A world free of nuclear weapons
Editor's note: This column, which appeared one year
ago in the Wall Street Journal, is being reprinted with
permission of the Wall Street Journal at the request
of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN).
We hope it provokes discussion. UCAN was formed to educate
and involve Utahns in the effort to help rid the world
of nuclear weapons. For more information regarding the
mission of the organization, log onto its Web site http://www.utahcan.org
By GEORGE P. SHULTZ, WILLIAM J. PERRY, HENRY
A. KISSINGER and SAM NUNN
Reprinted with permission from The Wall Street
Journal, 2007 Dow Jones & Company. All rights reserved.
January 4, 2007 | Nuclear weapons today present tremendous
dangers, but also an historic opportunity. U.S. leadership
will be required to take the world to the next stage
-- to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear
weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing
their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands,
and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.
Nuclear weapons were essential to maintaining international
security during the Cold War because they were a means
of deterrence. The end of the Cold War made the doctrine
of mutual Soviet-American deterrence obsolete. Deterrence
continues to be a relevant consideration for many states
with regard to threats from other states. But reliance
on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly
hazardous and decreasingly effective.
North Korea's recent nuclear test and Iran's refusal
to stop its program to enrich uranium -- potentially
to weapons grade -- highlight the fact that the world
is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous nuclear
era. Most alarmingly, the likelihood that non-state
terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weaponry
is increasing. In today's war waged on world order by
terrorists, nuclear weapons are the ultimate means of
mass devastation. And non-state terrorist groups with
nuclear weapons are conceptually outside the bounds
of a deterrent strategy and present difficult new security
Apart from the terrorist threat, unless urgent new
actions are taken, the U.S. soon will be compelled to
enter a new nuclear era that will be more precarious,
psychologically disorienting, and economically even
more costly than was Cold War deterrence. It is far
from certain that we can successfully replicate the
old Soviet-American "mutually assured destruction" with
an increasing number of potential nuclear enemies world-wide
without dramatically increasing the risk that nuclear
weapons will be used. New nuclear states do not have
the benefit of years of step-by-step safeguards put
in effect during the Cold War to prevent nuclear accidents,
misjudgments or unauthorized launches. The United States
and the Soviet Union learned from mistakes that were
less than fatal. Both countries were diligent to ensure
that no nuclear weapon was used during the Cold War
by design or by accident. Will new nuclear nations and
the world be as fortunate in the next 50 years as we
were during the Cold War?
Leaders addressed this issue in earlier times. In
his "Atoms for Peace" address to the United Nations
in 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged America's "determination
to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma -- to devote
its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the
miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated
to his death, but consecrated to his life." John F.
Kennedy, seeking to break the logjam on nuclear disarmament,
said, "The world was not meant to be a prison in which
man awaits his execution."
Rajiv Gandhi, addressing the U.N. General Assembly
on June 9, 1988, appealed, "Nuclear war will not mean
the death of a hundred million people. Or even a thousand
million. It will mean the extinction of four thousand
million: the end of life as we know it on our planet
earth. We come to the United Nations to seek your support.
We seek your support to put a stop to this madness."
Ronald Reagan called for the abolishment of "all nuclear
weapons," which he considered to be "totally irrational,
totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly
destructive of life on earth and civilization." Mikhail
Gorbachev shared this vision, which had also been expressed
by previous American presidents. Although Reagan and
Mr. Gorbachev failed at Reykjavik to achieve the goal
of an agreement to get rid of all nuclear weapons, they
did succeed in turning the arms race on its head. They
initiated steps leading to significant reductions in
deployed long- and intermediate-range nuclear forces,
including the elimination of an entire class of threatening
What will it take to rekindle the vision shared by
Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev? Can a world-wide consensus
be forged that defines a series of practical steps leading
to major reductions in the nuclear danger? There is
an urgent need to address the challenge posed by these
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) envisioned the
end of all nuclear weapons. It provides (a) that states
that did not possess nuclear weapons as of 1967 agree
not to obtain them, and (b) that states that do possess
them agree to divest themselves of these weapons over
time. Every president of both parties since Richard
Nixon has reaffirmed these treaty obligations, but non-nuclear
weapon states have grown increasingly skeptical of the
sincerity of the nuclear powers.
