During the panel Voices and responsibilities of Nuclear Weapon States I was expected to summarize and comment on the previous three speakers contributions. However, when my time came only 8 minutes were left. So I gave a short emotional talk. Had I had more time, I might have given the text which is presented here,

Your excellencies Ambassador Laura Kennedy, General Saighal. I regret that Ambassador Loschinski has had to leave.

But first of all: Dear Academician Jevgenij Chazov! I wish to congratulate you to your eighty years. I understand that you have been celebrated this last year as one of the foremost cardiologists in the world. You were the first to use streptokinase intracoronary in acute myocardial infarction. Your Cardiology Research Institute in Moscow is world famous. But you should be equally celebrated as one of the founders of IPPNW. Given the time and the circumstances, that was a very brave action. Your creation has survived for almost thirty years, and is very active and important. I would , however, be more happy if we could have terminated IPPNW after the abolition of all nuclear weapons. That day is still not here, but it will come. I hope we will both see that day.


We have survived.

That was not a given. During the 65 years when we have lived with the threat of nuclear annihilation there have been many instances when we could have perished. Only afterwards have been told about some of the critical situations.

There was the Cuba crisis. The book and the movie Thirteen days tell the story. Both Kennedy and Chrustjov had to deal with politicians and generals around them who wanted to go to war. Wanted war, because that was what they were trained for. Wanted war, as not to lose credibility. With a less restrained US president, and had not Anastas Mikoyan been at the side of Chrustjov, what would have happened?

We survived the Cuba crisis.

In the early eighties the fear within the Soviet leadership of a nuclear attack from NATO, and from President Reagan’s USA, was at times acute. During the NATO exercise Able Archer in November 1983 the KGB warned the Soviet Leaders that this was another Operation Barbarossa, the maneuver which Nazi Germany used as a cover for the attack against the Soviet Union. The NATO leaders had no idea of how the exercise was perceived in Moscow. A mistake at that time could have spelled the end of human civilization. Two well placed Soviet spies, one at the NATO headquarter and one in London, repeatedly assured the the Soviet military leaders that no attack was coming. The Soviet leaders waited, and waited, and the exercise ended.

And there were other critical moments. Two months before the Able Archer crisis, on September 26 1983, two or three objects, soon maybe five,  identified as US missiles on their way to Soviet territory appeared on the radar screens. Colonel Petrov, the officer on duty, was under strict orders to report any such observation immediately to the national command. But Petrov waited. Several minutes, against instructions. Would USA attack with only a few missiles? And the ghosts on the screens disappeared.

We survived.

John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State for six years during the nineteen fifties, afterwards often bragged of the Brinkmanship he had displayed when confronting the “Godless communism”. How can anyone even talk about Brinkmanship in the nuclear age?

We survived. We survived even John Foster Dulles.

Dear Ambassadors, you have at great length told us of the steps of disarmament your countries Russia and USA have taken.But we are not satisfied. It is of little importance of there are 60 000 nuclear warheads in the world, or just 10 000. You can still destroy the human civilization. You must go for Zero. If you do not clearly aim for zero nuclear weapons in a foreseeable future, be it 10 or 15 years, your reductions will not discourage nuclear proliferation. This is also emphasized by the four harbingers of nuclear abolition, the elders Shultz, Perry, Nunn and Kissinger.

Nuclear weapons cause war. If nuclear proliferation is to be stopped while you keep your own nuclear arsenal, you may have to resort to war. If the threat of a nuclear mushroom cloud had not appeared behind Condoleeza Rice in her “no smoking gun” speech, the US public would probably not have acdepted an attack on Iraq. And now the specter of an Iranian nuclear bomb may “force” the USA closer to the brink of “preventive” war again. It will not be the last time. Nuclear weapons case war.

You did not speak of Zero.

Neither did you speak of No High Alert. Your governments do not want you to speak of this, of mankind under the sword of Damocles, where you hold the scissors close to the thread. The latest Nuclear Posture Review, presented by President Obama, tells us that steps will be taken to decrease the risk of nuclear war by mistake. Decrease, not remove.

The risk of global nuclear war today is much lower than during the Cold War. But it is not zero. And if the relationship between USA and Russia deteriorates the risk will increase. Better act now, agree on a road to nuclear weapons abolition when the feeling is good. Read and negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Convention and bring these negotiations to conclusion as demanded by the International Court.

And remember, that even a limited nuclear war, when less than one percent of the nuclear arsenal of the world is used, will cause a change in the global climate for many years. A global famine of unprecedented proportions, with many hundreds of million people starving to death, will be the consequence.  You do not believe this? If so, read the scientific reports and disprove them if you can.

