I had previously supported nuclear weapons. Not for their use but because they have been an effective deterrent, preventing another world war. This is the only weapon that makes repeating the horrors of World War I or II unthinkable.
Nuclear weapons do not stop all wars, as showcased by wars between Ukraine and Russia, the USA’s war against Iraq, and the Vietnam War. These are examples of wars where only one party had a nuclear arsenal, and it doesn’t guarantee success.
Nuclear weapons prevent nuclear powers from engaging in head-to-head conflict, as an all-out nuclear attack could end life on the planet. There are enough nuclear weapons for this to be a doomsday device, and no winners.
When I read the UN report recommending a complete ban on all nuclear weapons and disarmament, I was highly skeptical. I didn’t think a world without nuclear weapons would be safer, as it could encourage more conventional wars.
However, I hadn’t considered the danger of miscalculations leading to a full-scale nuclear war, even without a declaration of war. This could be due to a technical problem, a hack, or bad actors.
We must weigh the risk of accidental nuclear war against the possibility of conventional wars. Nuclear weapons are the only type of weapons that can end life as we know it. Conventional arms can devastate a country or continent, but they will not cause the end of the human race.
This is demonstrated by the counterintuitive fact that the 20th century was the least violent century on record, despite the two World Wars that occurred during it. As a percentage of all humans living during the 20th century, this was the safest century on record.
The UN is right — the only rational position is to ban nuclear weapons and to achieve complete disarmament. However, we must consider the political reality, as countries that give up their nuclear weapons will be at a significant disadvantage.
The Ukraine war is a tragedy on many levels. It has caused loss of life, rising prices, and inflation that disproportionately affects the poor. It is also a cautionary tale for all world leaders. Ukraine is the only country to give up its nuclear weapons willingly. This was in exchange for Russia guaranteeing their territorial rights, which ultimately failed. The Russian invasion would never have happened if Ukraine had retained their nuclear weapons.
The world and its inhabitants are trapped in a strange predicament. It would benefit everyone if we gave up nuclear weapons, but no one wants to be the first to take the plunge. This might be one of the significant challenges of the future.