Education And Debate

Time to leave behind genocidal weapons

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 15 April 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:993
  1. Bernard Lown, cofoundera
  1. a International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), 126 Rogers Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA

    Soon we shall cross the threshold into a new millennium. It would be no small contribution, for generations yet unborn, to leave behind genocidal weapons as the property of the barbaric 20th century. Indeed, an unprecedented opportunity exists for achieving that seemingly quixotic goal. This spring, signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty will assemble in New York to decide whether to renew, modify, or reject the treaty. Certainly non-renewal would post a singular threat for global security and international peace. Would the treaty's indefinite extension then be a blessing, as is forcefully argued by the nuclear powers?

    The Non-Proliferation Treaty was drafted in 1968 and entered in full force two years later. This multinational instrument was intended as a firebreak against the spread of nuclear weapons. Many nations had foregone nuclearism because of the promises and commitments enshrined in this treaty. The treaty represented a bargain: in return for not acquiring nuclear weapons, the non-weapon states would have free access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under international safeguards, while the nuclear powers would rapidly divest themselves of their nuclear arsenals.

    Article VI

    This second objective was clearly spelt out in the treaty and is explicitly stated in article VI. The words are precise, leaving little room for obfuscation—“to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race” and “to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of their nuclear stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” This article was intended to provide an acceptable balance of compensation to those who forswore possession …

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