If nuclear weapons are allowed to persist, they will be used.

If nuclear weapons are allowed to persist, they will proliferate

But your countries do not want to go for Zero.

We say: Zero in our lifetime.!


Yesterday I did a press conference on behalf of the Congress organisers on the subject of nuclear disarmament. Christian Schönenberger from the Swiss Foreign Office joined us, as did Rebecca Johnson, Vice-Chair of ICAN.

Christian Schönenberger referred not only to the excellent speech by Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss Foreign Minister in the plenary that morning, but also to the study that caused such a stir at the NPT Review Conference on “Delegitimising Nuclear Weapons“. The fact that nuclear weapons contravene international humanitarian law is a recurring theme, both in New York and here in Basel, and is fast becoming the central argument for the abolition of nuclear weapons. That might seem like a no-brainer for us but on the other hand but needs to be said repeatedly, especially since our friends at “Global Zero” are pushing the argument of fear against terrorism as being the main issue.

Since IPPNW and ICAN have the humanitarian aspect at the centre of their arguments for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I attempted to explain to the journalists present why that was so. And other than what would happen to people if nuclear weapons were used, which has been well documented by IPPNW, both in the case of accidental nuclear war and a so-called limited exchange (which would of course still be global because of the impact through the resulting smoke and drop in global temperature causing failure of harvests and mass starvation). But the point I wanted to make is that it is a humanitarian issue right now, because of the diversion of resources for nuclear programmes and our continuing failure to understand what kind of security humans need in the 21st century.

Take Pakistan as an example. Back then, when the decision was taken to build the nuclear bomb, the then Premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said (and I don’t have the exact quote to hand) that even if Pakistan had to eat grass, they would make the bomb. Well, they are doing that now, because there is not enough money to help the people of Pakistan feed themselves in the face of these terrible floods. The diversion of resources into the military has left Pakistan unable to cope with this catastrophe.

This shows that investment in our security is completely inadequate. Houses are not built to withstand natural disasters, emergency relief is pitiful, even in daily life there is no protection from the big killers like malaria, dirty water, HIV, etc. Security is instead based on nuclear weapons, a weapon that cannot be used because of its own humanitarian and environmental impact.

It is time, in the 21st century, to understand that climate change and disease are the threats to our security and nuclear weapons do not protect us from them, so they are useless.

Time to retire the bomb.

Xanthe Hall, Basel, Aug 28 2010

Dimity Hawkins, Xanthe Hall and Tilman Ruff (from left to right)

Dimity Hawkins, Xanthe Hall and Tilman Ruff (from left to right)

Loads to discuss re today’s events but as credit runs out on the internet in about three minutes and I am utterly exhausted, I’m afraid any serious blogging will have to be postponed till tomorrow. Suffice to say, heard some really inspiring speakers today in the conference plenary sessions and met lots of interesting individuals from all corners of the world. A delicious meal in the upstairs banquet hall of the Safranhurst restaurant helped the brain to chill. Finished the night in what could best be described as open air club- free to get in, no doors, walls etc. The only constraint being the friendly people dancing in close proximity. Wish we had more of this in the UK- free open air clubbing. Anyway, suffice to say, the night could best be summed up by the following: Bongo drums, African dancing, techno music + Portuguese lessons. Might explain later. Will blog about the more serious side of things tomorrow.

Goodnight x

Distinguished Participants,

Dmitri Medvedev

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev

I’m pleased to congratulate you on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Over the years this organization has united thousands of medical workers from various countries and continents. It has made a great contribution to the enhancement of peace and stability on this planet.

Saving humanity from a nuclear threat is one of the key tasks of the modern time. The realization of this goal is of crucial importance for global security, safe and happy life for millions of people.

It is essential, that with your high authority, experience and public influence you support the work of states towards disarmament and nonproliferation and call for moving forward the key initiatives in this area. It is precisely this approach that is the gauge of success in the international efforts to counter the new challenges and threats and to eliminate the causes that compel the states to strive to acquire nuclear weapons.

I wish you a fruitful discussion and all the very best.

D. Medvedev
President of Russia

August 27, 2010

Mayor Akiba

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba

It is my great honor to send a message to the 19th IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland. I very much wish I could be with you at what I know will be a crucial event.

Sixty-five years ago, the hibakusha, A-bomb survivors, experienced the inhumanity of the atomic bombings and the “end of the world.” Since then, they have asserted that, “No one else should ever suffer as we did.”

