President. Double check, but call me back in 5 minutes." He hung up.

His wife, who had been wakened by the call, asked, "What was that about?" "Oh, just a crisis someplace," he replied. He didn't want to alarm her. He thought they would both be dead in 15 minutes. The general called back, "False alarm." It turned out that a training tape simulating a Soviet attack had mistakenly been inserted into the monitoring system - and was interpreted as the real thing.

Two years ago President Yeltsin was awakened in the middle of the night by aides who told him the U.S. had fired a missile at Moscow. The "Button" and the codes were immediately readied for a counter-attack on the U.S., but Yeltsin waited. Then radar indicated the missile would land in the ocean -- not in Moscow. The Russians relaxed.

It turned out Norway had been testing a missile. Norway had notified Russia six weeks before that it would do so on this night at this hour. The notification had been lost in the Russian bureaucracy.

Jonathan Schell in his eloquent way has summed up the meaning of this:

The problem with deterrence is not that it doesn't work -- but that we must pay an inconceivable price if it fails. To threaten the deaths of tens of hundreds of millions of people presages an atrocity beyond anything in the record of mankind. Have we, in a silent and incomprehensible moral revolution, come to regard such threats as ordinary -- as normal and proper policy for any self-respecting nation?

The developing concensus for the steps that would lead us away from the brink of this moral and practical catastrophe is being expressed in more and more carefully documented, compelling and convincing statements and studies by more and more individuals and institutions in more and more countries. A literal whirlwind of activities is gathering force.

Fortunately, a great deal of this is happening in the United States and Russia, where much of the effort is devoted to planning what the remarkable General Lee Butler has called "A global framework of verification and sanctions that will greatly reduce the likelihood, or adequately deal with the consequences, of cheating in a nuclear free world."

Throughout the world, leaders in and out of public office in nations that do not possess nuclear weapons are consulting and cooperating increasingly in the effort to establish the goal of abolition. These are nations that do not want to possess nuclear weapons, but they are also nations that do not find it acceptable that the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K. possess them and show no significant signs of keeping their commitment -- embedded in the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- to negotiate nuclear disarmament.

The recent extension of the treaty was finally achieved only on the basis of an acknowledgment by the nuclear powers of that commitment. It was achieved amidst acrimony between the five nuclear powers and nations that perceive the five as intending to retain for all eternity the capacity to threaten their very existence.

These nations will be heard from more and more in the time ahead. What they are telling the nuclear powers in one way or another is this:

You cannot forever be the only people possessing nuclear weapons. If they are indispensible to you, perhaps we need them too. You can either work in good faith for abolition. Or you can watch as nuclear weapons proliferate.

My country, and the other four, should listen to this message, should heed this warning.

Together, the citizens and the nations of the world must move this world to abolition. For deeply moral reasons. For highly ethical reasons. For eminently practical reasons.

I congratulate you who are here for what you have done to help bring us to this moment of opportunity, and for what I know you can and will do to move us further along.

I thank you for your vision, your determination, your dedication to a mission as important as any ever undertaken by humankind on earth.


BACK