Ira Helfand

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These are excellent questions.  We clearly have a long way to go to get the change in nuclear policy that we need.  We are facing an entrenched complex of special interests that benefit financially from the nuclear arms race, and an even more significant entrenched world view on the part of many that nuclear weapons somehow make the countries that have them more secure.

I am optimistic that we can bring about change because these are the same forces we confronted in the early 1980's when we called for a Freeze of the Cold War arms race and we were able to overcome them then.  The key to the success of that movement then was its ability to help people, and government leaders in the the US and the Soviet Union, understand what was actually going to happen if nuclear weapons were used, what the medical consequences would be.

Today there is a profound ignorance about nuclear weapons.  Young people have never been taught about them and older people have forgotten.  But that creates the opportunity that we need to seize.  If we can educate people about the medical consequences, that will, I believe, have the same impact today that it had in the 1980's.  Our experience in building international support for the Treaty on the Prohibition bears that out.  There was a profound skepticism at the beginning of that process a decade ago.  When we were able to focus the conversation on what the Red Cross called the "humanitarian impact", the entire conversation changed.

There will definitely be greater resistance among the leaders of the nuclear armed states.  But they too are capable of understanding the unacceptable risk they are running by their current nuclear policies.  Who, in 1983 would have thought that Ronald Reagan, then touting his plans to be able to "fight and win" a nuclear war in Europe, would a few short months later join Mikhail Gorbachev in declaring that "Nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought"

Why do I think we will succeed?  I don't know if we will.  I only know what is going to happen if we fail.  So it is really important that we try...

Peter, as noted above, a number of key international experts feel the danger is the greatest it has been.  But your point is well taken:  even if it is not worse than during the Cold War it is unacceptably high and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has certainly increased the risk further.

It is the assessment of former Defense Secretary William Perry, and that assessment was also voiced last Tuesday by Richard Moore the head of MI6 the British Intelligence Service in a speech in Washington.  UN Secretary General Guterres offered the same assessment at the NPT Review Conference at the UN today.