The NPT Review Conference in New York this past May gave evidence of the guiding influence of that message. The Final Document expresses the unanimous intent of the parties to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons; underscores the catastrophic impact of any nuclear weapon use; notes the valuable contribution of civil society; notes that a majority favors the establishment of timelines for the nuclear weapons abolition process; and highlights the need for a nuclear weapons convention or new legal framework.

The urgency of nuclear weapons abolition is permeating our global conscience; the voice of the vast majority is becoming the preeminent force for change in the international community. We must now do everything in our power to complete the task. The recent Hiroshima Conference on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons by 2020 contributed to this task. Its Appeal identified two critical areas of work: first, achieving a greater level of unity and coordination among not just the anti-nuclear-weapon forces but also with other sectors of civil society, including groups concerned with climate change, humanitarian law, and the global economic crisis; second, eliciting true governmental leadership for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free world.

The Appeal recognizes the valuable contributions of IPPNW and ICAN on the first point, and regarding the second point, proposes the convening of “a special disarmament conference in 2011 to facilitate the start of negotiation on a nuclear weapons convention.” We believe this is a challenge governments are ready to rise to, but they need a bit of encouragement from civil society. I do hope you will all make the “special conference” one of your key objectives in 2011.

To achieve our overall goal within the 2020 timeframe, we will have to generate tremendous global momentum. People everywhere will have to press their nations hard to develop the political will required to abolish nuclear weapons. In this context, your Congress is a wonderful opportunity to discuss our future without nuclear weapons, and I hereby express my deepest respect for your commitment and endeavors.

Eliminating nuclear weapons from the world will be one of humanity’s greatest achievements. To celebrate this achievement in 2020, the City of Hiroshima is exploring the feasibility of bidding for the 2020 Olympics, which we would make a “Festival of Peace.”

I sincerely hope that, with your support, we can make our two dreams — a nuclear-weapon-free world and the Hiroshima Olympics — come true in the current decade. I have no doubt that your Congress will lead to an influential outcome that will guide the international community to a powerful unified campaign.

Tadatoshi Akiba


The City of Hiroshima

No, it’s no joke. For 25 years there were plans for a Swiss Nuclear Bomb. Tom Lehrer did not know that.

Two weeks after Hiroshima a meeting of Swiss government members decided to consider the building of a nuclear weapon. The plans developed and a US-made nuclear reactor, useful for plutonium production, was bought. The price was heavily subsidized in order to prevent Switzerland from buying a Russian contraption. The reactor was loaded and started.

There were discussions about weapon carriers. The government decided to by 100 fighter planes capable of carrying the nukes. The agreed price was increased, doubled and tripled and Swiss business-wise politicians did not like that. So the number of airplanes was reduced and reduced. Finally there were doubts whether the whole enterprise really was not getting too expensive after all, and there were also opponents who asked whether the nukes would be useful.

In 1969 the nuclear reactor exploded. The damage to the environment was limited as it had been placed underground. And after 25 years of “progress” the program was finally terminated. Nukes are useless, expensive and dangerous.

This is what I remember from a guide who spoke in the Historical Museum. I wish museums were the only place for nukes.

The parallel to the Swedish nuclear weapons program would be worth exploring. Has anyone done that? Several books have been written why certain countries do and others don’t acquire nukes. There may be need for one more, at least a chapter.

As the IPPNW 19th World Congress commences in earnest today, medicos, students and fellow activists from around the world gather in Basel to discuss the vital importance of the work for peace.

IPPNW, now in its third decade, has provided a strong and sustained voice for peace, not just through the medical community around the world but through the non-government community working on these issues. Campaigns like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) and Aiming for Prevention (the wonderful small arms campaign) have been successfully launched from the solid foundation of IPPNW.

As an activist with some years of association with IPPNW, I delight in seeing this organisation continue to offer so much energy to the broader movement for peace. The advocacy towards a Nuclear Weapons Convention, supported by IPPNW since the first Model Nuclear Weapons Convention was produced in the mid-1990’s, continues to be an integral part of the conversations at this Congress. As delegates gather, ICAN is urging them to don a red wristband with the words “NWC (for Nuclear Weapons Convention) NOW WE CAN!” Every voice is needed on this push for a Convention or Treaty to finally ban these ultimate weapons of mass destruction, and as the government voices increasingly chime in on the calls also, IPPNW members around the world are needed to help to advocate and lobby for this. Visit http://icanw.org/nuclear-weapons-convention to learn more…the Model NWC is provided in 7 languages on the site.

Finally, my compliments to the Swiss affiliate of IPPNW for their superb hosting of this wonderful and momentous event. It has been a warm and well coordinated beginning to the Congress, with the energy and vitality of the students giving a great entree to the work of the days to come.