I am convinced that nuclear weapons must be abolished. Their use in a military conflict is unthinkable; using them to achieve political objectives is immoral.
Twenty years ago, President Ronald Reagan and I ended our summit meeting in Geneva with a joint statement that "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." This was not merely a declaration. The inescapable logical consequence of that statement had to be a genuine effort to reduce nuclear weapons, on the way to their eventual elimination. To facilitate that effort, we agreed that our two countries would not seek military superiority over one another.
The arms reduction negotiations that followed were difficult and often contentious. Crucially, the 1986 U.S.-Soviet summit in Reykjavik, seen by many as a failure, actually gave an impetus to reduction by reaffirming the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and by paving the way toward concrete agreements on intermediate-range nuclear forces and strategic nuclear weapons.
In the years that followed, the process of nuclear reductions, started by the 1987 treaty eliminating two classes of nuclear missiles, has continued, but the goal of ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons seems to have been forgotten by the current generation of world leaders. The military doctrines of the countries with he largest nuclear arsenals, the United States and Russia, assume the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons, despite the end of the Cold War. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force, and the resumption of nuclear weapons testing remains a distinct possibility.
We must reassert the goal of nuclear weapons elimination as both a moral duty and a legal obligation of nuclear powers under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The abolition of nuclear weapons is also a practical necessity, given the new threat emerging at the intersection of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Ultimately, the only way to avert that threat is to destroy the stockpiles of nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons.
I believe that, in their hearts, political and military leaders understand that nuclear weapons must never be used, that even contemplating such a possibility is profoundly wrong. We must therefore challenge the members of the nuclear club to recognize that nuclear weapons, far from serving any purpose today, have no place in the world of the 21st century.
1. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991. Neither Washington nor Moscow now deploys such systems.
President Mikhail Gorbachev was the last president of the Soviet Union and winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.