As our world heads towards the catastrophe of nuclear war, there has never been more need for a new global balance, a rejection of war, exploitation and aggression. Now more than ever, we must reject America’s brutal unipolar agenda, the division of the world among hostile powers, and the suppression of the rights of the many for the benefit of the few. Nowhere is this clearer than the possession of nuclear weapons: only nine states possess these ultimate weapons of mass destruction, yet they can ransom the rest of the world with their nuclear terror.
The struggle for a truly multipolar world, aligned only with the peoples of the world, not with military blocs, has peace and disarmament at its heart: this is as true today as it was 60 years ago, when the Non-Aligned Movement was founded. In addition to opposing colonization and economic subjection, the founders of the movement defended self-determination and equality in relations between states. They also agreed on their opposition to military blocs, their commitment to world peace and a very strong advocacy for global nuclear disarmament. This thread has remained a constant ever since, and today we continue to see countries of the South leading global disarmament initiatives.
Virtually all of the Global South has been self-organized into internationally recognized nuclear-weapon-free zones, since the 1960s. In 1968, a nuclear-weapon-free zone was created by 20 Latin American countries, renouncing and the siting of nuclear weapons on their territories.
The signatories to this treaty, the Treaty of Tlatelolco, also accepted the jurisdiction of the International Atomic Energy Agency over their nuclear facilities. In return, the nuclear-weapon states agreed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the signatory states. The Treaty of Rarotonga was signed in 1985 and banned nuclear explosive devices in the South Pacific, as well as a ban on the testing and use of nuclear explosive technologies. The African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone was formalized in 1996 with the signing of the Pelindaba Treaty, following South Africa’s disarmament of its apartheid-era nuclear weapons.
There has been strong regional development in disarmament, led by the countries of the South, but there have also been – and still are – global attempts. The convention, negotiated in the 1960s and entered into force in 1970, was largely initiated to control the proliferation and spiral of arsenals. Both India and Pakistan have refused to join the treaty, saying it enshrines the nuclear haves and have-nots in law – a two-tier, two-tier system. Unfortunately, they both continued to test and develop their own arsenals. But the point was correct – nuclear-weapon states failed to meet their treaty obligations to disarm. Indeed, they subsequently attempted to reinterpret the treaty as allowing them to retain nuclear weapons.
West is going
At the start of the 21st century, in the context of the so-called “war on terrorism”, US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to change the international legal framework governing nuclear weapons. They attempted to subvert the disarmament requirement, focusing on preventing more countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. Their goal was to reinterpret the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as legitimizing the possession of weapons by existing nuclear states, while using it as justification for confrontation with states accused of proliferation. They claimed a new document was needed to reflect drastic changes in international security conditions, including the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The reality was that the United States and the United Kingdom were researching new weapons and would be prepared to use them even against a non-nuclear-weapon state, as well as to develop weapons for confrontation with more powerful states such than Russia or China. This was the real driver of nuclear proliferation, as well as the determination of the United States to make Israel the only nuclear-weapon state in the Middle East.
A new way
It was frustration with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that led to the creation of the Humanitarian Initiative on the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in 2013. This initiative materialized as the Treaty on the ban on nuclear weapons, which came into force. in January 2021.
The treaty makes nuclear weapons illegal for the first time, prohibiting the development, possession and deployment of nuclear weapons by participating states. The treaty currently has 61 states parties that are legally bound by the treaty, and many more are in the process of joining. The countries of the Global South are at the forefront of achieving this treaty; they understand that any use of nuclear weapons by northern states will disastrously affect their own peoples, lands and food production. As has always been their position, any possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable; no hands are safe hands when it comes to nukes.
Remarkably, the treaty also imposes on signatories an obligation to assist victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons. It requires environmental rehabilitation of land contaminated by nuclear testing. It also explicitly recognizes the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples, due to the choices made by colonial nuclear powers for their test sites. For example, many British tests were carried out on Australian First Nations territories at Emu Field and Maralinga, contaminating large parts of South Australia. France has carried out nuclear tests in its former colonies, including 17 in Algeria and 193 in French Polynesia. These historical wrongs must be righted.
The initiatives of the world majority for peace and disarmament show that another world is possible. War is terrible. In all wars, people suffer and the consequences of war last for generations. The future of countless people is being destroyed, as we see in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Palestine, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Sahel. The priorities of humanity are the fight against inequalities and poverty, the fight against the climate crisis and the expansion of access to health and vaccines. Massive state spending on military production and destruction is a criminal waste of resources. Military alliances do not solve our problems, but dialogue, demilitarization and international cooperation do.
This article was produced by the the morning star and Globetrotter.