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October 31, 2017



Time to denuclearise the world

The pernicious tentacles of war, death and destruction are likely to grip our planet following the recent lethal missile tests by Russia. According to media reports, the missile, also known as RS-28 Sarmat, travelled 3,600 miles before hitting its target on the Kura test range, an international ballistic missile impact area in the Russian Far East.

This destructive agent of death and annihilation is capable of carrying 12 nuclear warheads and could wipe out a whole country with a single strike. Three ballistic missiles were also fired from nuclear submarines as part of the drills to test Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

These tests were carried out by a country where more nearly 20 million people are surviving on wages that are below the poverty threshold and around 1.5 million are facing the scourge of homelessness while 5.1 percent are jobless. It is interesting to note that the collective income of the 13 percent poor in Russia is just $12.4 billion while the 97 wealthiest Russians jointly own a whopping $380 billion, nearly 31 times the collective income of the nation’s poorest individuals. It is claimed that Moscow now houses more billionaires than New York.

But Russia is not the only country that ignores the pressing needs of its masses and pumps billions of dollars into arms and lethal agents of destruction. In fact the US spent a whopping $5.5 trillion on its nuclear programme from 1994 to 1996, according to a 1998 book, ‘Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of the US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940’, edited by Stephen I Schwartz.

The author notes: “This figure does not include $320 billion in estimated future-year costs for storing and disposing of more than five decades’ worth of accumulated toxic and radioactive wastes and $20 billion for dismantling nuclear weapons systems and disposing of surplus nuclear materials. When those amounts are factored in, the total incurred costs of the US nuclear weapons program exceed $5.8 trillion.”

But, instead of bringing peace and stability, this huge spending created more paranoia among American policy makers. It triggered a mad race for these weapons of mass destruction. Today, the world spends around $105 on nuclear arms, $12 million an hour. Ironically, the UN body tasked to eliminate such lethal agents of destruction receives a meagre $10 million a year.

Now this recent test by Moscow will instil more fear among pacifists. This new missile is enough to wipe out a whole country with a single strike. This is a doomsday scenario for peace-loving people. However, war-mongers will seize upon this opportunity, raising the spectre of death and destruction, which is set to benefit the military industrial complex. The bellicose Trump administration will become more hysterical with this new test and more human energies will be diverted towards this destructive cause. China, India, France and UK will not like to stay behind in this senseless race of arms.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the world splurged $1.686 trillion on arms in 2016, a 0.4 percent increase on 2015. The US remained at the top of the military spending league last year with $611 billion, 36 percent of global total and over three times the amount spent by the second-place China. Russia upped its outlay 5.9 percent to $69.2 billion, third overall. The think tank estimates that 10 percent of this could cover the costs of global goals aiming to end poverty and hunger     in 15 years.   

But it seems the global powers are not interested in listening to saner voices. Country after country seems to be falling to war mongers. First it was the US that launched the National Missile Defense system, pumping a whopping $60 billion into it. This prompted Russia and China to acquire the technology to produce hypersonic missiles which can evade such a missile defence system. Now, the US, Russia and China are blessed with these lethal agent of annihilation. Other countries will soon try to join them.

With the spectre of war looming large over the Korean Peninsula, it is feared that such addition of lethal arms will broaden the scope of any possible future conflict. Countries will try to exaggerate the capability of one another to acquire more and more destructive weapons. The history of such exaggeration is not new. For instance, in 1957 the US only needed 232 warheads to destroy the USSR but an American general, James Gavin, head of army research and development, who testified before Congress in 1956 and 1957, requested 151,000 nuclear warheads just for the army. Finally, in June 1958, it was recommended that a stockpile level of 51,000 to 73000 should be maintained. The US built a total of 70,000 warheads during the cold war.

Exaggerations are already in vogue in American ruling circles. Even the threat of North Korea’s arms, which is not even an iota of what Russia possesses, is magnified. So, it is very likely that this new test will sound alarm bells in the power corridors of Western capitals. It is sure to trigger a new senseless race of nuclear arms that would be catastrophic for world peace, environment and the very existence of mankind.

Russia should not forget that at one stage the USSR possessed around 28,000 nuclear warheads besides acquiring ascendancy in space technology but all that could not stop the disintegration of the second superpower of the world. The USSR collapsed without any attack. History teaches us only one lesson: the bomb of poverty, hunger and starvation is far more dangerous than nuclear arms. Therefore, it is advisable to engage Washington in talks aimed at complete elimination of these weapons of mass destructions. If the number of nuclear warheads can be brought down to mere 15000 from over 70000, then there is every reason to believe that we can eliminate them. All we need is political will.


The writer is a Karachi-based freelance journalist.