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Op-Ed in FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU, a national German newspaper, Oct. 27th 2020

Nuclear disarmament is now our right

Honduras is the 50th. country to sign the ban on nuclear weapons. Now the treaty applies. A guest article by Lars Pohlmeier.

The United Nations (UN) Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty is a political sensation. It sets new legal norms that prohibit the possession, but also the indirect involvement with nuclear armament and even financial transactions. For example, financial institutions and banks in signatory states cannot grant loans to manufacturers of nuclear weapons and carrier systems or invest in them in any other way. Already today, global banks have adapted their guidelines with regard to nuclear weapons, explicitly referring to the treaty - even in states like Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The nuclear weapon states, including the NATO states, initially only partially accompanied the negotiations and then boycotted them, except for the Netherlands. Their attempt to discredit the treaty as purely symbolic, however, has come to nothing.

Efforts behind the scenes to persuade states to withdraw from signing the treaty have also failed. 122 states have spoken out in favor of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Of course, like the USA in the Paris Climate Agreement, one can refuse to participate in an international treaty. But politically, the nuclear-weapon states and their traditionally loyal followers, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, are coming under increasing pressure to explain why they undermine international norms in various areas.

Civil society, including the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (Ican), doctors from the IPPNW and many other peace activists were the initiators and sources of ideas for this important disarmament treaty. Without this commitment, this treaty would not have come into being.

The decisive reason for the dynamics on the international diplomatic scene was the existential humanitarian dimension of the nuclear weapons issue. It concerns us all. It is not a "technical question" for military and diplomats. No, it concerns us at the base in our cities and communities - because we are still the targets of these weapons at all times. This realization has literally "moved" responsible politicians.

Consequently, this treaty obliges the signatory states to stand up for the victims of the nuclear weapons age and to provide for compensation. The tribute often paid by civilians, mostly ethnic minorities, does not only concern the victims of the atomic bombs dropped in Japan in 1945.

The nuclear death also came as a result of the 2000 nuclear tests worldwide, whether in Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, Tahiti, Utah or elsewhere. Not to mention the humanitarian consequences of uranium mining, military installations, accidents and the unresolved nuclear waste issue. These victims and their families, who until now have had no voice, should now receive justice.

The debate about nuclear armament, which exposes us to the danger of the destruction of mankind, is not an academic duty of the political establishment. Last week German pilots practiced the use of nuclear weapons.

In a few weeks the Start Treaty between Russia and the USA will expire. Russia has offered the USA to freeze the number of nuclear weapons of both states for one year for the time being. Should the extension of the launch treaty fail, a new arms race threatens, then not only on land, sea and in the air, but in future also in space.

This race is about financial and intellectual resources. While we as doctors are fighting the corona pandemic and are working hard to develop vaccines and therapies that must then be made available to the world community in solidarity, resources are being wasted on a pointless military doctrine on an unimaginable scale.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, on the other hand, is from now on not only a moral, but also a legal pacemaker towards a world without nuclear weapons. The Federal Government must sign the Prohibition Treaty and Mrs. Merkel must end nuclear sharing. To abolish nuclear weapons in a completely controlled way is difficult, but possible. Now we also have a right that is is being done.


Lars Pohlmeier is an internist from Bremen and member of the board of the German IPPNW (Doctors against Nuclear War) as well as a member of ICAN Germany.

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