Annual Spending on Nuclear Weapons, Equivalent To UN Budget For 45 Years

Human Wrongs Watch 

By Baher Kamal

Politicians, pushed by the “ward lords” — the military, spend over 90 billion dollars a year, from taxpayer’s pockets, on nuclear weapons. This figure amounts to the UN budget for 45 years, and to 3/4 of the total annual sum spent on development aid. The U.S. alone spends over 50 billion dollars annually–enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals on poverty alleviation.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The military’s nuclear game is anything but under control–there have been dozens of documented instances of the near-use of nuclear weapons as a result of miscalculation or accidents. Nuclear-armed submarines have collided underwater and nuclear-tipped missiles have shot out of storage silos. With thousands of weapons on alert, the risk of unintended use is alarmingly high.

Nevertheless nuclear powers are now over 100—in addition to the five ‘only’ declared nuclear states (US, Russia, France, UK and China) there are five European countries hosting atomic arms, 23 nations claiming to rely on US nuclear weapons for their security, more than 40 countries with nuclear power or research reactors capable of producing nuclear weapons, and 24 states who are part of nuclear alliances.

These are only some of the spine-chilling findings that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has published under the title “The Case Against Nuclear Weapons”. ICAN isgrassroots movement in more than 60 nations calling for a treaty to ban these weapons once and for all.

The following are just some of ICANS findings and facts on nuclear weapons and their devastating effects.

The Case Against Nuclear Weapons

Ever since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, people around the world have campaigned for an end to the nuclear age. We now have the best opportunity yet to turn our vision of a nuclear-weapon-free future into a reality.

Despite the end of the cold war, there are still 20 600 nuclear weapons across the globe, posing the greatest immediate threat to the future of civilisation.

The risk of their spread and use is growing in an increasingly climate-and resource-stressed world.

ICAN aims to galvanise public and government support to start negotiations on a nuclear abolition treaty without further delay. We will bring together humanitarian, environmental, human rights and development organisations to seize the historic opportunity to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. Nuclear abolition is not a distant dream. It is an urgent necessity.

The Problem

Nine countries together possess more than 20 000 nuclear weapons. The US and Russia maintain roughly 2000 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status — ready to be launched within minutes of a command.

Most are many times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

The More Fingers On The Nuclear Trigger, The More Dangerous The World Becomes

A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people.

The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries or terrorists will acquire these weapons.

The more fingers on the trigger, the more dangerous the world will become. The only guarantee against the spread and future use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them now.

The Wider Problem

Five European nations host US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

A further 23 nations claim to rely on US nuclear weapons for their security. There are now more than 40 nations with nuclear power or research reactors capable of producing nuclear weapons. The spread of nuclear know-how has increased the risk that more nations will develop the bomb.

Many communities around the world continue to suffer from the health and environmental effects of nuclear testing and uranium mining.

Possessing Nuclear Weapons

There are estimated 22 600 nuclear weapons in the world, in the hands of the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Hosting Nuclear Weapons

Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, US, Russia, Britain, France China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Part Of Nuclear Alliances

Albania, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, and Spain.

The Solution

We must harness the new political support for nuclear abolition by calling on governments to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention–a comprehensive treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Opinion polls show that a majority of the world’s people endorse this call. Our challenge is to transform the strong public desire for greater security into real action by governments.

A Nuclear Weapons Convention would outlaw nuclear weapons and the core materials used to create them. Heavy penalties would apply to prevent and deter governments from acquiring nuclear devices or violating the fundamental ban on their use.

All nuclear-armed nations would be required to dismantle their nuclear arsenals in accordance with agreed steps, and an international monitoring system would be set up to verify compliance.

The Devastating Effects–The Humanitarian Case

Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive capacity. A single nuclear bomb dropped on a large city could kill millions of people. In the event of a nuclear attack, medical infrastructure would be destroyed and no effective humanitarian response would be possible.

The lingering effects of radiation on human beings would cause suffering and death many years after the initial explosion.

