WASHINGTON – Today, August 6, marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, followed three days later by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
75 years into the nuclear era, progress toward disarmament has stalled and is in fact unraveling. The vast majority of credible experts agree that the risk nuclear weapons will be used again is higher than ever. From South Asia to the South China Sea, Eastern Europe to the Korean Peninsula, tensions between nuclear-armed states are growing, and threaten to escalate to direct conflict and possible nuclear use. Nuclear-armed states are investing in expensive upgrades and new weapons, and key agreements that restrain nuclear weapons and increase stability have been dismantled.
In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, Derek Johnson, Executive Director of Global Zero, issued the following statement:
“Seventy-five years ago, the United States killed an estimated 200,000 civilians in the first, and only, nuclear attacks in history. Many hundreds of thousands more were left to cope with the fallout and generations of harm that ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ left behind.
“Today, the world still bristles with more than 13,000 nuclear weapons. The Hibakusha, survivors of the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are nearing the end of their lives, yet remain steadfast in their advocacy for the elimination of nuclear weapons and insist no others should suffer as they have. But, instead of heeding the call to ensure nuclear weapons are never used again, the world’s nine nuclear-armed nations are heading in the opposition direction.
“The United States and Russia, in particular, are doubling down on lavish modernization programs and dangerous new nuclear weapons systems that will only increase the unacceptably high risk of conflict. We are straying far and fast from the principle that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ Washington and Moscow would do well to recall the hard lessons of the Cold War – and stop unraveling the progress that slashed more than 80% of global nuclear stockpiles since their peak in the 1980s.
“The New START agreement, the last remaining limitation on U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals, expires in just 6 months. Russia has offered to extend this treaty immediately and without preconditions, but the United States has repeatedly failed to seize this opportunity, preferring instead to focus on China’s dramatically smaller stockpile. This approach risks the total collapse of nuclear arms control and a new era of nuclear chaos.
“The end of arms control only increases the risks of more Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Every day we wake up in a world with nuclear weapons is a day we roll the dice. There are important and immediate steps we can take to improve our odds, but ultimately, there is no level of existential risk that should be tolerated indefinitely.
“We need to defund, delegitimize, and dismantle nuclear weapons – all of them, everywhere – before they can be used again.
“Extending the New START agreement for a full five years is an obvious and immediate first step. But we have to think bigger and act audaciously. The United States and Russia must end their expensive obsession with nuclear weapons. National security doctrines must be urgently reformed around credible No First Use commitments. And the Cold War policies that keep nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert – ready to launch instantaneously on (potentially false) warning of attack – must be abandoned.
“As we mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, it’s imperative that we come to grips with the growing threat posed by nuclear weapons, and the steps we must take to eliminate that threat. If the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are never to be repeated, every effort must be brought to bear to advance the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons globally.”