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International Relations Security

Resetting the Nuclear Disarmament Agenda

Mikhail Gorbachev / Photo: European Parliament,flickr
Mikhail Gorbachev / Flickr - European Parliament

I’m on my way to the 3rd Geneva Lecture Series, which is hosting Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union.

The Series gathers high-level panelists to discuss contemporary topics. This afternoon, Gorbachev will talk about nuclear disarmament. His venue is highly symbolic.  At a time when the world is deeply concerned about Iran’s motives and North Korea’s arsenal, they could not have chosen a better speaker.

Gorbachev was the first Soviet president that decided to reduce his nuclear arsenal. At the Geneva Summit of 1985, then-US president Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to slow down the arms race between the USSR and the US and declared in a joint statement that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”  Gorbachev had the political will to transcend old thinking and attain a new vision.

According to a 2007 the Wall Street Journal article, Gorbachev is very critical of the today’s “failure of political leadership,” which has proved incapable of ending nuclear proliferation. His views are comprehensive and he promotes a success based on “reciprocity of obligations and actions.”

This is exactly the criticism that Iran is actually making vis-à-vis of the official nuclear states and vis-à-vis of Israel, India or Pakistan. According to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, nuclear states should reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states should not seek to acquire them.

The geopolitical reality is full of double standards. States like Iran and North Korea, both member of ‘the Axis of Evil’ according to former president George W Bush, should not seek to acquire the bomb and the actuality reminds us this fact. States like Pakistan, Israel or India, which are ‘de-facto’ nuclear states and ‘on the western side’ of the world, don’t face harsh sanctions. Gorbachev argues that “the goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons […] will take a true political breakthrough and a major intellectual effort to achieve success in this endeavor.”

What remains to be done is to eliminate this double standard approach and to judge every nuclear state with the same value, expressed by the UN Security Council: “Reaffirming that proliferation of [all] nuclear weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security.”

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