By Marie Braun, peace leader, and SJA parishioner
Friday, January 22, the bells at SJA rang out as nations around the world celebrated the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This international treaty makes it illegal to “develop, test, produce, manufacture . . . use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.” The treaty was negotiated at the United Nations and has the support of over 120 countries, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and millions of ordinary people across the globe. This treaty is the product of work by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which won the 2017 Nobel Peace prize. This campaign was inspired by the successful international campaigns which led to the prohibition, under international law, of biological, chemical and other inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is unwilling to sign the Treaty, and, in fact, boycotted the negotiations. The other 8 nuclear nations, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea, will not sign it either. In fact, the U.S. and the other nuclear powers are pursuing new nuclear weapons, even ones designed for battlefield use, rather than pursuing diplomatic courses to de-escalate tensions and reduce the chance that nuclear weapons will ever be used.
Disarming nuclear weapons is not a difficult process, since we have the technical expertise and verification procedures in place. In 1991, some 4,000 nukes in Europe were disarmed without a treaty under the cooperative leadership of President George Walker Bush, President Michel Gorbachev, William Perry, Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar.
We can continue this process of disarmament, but we need the political will and popular support to do so. Our SJA WAMM (Women Against Military Madness)/Peacemakers group will continue to make this a priority and will provide opportunities for SJA parishioners to be heard!
And lastly, the U.S., the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons, should take the lead in convening talks with the other eight nuclear nations with the goal of working toward the elimination of these horrendous weapons and becoming signatories of the new landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Impossible? Let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela “It always seems impossible until it's done.”
UPDATE: Published in the Star Tribune Letters to the Editor, February 8, 2021
START treaty is indeed just that
The Star Tribune in its Feb. 2 editorial (“U.S.-Russia treaty on nukes is critical”) gives the Biden administration along with Russian President Vladimir Putin measured congratulations for reaching a last-minute agreement to extend the New START Treaty shortly before it was set to expire. But much more work is needed on nuclear arms cutbacks to make the world safer. I heartily agree with the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s conclusion that “New START [is] ... the beginning, not an end, of controlling and eventually ending the threat of nuclear weapons.” As pointed out in the editorial, President Joe Biden must reverse former President Donald Trump’s reckless actions that pulled the U.S. out of other arms control treaties (such as the “Open Skies” treaty and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty). Finally, the U.S. must take a significant new step toward making nuclear arms extinct. It should lead among the nuclear states on the path toward all of them joining the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which recently became international law. Biden and the U.S. Senate could greatly legitimize the TPNW by signing and ratifying it. The U.S. would join over 80 countries that have signed the treaty and over 50 that have ratified it. Anti-nuke groups and TPNW countries can use campaigns similar to others that won universal bans for several other categories of weapons through international treaties: chemical weapons, biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions. All in all, dedicated advocacy on eradicating nuclear weapons may make this goal not only plausible but maybe inevitable.
Bill Adamski, Minneapolis [SJA Parishioner]