Gorbachev Critical of US Nuclear Policy
Gorbachev: US military power blocks `no nukes'
President Barack Obama's call for a nuclear weapons-free world is
welcome, but the huge U.S. defense budget may prove an "insurmountable
obstacle" to reaching that goal, former Soviet President Mikhail S.
Gorbachev said Thursday.
Talk of nuclear disarmament would be "just rhetorical" if other
nations were asked to give up nukes while the United States maintains
an overwhelming conventional military superiority, Gorbachev said.
What's needed, he said, are talks to "demilitarize" world politics.
Gorbachev, last leader of the now-defunct Soviet Union, helped
inaugurate two days of discussions on nuclear disarmament involving
some 100 former and current international leaders, under the
sponsorship of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the U.S.-based
organization Nuclear Threat Initiative and Gorbachev's own World
The U.S. contingent was led by former Secretary of State George P.
Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and ex-Sen. Sam Nunn of
In an afternoon of talks, conference participants repeatedly applauded
the positions Obama has taken on the nuclear future, including his
unprecedented joint statement April 1 with Russian President Dmitri
Medvedev that the two leaders had "committed our two countries to
achieving a nuclear free world."
Egyptian diplomat Nabil Fahmy recalled a different time.
"In the 1970s, when we said we wanted a nuclear-free world, we were
laughed out of the room. It was as if today I took this chair and
threw it into that chandelier," he told fellow conferees in a grand
meeting room at the Italian ministry. "I am pleased and honored that
we are discussing this seriously now."
Shultz, 88, President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state in 1982-89,
called nuclear abolition "an idea whose time has come." But, he added,
"time is not on our side. The key phrase must be `careful urgency.'"
Gorbachev, 78, who once bargained with Reagan over possibly
eliminating nuclear arsenals, said the major nuclear powers only
recently have recognized that "the current situation is untenable" — a
world with more than 23,000 atomic warheads, 95 percent of them in
U.S. and Russian hands.
But a "militarized" world without nuclear weapons would also be
untenable, he suggested, since it would leave other nations
potentially vulnerable to U.S. military power.
"Defense budgets far exceed reasonable security needs," Gorbachev
said.. "The United States spends on military purposes almost as much
as the rest of the world put together." U.S. military spending totals
more than $600 billion this year.
"Military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding
the world of nuclear weapons," the ex-Soviet president said. "Unless
we discuss demilitarization of international politics, the reduction
of military budgets, preventing militarization of outer space, talking
about a nuclear-free world will be just rhetorical."
Asked about Gorbachev's call for conventional arms negotiations, Perry
said talks on nuke control could still go ahead independently.
"Many things need to happen in parallel with nuclear disarmament," he
said. "If there is no solution to all of these problems it does not
mean that you don't proceed on nuclear arms control."
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011