On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, published an insightful interview with former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, where he argued the United States must demilitarize if nuclear weapons are ever going to be abolished.
Gorbachev, who pushed for nuclear disarmament in meetings with President Ronald Reagan, described the US as an “insurmountable obstacle on the road to a nuclear-free world,” and suggested, “That’s why we have to put demilitarization back on the agenda of international politics.”
“This includes a reduction of military budgets, a moratorium on the development of new types of weapons and a prohibition on militarizing space. Otherwise, talks toward a nuclear-free world will be little more than empty words. The world would then become less safe, more unstable and unpredictable. Everyone will lose, including those now seeking to dominate the world,” Gorbachev contended.
Gorbachev expressed fear about the precarious state of global politics.
“The nuclear powers still have thousands of nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapons are still stationed in Europe,” Gorbachev explained. “The pace of reducing stockpiles has slowed considerably. We are witnessing the beginning of a new arms race. The militarization of space is a real danger. The danger of nuclear proliferation is greater than ever before. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, primarily because the Americans did not ratify it. This would have been extremely important.”
The former Russian president recalled how President Dwight D. Eisenhower had named the problem in the 1950s when he spoke out about the military industrial-complex.
“The power of the military-industrial complex continued to be enormous under Reagan and his successor George Bush,” Gorbachev recounted.
Former US Secretary of State George Shultz told me a few years ago that only a conservative president like Reagan could have been in a position to get the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty through the Senate. Let’s not forget that the the “Zero Option” that Reagan himself proposed (eds. note: the proposal to remove all Soviet and American intermediate-range nuclear missles from Europe) had many opponents in the West. They considered it to be a propaganda stunt and they wanted to thwart Reagan’s policies. After the Reykjavik summit in 1986 (eds. note: the subject of the summit between Reagan and Gorbachev was nuclear disarmament), Margaret Thatcher declared: We won’t be able to handle a second Reykjavik.
Gorbachev challenged the idea that a few powerful countries should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, and insisted, “Either we move toward a nuclear-free world or we have to accept that nuclear weapons will continue to spread, step by step, across the globe.”
“And can we really imagine a world without nuclear weapons if a single country amasses so many conventional weapons that its military budget nearly tops that of all other countries combined? This country would enjoy total military supremacy if nuclear weapons were abolished.”
Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows the US spent about $609 billion on military expenditures in 2014, which is about three to four times what China spent that same year.
According to SIPRI, as of January the US “maintained a stockpile of approximately 4760 nuclear warheads. This included approximately 2080 deployed nuclear warheads, consisting of roughly 1900 strategic and 180 non-strategic warheads. In addition to this deployed arsenal, about 2680 warheads were held in reserve. Another roughly 2500 retired warheads were scheduled for dismantlement, giving a total inventory of approximately 7260 warheads.”
Protests took place on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, and Japanese citizens and others from around the world urged world leaders to abolish nuclear weapons. The bomb killed around 150,000 people, and three days later, another bomb dropped on Nagasaki killed around 75,000.
Beyond Nuclear, an advocacy coalition which works to educate the public on nuclear power and nuclear weapons and why both should be abandoned, planned demonstrations and nonviolent direct actions for “Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in CA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in NM, the Kansas City Plant in MO, the Y-12 Plant in TN, the Rocky Flats Plant in CO, the Pantex Plant in TX, and in GA near the Savannah River Site.”
“We stand on the brink of a new, global nuclear arms race,” declared Ralph Hutchison, who is the coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “This is epitomized by government plans for a new uranium processing facility to produce H-bomb components at Y-12, including for new-design weapons.”
“U.S. plans to ‘modernize’ the arsenal are also underway at Livermore Lab,” stated Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs’ executive director. She highlighted the incorporation of a a “new long-range stand off warhead design and the start of plutonium shots in the Lab’s National Ignition Facility.”
About 50 protesters, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg, were arrested outside the Livermore Laboratory on the 70th anniversary.
Ellsberg called the bombing of Hiroshima “mass murder.” Takashi Tanemori, who was 8-years-old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, told demonstrators he had forgiven America for killing his family but suggested the threat of nuclear weapons was now extremely difficult to eliminate.