Those in the vicinity who survive the blast would suffer from extreme dehydration and diarrhoea, as well as life-threatening infections and severe bleeding. They would also have a significantly increased risk of developing cancers and passing on genetic damage to future generations.

The Security Case

Nuclear weapons pose a direct and constant threat to people everywhere. Far from keeping the peace, they breed mistrust among nations. More and more leaders are coming to accept the logic that we must abolish nuclear weapons before they are used again.

These instruments of terror have no legitimate military or strategic utility, and are useless in addressing any of today’s real security threats, such as terrorism, climate change, extreme poverty, overpopulation and disease.

The continued existence of nuclear weapons fuels proliferation. China’s nuclear status motivated India to go nuclear, which in turn provoked Pakistan to follow, with Chinese assistance.

The more value attached to nuclear weapons by powers like Britain, France and Russia, the more desirable they appear for despots and failed states. It is only when nuclear weapons are seen to have no security utility or symbolic power that others will not seek them.

The Myth And The Realty

Myth: It’s OK for some countries to have nuclear weapons

Reality: When it comes to nuclear weapons, there are no safe hands. So long as any country has these weapons, others will want them, and the world will be in a precarious state.

Myth: It’s unlikely that nuclear weapons will be used again

Reality: Unless we eliminate all nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly be used again, either intentionally or by accident, and the consequences will be catastrophic and long-lived.

Myth: Nuclear weapons are a useful deterrent

Reality: Nuclear weapons do not deter terrorists. Nuclear-armed nations are actually more vulnerable to pre-emptive strike and terrorist targeting than non-nuclear countries.

The Case Of Accidental Use

There have been dozens of documented instances of the near-use of nuclear weapons as a result of miscalculation or accidents.

Nuclear-armed submarines have collided underwater and nuclear-tipped missiles have shot out of storage silos. With thousands of weapons on alert, the risk of unintended use is alarmingly high.

The Environmental Case

Nuclear weapons are the only devices ever created that have the capacity to destroy all life on Earth. It would take less than 0.1% of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal to bring about devastating agricultural collapse and widespread famine.

New research by climate scientists shows that even a regional nuclear war involving 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons–a small fraction of the total global stockpile–would cause tens of millions of immediate deaths and unprecedented global climate disruption.

A war fought with more than a thousand nuclear weapons would leave the planet uninhabitable. These stark realities should have a profound influence on nuclear policies.

Nuclear Famine

The smoke and dust from fewer than one hundred nuclear explosions would cause an abrupt drop in global temperatures and rainfall by blocking up to 10% of sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface.

Sudden global cooling would shorten growing seasons, threatening agriculture worldwide. Infectious disease epidemics and environmental conflict would likely follow, and as many as one billion deaths would result from a nuclear-weapon-induced famine.

Ozone Depletion

A nuclear war would cause prolonged and severe depletion of the ozone layer and have a devastating impact on human and animal health. Substantial increases in ultraviolet radiation would cause increases in skin cancer rates, crop damage and the destruction of marine life.

Nuclear Winter

Climate scientists estimate that if the entire nuclear arsenal were used, 150 million tonnes of smoke would be emitted into the stratosphere, resulting in a 45% global reduction in rainfall and average surface cooling of –7 to –8°C. By comparison, the global average cooling at the depth of the last ice age more than 18 000 years ago was –5°C.

The Economic Case

Nuclear weapons programs divert public funds from health care, education, disaster relief and other vital services. It is estimated that the nine nuclear-armed nations spend a total of 90 billion dollars each year maintaining and modernising their nuclear arsenals.

Funding allocated to national disarmament efforts is minuscule by comparison, and the principal UN body responsible for advancing nuclear abolition — the Office for Disarmament Affairs–has an annual budget of just over 10 million dollars.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.”

No comment.


ICAN-International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

Peoples Decade For Nuclear Abolition:

SGI-Soka Gakkai International:

Toward A Nuclear Free World:

Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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