Just a few decades ago it was the dream of peaceniks that the world would one day be free of nuclear weapons. And it was the fear of many citizens of the world that they might one day be used.
Some will call it a giant step, others will say it’s a small, tentative one, but two world superpowers, the United States and Russia, agreed last week to cut their warhead arsenals by nearly one-third.
A leap forward? – only because such an advance was unthinkable not long ago between the two former Cold War rivals; yet a small step because without a lot of followup there still remains enough weapons in existence to spell the end of Earth.
But with the yet-to-be ratified agreement, struck Friday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, Obama was able to offer the optimistic view that it would lead one day to a world free of nuclear weapons.
Of course, this remains a first step, since a number of other countries have weapons, among them Israel, India and Pakistan. Persisting tensions in the Middle East raise fears that Iran intends to develop them. Naively or not, the United States hopes the agreement will lead to better co-operation on other issues, such as a unified U.S.-Russian stance against the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.
At any rate, turning other countries around won’t happen without a major show of will from the major powers.
Putting to rest the Cold War rationale is paramount. That mindset depended on arguments that a limited nuclear engagement might be possible, that a first strike might win the day. That sort of philosophy only fools a select few.
The Doomsday Clock, which at times was viewed as perilously close to midnight, just got moved back considerably. It will provide breathing room to work positively on international relations to the point that such massively lethal weapons would never again be considered a realistic option, even in the event of hostilities.