We’re minutes — or maybe seconds — from nuclear midnight. We urgently need new global governance of nuclear weaponry
The Ukraine crisis spotlights the need for reforms to the central institutions of the UN. None of us can afford the luxury of time.
By Jonathan DownContributor
Sat., March 5, 2022
Today the people of Ukraine are being murdered and traumatized. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a public health disaster: thousands of Russians and Ukrainians alike are dying; millions of Ukrainians are displaced from the safety of their homes; and food, water and medicine are growing scarce all across Ukraine.
But this war also has the potential to be a global public health catastrophe, as well. That’s because Russian President Vladimir Putin has all-but threatened to use weapons of nuclear annihilation.
Just as COVID-19 exposed the deep fault lines in global health-care systems, Putin has exposed the fault lines in our institutions of global nuclear governance and collective security from weapons of mass death.
Together with his counterparts in other nuclear weapons states — including to greater and lesser degrees the U.S., China, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, North Korea and possibly Israel and Iran — Putin has failed to act in good faith on nuclear weapons controls.
He has scorned commitments to arms reduction by his predecessors in the Kremlin, and has restarted a nuclear arms race that is now again quickly driving us towards the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.
It is a chilling reminder that nuclear war is a global vulnerability that is largely of our own making — not just in Russia, but in Western Europe, North America, the U.K., Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
Global institutions have failed us, and countries have walked away from their disarmament treaties and obligations. The United Nations Security Council is dysfunctional, and paralyzed through the power of veto. Wasn’t the UN Charter set up to prevent this type of conflict in which nuclear annihilation is threatened?
The architecture of the UN has a multitude of systemic flaws beyond its inherent underfunding. To address the collective security mechanism of the UN Charter, the intervention of an established International Peace Force may have deterred such an overt assault on a sovereign member state. But that never happened.
The Ukraine crisis with all its nuclear perils spotlights the need for reforms to the central institutions of the UN and a new global governance system for nuclear weaponry. Neither Ukraine nor the rest of us can afford the luxury of time. We’re minutes — or maybe even just seconds — from nuclear midnight.
We at International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada (IPPNWC) join many other organizations around the world in calling for the immediate end to this naked aggression, wholly initiated by Russia. Our hearts and hopes for peace go out to the Ukrainian people.
But as we do that, we also call on the government of Justin Trudeau to immediately undertake world leadership in efforts to permanently ban and dismantle nuclear weapons wherever they exist.
As a first step, Canada must sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. When Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre Trudeau retired from politics in 1984, he made nuclear disarmament his deeply impassioned project. In meetings around the world, he championed this cause.
At the end of the Cold War, the entire issue faded from the public limelight. But it has continued to fester and to grow ever more horrifying. Today we call upon Justin Trudeau to take up his father’s cause again.