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Beatrice Fihn explains why nuclear weapons are a scam

 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. By Elisabeth Eaves, July 5, 2018  A year ago, a majority of the world’s countries—122 of them—voted to enact a treaty with the highly ambitious goal of abolishing nuclear weapons entirely. To the treaty’s critics, it wasn’t so much ambitious as foolish, counterproductive, or irrelevant. But proponents and critics alike can at least agree that it was unprecedented. While the community of nations had banned other weapons designed to mass-murder civilians with little controversy—with the Biological Weapons Convention in 1975 and the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997—until 2017, would-be nuke-launchers were free of such inconveniences. Yes, Russia and the United States had downsized their stockpiles under bilateral deals, and there existed an agreement that supposedly committed nuclear and non-nuclear states alike to work toward disarmament, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970. But by last year, Moscow and Washington were expensively updating their atomic arsenals, and no one seemed to be treating that disarmament clause very seriously.

The global movement for an outright ban on nuclear weapons coalesced around 2010 with rumblings from parties typically voiceless in nuclear negotiations: Survivors of nuclear weapons and testing, plus civilians from all over who observed that any nuclear conflagration would kill and injure millions of people who had nothing to do with whatever sparked it. Which struck them as unfair, and worth fixing. But these rumblings might not have fused into the powerful movement they became without the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the consortium of organizations that led the drive to create the new ban treaty. And ICAN wouldn’t be the same without Beatrice Fihn, the 35-year-old Swede who has led the organization since 2013, and accepted last year’s Nobel Peace Prize on its behalf. Fihn played an important role in rallying those 122 countries, even as the United States, Britain, and other nuclear-armed governments pressured allies and small nations to vote “no.”

On a recent Monday night, Fihn spoke to the Bulletin by telephone from Geneva after putting her children to bed. It had been a period of whiplash for anyone following nuclear affairs. The United States had just pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal under, even though Iran was complying with its terms. And after trading nuclear threats, the leaders of the United States and North Korea were about to meet for a summit in Singapore. Not that things were exactly boring before that, what with North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and other countries’ nuclear-weapons modernization programs. “It’s been crazy the last two years,” Fihn said.

She is the first to acknowledge that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the TPNW, or simply the “ban treaty”) has now entered a more plodding phase. After all the high-profile excitement of UN negotiations, the diplomats went home and national governments set about signing and ratifying the treaty. It cannot enter into force until 50 nations have ratified; so far 59 have signed and only 10 have ratified. She is not discouraged—“parliaments don’t work that fast,” she says—and fully expects entry into force by September, 2019.

In this interview, Fihn shares her thoughts on why the United States really pulled out of the Iran deal, how Trump and Kim have shifted global attitudes to nuclear weapons, the responsibilities of “umbrella states” who accept Washington’s nuclear protection, and the ultimate impact she expects the new ban treaty to have. We need to solve the nuclear weapon problem, she believes, because we have even “bigger things” coming up: fully autonomous weapons and artificial intelligence. ……..

July 7, 2018 - Posted by | general

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