Ralph Hutchinson on U.S. Absence from First Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
This week before the start of the First Meeting of States Parties for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, three countries deposited their ratification documents with the United Nations. Grenada, Cabot Verde, and Timor Leste joined 62 countries to ratify the treaty, for a total of 65. One-third of the world’s 195 countries have now ratified the Treaty. https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/tpnw/
On Sunday, June 19th, 2022, Ralph Hutchinson, of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, offered the following observations before the First Meeting in his commentary, News on the Eve of the First Meeting, in which he asked two questions about why the United States of America is not participating nor sending observers. https://orepa.org/ Hutchinson wrote:
“Germany is going. And Norway and The Netherlands. Yesterday, Australia announced it is going. And today Belgium.
“What is the United States afraid of?
“Why is the USA, along with eight other nuclear-armed states, boycotting the historic First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons taking place in Vienna June 21-23?
“The First Meeting was originally scheduled for one year after the entry into force, but covid pushed it back. It is a brief meeting, just three days. States party to the Treaty will attend along with countless members of civil society. Non-party states, like the US, are also invited to attend in Observer status. Organizations in the US representing hundreds of thousands of members have written to the President, urging him to send a representative. Several members of Congress have also written to the President, urging the same thing.
“But the US continues to lead the staunch resistance to the Treaty. More than one US President has declared that we have a special obligation to lead the effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons—our current position on the Treaty turns this obligation on its head.
“Happily for the future, though, our leadership powers appear to be dwindling. Several NATO countries, including three that currently have US nuclear weapons deployed on military bases in their country — Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands — have announced they will attend the First Meeting. Two other important US allies, Norway and Australia, will also send observers.
“As the power of the United States and other nuclear armed states declines in the face of the growing influence of the Treaty, two questions come to mind—
“First, what is the US afraid of? With a stockpile of more than 4,000 nuclear warheads and bombs, 1500 of them deployed around the globe on hair-trigger alert, one would think the US would be strong enough to walk into a room where the only weapons allowed are words and defend its position. And, if it is committed to pursue nuclear disarmament as it promised in the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it should welcome the chance to talk about what that could look like— all the nuclear armed nations coming to an agreement on protocols, verifications, and an enforceable timetable for eliminating nuclear stockpiles.
“It’s not hard to understand why North Korea is not at the First Meeting — they have something to be afraid of. They are weak and vulnerable without their small cache of nuclear weapons, and US policy gives them every reason to be afraid. But the US?
“The second question is, what is to come? The [Treaty] is destined to grow as more nations ratify it—86 nations have signed and 6 of them have ratified it. The [Treaty] is their demand—they have the right to live free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. They know that even a moderate nuclear exchange between two countries half way around the world can destroy them through fallout and the global famine caused by the decade-long nuclear winter that will follow.
“As the Treaty grows in power, and as its central message takes hold — that discussions about nuclear weapons must include the human and environmental cost of these weapons, a price some have already paid and the rest will one day pay if we don’t eliminate nuclear weapons — pressure will mount on the nuclear-armed states.
“Vladimir Putin’s bully rhetoric as he invaded Ukraine laid bare the nuclear threat. It is real. Putin could never have invaded Ukraine without widespread opposition if he wasn’t backed up by his nuclear weapons. He didn’t have to make his threat explicit to the US and NATO, but he did, and other people noticed and began thinking about nuclear weapons for the first time in decades.
“What happens when Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands decide not to continue to host US/NATO nuclear weapons on their soil? Will Italy and Turkey follow suit? Will the US try to strongarm some other country into taking the nukes? Will we hear that as the call of the future? Or will we hunker down, isolated even more, depending even more on our nuclear weapons to certify our strength rather than relying on the strength inherent in the people, the resources, and the political commitment to democracy of our nation?
“The decision by NATO nations and other allies to attend the First Meeting of States Parties is ground-breaking and it portends a shift that is coming. Nuclear weapons, and the nations that continue to maintain stockpiles, will be further stigmatized; we will find ourselves on the periphery of the community of nations in ways that truly matter.
“The ICAN’s [International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’] Beatrice Fihn has noted that the story of nuclear weapons will have one of two endings — either we will get rid of nuclear weapons or they will get rid of us. There is no other ending. She is right, of course. As long as nuclear weapons exist in the world, the first ending is a possibility that grows ever more probable. The recent action by Putin, and North Korea’s continuing missile testing are a wake-up call to those who stopped paying attention, thinking it couldn’t happen.
“It can happen, and it will one day. Intentionally, or accidentally, a mistake, a hack—unless we do the only thing we can do to make sure it does not happen. We have to get rid of the weapons. The path to the future is titled ‘The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.’ The US should be leading the world down this path. We have an obligation like no other.”
On Thursday, June 23, 2022, the States Parties adopted the Vienna Declaration and the Vienna Action Plan at the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. For more information, please see ICAN’s Overview_of_the_Vienna_Declaration_and_Action_Plan_-_formatted_.
Congratulations ICAN and its partners, donors, states and more that helped make this historic day a reality!
- Friday, June 24th from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe. Celebrate the successful historic First Meeting of State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons!
- Friday, June 24th from 1:30 to 4 pm – Celebrate Dorie Bunting’s 100th birthday at Albuquerque Peace & Justice Peace Hall, 202 Harvard Drive SE. (505) 268-9557. No gifts, please, but donations to the P&J Center are accepted.
- Saturday, July 2nd at 12 noon Mountain Time – John Dear and Archbishop John Wester of New Mexico present the Archbishop’s recent pastoral letter in a talk entitled, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: My New Pastoral Letter on Nuclear Disarmament.” The Archbishop will reflect on his journey, what he’s learned, and how we, too, can speak out for nuclear disarmament. Register at https://beatitudescenter.org/programs/#july2-2022 Registration closes Monday, June 27th.
- Thursday, July 7th at 5: 30 pm – WIPP Community Forum & Open House at Santa Fe Convention Center in Okeefe and Milagro Rooms, 201 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe. In person and virtual. Open house to follow where stakeholders can meet the WIPP leadership team. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC (NWP). Virtual – REGISTER HERE – https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEuduqsqz4qH9PEL2Rbp3U5Ae7vkXDv-LAD For questions regarding this meeting and open house please contact the WIPP Information Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-336-9477.
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