Strong non-proliferation efforts are under way. The
Cooperative Threat Reduction program, the Global Threat
Reduction Initiative, the Proliferation Security Initiative
and the Additional Protocols are innovative approaches
that provide powerful new tools for detecting activities
that violate the NPT and endanger world security. They
deserve full implementation. The negotiations on proliferation
of nuclear weapons by North Korea and Iran, involving
all the permanent members of the Security Council plus
Germany and Japan, are crucially important. They must
be energetically pursued.
But by themselves, none of these steps are adequate
to the danger. Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev
aspired to accomplish more at their meeting in Reykjavik
20 years ago -- the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether.
Their vision shocked experts in the doctrine of nuclear
deterrence, but galvanized the hopes of people around
the world. The leaders of the two countries with the
largest arsenals of nuclear weapons discussed the abolition
of their most powerful weapons.
What should be done? Can the promise of the NPT and
the possibilities envisioned at Reykjavik be brought
to fruition? We believe that a major effort should be
launched by the United States to produce a positive
answer through concrete stages.
First and foremost is intensive work with leaders
of the countries in possession of nuclear weapons to
turn the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into
a joint enterprise. Such a joint enterprise, by involving
changes in the disposition of the states possessing
nuclear weapons, would lend additional weight to efforts
already under way to avoid the emergence of a nuclear-armed
North Korea and Iran.
The program on which agreements should be sought would
constitute a series of agreed and urgent steps that
would lay the groundwork for a world free of the nuclear
threat. Steps would include: • Changing the Cold War
posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning
time and thereby reduce the danger of an accidental
or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon.
• Continuing to reduce substantially the size of nuclear
forces in all states that possess them.
• Eliminating short-range nuclear weapons designed
to be forward-deployed.
• Initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate,
including understandings to increase confidence and
provide for periodic review, to achieve ratification
of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking advantage
of recent technical advances, and working to secure
ratification by other key states.
• Providing the highest possible standards of security
for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium,
and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world.
• Getting control of the uranium enrichment process,
combined with the guarantee that uranium for nuclear
power reactors could be obtained at a reasonable price,
first from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and then from
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or other
controlled international reserves. It will also be necessary
to deal with proliferation issues presented by spent
fuel from reactors producing electricity.
• Halting the production of fissile material for weapons
globally; phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium
in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium
from research facilities around the world and rendering
the materials safe.
• Redoubling our efforts to resolve regional confrontations
and conflicts that give rise to new nuclear powers.
Achieving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons
will also require effective measures to impede or counter
any nuclear-related conduct that is potentially threatening
to the security of any state or peoples.
Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear
weapons and practical measures toward achieving that
goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative
consistent with America's moral heritage. The effort
could have a profoundly positive impact on the security
of future generations. Without the bold vision, the
actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without
the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic
We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear
weapons and working energetically on the actions required
to achieve that goal, beginning with the measures outlined
Mr. Shultz, a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution
at Stanford, was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989.
Mr. Perry was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997.
Mr. Kissinger, chairman of Kissinger Associates, was
secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. Mr. Nunn is former
chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A conference organized by Mr. Shultz and Sidney D.
Drell was held at Hoover to reconsider the vision that
Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev brought to Reykjavik. In addition
to Messrs. Shultz and Drell, the following participants
also endorse the view in this statement: Martin Anderson,
Steve Andreasen, Michael Armacost, William Crowe, James
Goodby, Thomas Graham Jr., Thomas Henriksen, David Holloway,
Max Kampelman, Jack Matlock, John McLaughlin, Don Oberdorfer,
Rozanne Ridgway, Henry Rowen, Roald Sagdeev and Abraham