Headlines, Human Rights, North America, Nuclear Energy - Nuclear Weapons, Peace

Q&A: To Try With Nukes as With Mines

Chryso D'Angelo interviews Nobel Peace Prize Laureate JODY WILLIAMS

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 29 2010 (IPS) - Since the expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in December, U.S. and Russian negotiators have been busy hammering out a new pact that will reduce the number of nuclear warheads deployed in both countries by about one-quarter, according to Washington.

Jody Williams Credit: Photo by Judy Rand

Jody Williams Credit: Photo by Judy Rand

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow Mar. 18 to discuss the progress of the START agreement, originally signed by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Jul. 31 1991, during the Cold War.

“It especially is important for the United States and Russia, who bear the responsibility, to continue the way forward on non-proliferation and to work as partners in the global effort to secure fissile materials and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism,” Clinton said.

The meeting came ahead of upcoming talks on nuclear disarmament: the Nuclear Security Summit, which will be held on Apr. 12-13 in Washington, and The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference, slated for May 3-28 in New York.

“We’re hearing rhetoric from governments, but words without action are not very useful,” Jody Williams, whose group helped ban anti-personnel land mines in 1997 tells IPS. Williams won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997. She is founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

“Governments are not going to move forward unless citizens come together to make it happen,” Williams says. “There are too many vested interests in the world to keep nukes.”

Following are excerpt from the interview:

Q: The Mine Ban Treaty was quite a success. It managed to stop the production of landmines in 38 nations and destroy almost 42 million anti- personnel mines worldwide. How can it be used as a model for nuclear disarmament? A: We succeeded because we brought together a range of non-government organisations with the common goal of disarming landmines. These were ordinary people that pressured governments to bring about change. We need that kind of model in order to bring about nuclear disarmament. I’m a little critical of civil society work on banning weapons, however. It doesn’t make my friends happy to hear me say it. It’s just my opinion as a grassroots activist on disarmament. I don’t see enough NGOs coming together with a single focus to stop nuclear proliferation.

Q: Why do you think that is? A: One of the great pluses we had in the landmine movement is that nobody had been doing it. We were coming into virgin territory. There were organisations taking mines out of the ground, giving victims prosthetics, but there were none banning the mine. In nuclear weapons, organisations have continued their work over decades. That creates turf. There is too much concern over who is going to get the credit.

Q: Do you support the START treaty? A: I firmly support START. I hope they sign an agreement before the Nuclear Security Summit in April and the NPT meeting in May.

Q: How has Europe’s position on the renegotiation of the START talks helped or hampered its advancement? A: Part of Europe’s position is terrific. There are five countries – Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Norway – that want the U.S. to get their arsenals out of Europe. The Czech Republic and Poland are not as excited about losing this nuclear umbrella because they fear the history of the Soviet Union.

I don’t see how the U.S. or Russia, who hold most of the world’s nuclear weapons, can go to the NPT conference in May and call upon states who have already given up the weapons to increase their commitment to not having them. If I were one of those states, I would be flipping them the bird, frankly.

Q: What type of roles, if any, will non-signatories of the NPT, like India and Pakistan, play in the conference in May? A: If I’m India, I’m just going to be sitting there watching because the U.S. has demonstrated that the world is a hypocrisy by violating the NPT. The U.S. made it legitimate to sell nuclear technology to India. How can you do these things with credibility and ask countries to not do the same thing? It’s the model of the bully saying, ‘I’m the biggest guy on the block. I have the most and the biggest nukes, so you have to let me do what I want to do.’

Q: Do you feel there are double standards on Iran? A: Yes, there is a double standard, which doesn’t mean that Iran doesn’t have bad intentions. However, if I’m Iran, and I’m in that volatile region and I see Bush threaten Iraq over weapons of mass destruction and then invade to find that there are no weapons and then I see his dealings with North Korea, which has weapons, and he does nothing, what would I conclude? That I should have weapons to defend myself.

Q: How realistic are fears of an Islamic nuclear bomb? A: Fears of new nuclear weapons anywhere in the world are realistic. There are about 34 countries that have petitioned to get the technology to build nuclear power. Many are in the Middle Eastern region that we’re worried about. With nuclear technology, you can build a bomb.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags