Alexander Likhotal: The Legacy of Hiroshima

The following is the introductory remarks given by GCI President Alexander Likhotal at the 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held 12-14 November in Hiroshima, Japan under the theme “The Legacy of Hiroshima: a World Without Nuclear Weapons.”

Few events cut the fabric of history into “before” and “after.” Hiroshima is one of them. Indeed, as Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, wrote: “Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.” However, the formal recognition of this dramatic historical status came, as often in history, belatedly. It was only in 1985 that President Gorbachev and President Reagan stated at the Geneva summit: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”–adopting, in effect, a declaration of the need to rid humankind of nuclear weapons.

Today, the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world has an even greater urgency. In a world of new threats and challenges, nuclear weapons do not solve real security problems; indeed, reliance on them is becoming increasingly dangerous. According to recent security assessments, the probability of a major terrorist act involving the use of a WMD is 16% over the next 5 years and 29% over 10 years. This level of danger proves amply that the current nuclear weapons postures are immoral, illegal, militarily inefficient, and unacceptably dangerous. But still conventional political wisdom remains entrapped by unsophisticated Mao Tse-Tung’s “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” 

Ban Ki-moon, the first UN chief to attend the Peace Memorial ceremony in Hiroshima said: “Together, we are on a journey from ground zero to Global Zero — a world free of weapons of mass destruction. That is the only sane path to a safer world…We must teach an elemental truth: that status and prestige belong not to those who possess nuclear weapons, but to those who reject them.”

Excellent goal, but reminiscent of the classical Catch 22 – It is totally crazy to rely on nuclear deterrence in the current world, but one can hardly imagine a sane political leader ready to reject the nuclear weapons at his possession.

Is there a way to resolve this catch 22? Are the nuclear weapons the source of international tensions or an expression of them? Is the nuclear free world equal to the current world minus nuclear weapons or could global non-nuclear security be ensured only through ‘deep re-organisation’ of the existing international system? Is nuclear disarmament an end in itself or it is an important direction in which to head, a precondition and a means for reorganising international life on a more civilised basis in the direct sense of the word and in accordance with the imperatives of our century?


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