Q: You are the last
surviving signatory of the Russell-Einstein
Manifesto in 1955. Tell me why these two great thinkers felt the need
to issue it.
The Russell-Einstein manifesto happened soon after the introduction of
the hydrogen bomb, a weapon a thousand times more powerful than the fission
bomb used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the Cold War being at its height,
there was a great threat that nuclear weapons would be used; we were afraid
the two super powers would keep on building their arsenals. If they would
use these weapons in a war, then not only our civilization, but even the
very existence of the human race might be endangered.
We felt that we must warn people, the governments. We had to tell them.
People didn’t realize the great danger. The manifesto tells them
that if the human race is to survive, you must stop having wars.
Q: And what do you think is its relevance today?
It has great relevance today, after 50 years, particularly in connection
with the election of a president in the United States.
For many years when nuclear weapons still existed in the arsenals, the
use of nuclear weapons was seen as last resort and everything else has
been tested out and failed. But now, with the policies introduced by the
present President, nuclear weapons have become a weapon of first use.
He has even advocated the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons – in
other words, “we will use them if we think someone is going to attack
This is a very dangerous policy and goes against the very solemn undertaking
by all nuclear weapons states, to get rid of their nuclear arsenals.
Q: I know that you have some strong feelings about the United States
policies on nuclear weapons in the last four years. Tell me about this.
From the very beginning of the nuclear age, after the destruction of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, public opinion was very strong about nuclear weapons. People
felt this weapon should never to be used because it is immoral, that this
was an immoral weapon. It was unacceptable to a civilized society because
of its indiscriminate nature. It attacks both civilians and military people
alike. In fact, most of the casualties are civilian people, innocent people.
And the effect of the weapon goes on long after the attack. The fallout
from the weapons may affect future generations.
Because of the enormous destructive power of these weapons, many of us
decided from the beginning we must do our utmost to prevent their use.
In fact, when the UN Assembly met for the first time in 1946, the very
first resolution was to set up a committee to look at how we could get
rid of these weapons.
Instead of abolishing these weapons, during the Cold War the two super
powers --- the United States and Soviet Union --- kept rivaling each other,
making more and more weapons, more sophisticated ways of using them, and
the danger became very great. Gorbachev, when he came to power, realized
that this arms race was bound to lead to a catastrophe, and he made a
very brave decision to put an end to the arms race. And so the division,
which had divided and threatened the world for 40 years, came to an end.
At this time, we thought we could proceed with the resolution to get rid
of these weapons. We had been working on it and working on reduction,
until four years ago. When George W Bush came to power, he introduced
a radical new policy, a complete change. Instead of being a weapon of
last resort, nuclear weapons became a weapon of first resort, to be used
Of course if one side says this, the other side will say the same, whoever
it is. And therefore the possibility of a war in which not only civilization
but even the human race is in danger has become very real. And there is
a great need for people to realize this. People don’t realize the
effects of this policy.
Q: Many people feel that strong headway was made with North Korea
under Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy during the Clinton Administration,
and that much of this good work has now unraveled. Do you agree with this?
Yes I’m afraid so. Simply because this administration refuses to
talk to North Korea. They simply refuse. You cannot solve a problem by
not talking to each other. What you do, in fact, is to alienate the other
side. And this is what is in fact happening. North Korea probably believes
the only way they can go is to have nuclear weapons themselves, that with
nuclear weapons they’ll probably get some respect on the other side,
which is very dangerous.
Q: What are your concerns about Iran and North Korea?
Well, you have a policy, the policy of George W. Bush, that security requires
the possession of nuclear weapons. If the United States, the mightiest
country in the world, militarily and economically, feels that it needs
nuclear weapons for its security, how do you deny this security to countries
that really feel vulnerable?
These countries --- Iran and North Korea
--- feel they are vulnerable. They must need nuclear weapons for their
own security. Other countries will be the same. In other words we are
in danger of a new nuclear arms race.
We thought we finished with it 11 years ago. But now we are coming back.
Q: What do you think would be the correct approach for the United
States to take now with Iran and North Korea right now?
The correct approach is to fulfill international commitments under international
treaties. A civilized society can only exist if the governments of the
world commit themselves to a treaty and abide by it. Otherwise there will
be anarchy in the world.
Before an international treaty is signed, people negotiate conditions
for it. Once they sign, they must abide by them. Their policies must follow
We have the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, by which all the nuclear
weapons states --- eight of them now --- all said “we undertake
to get rid of our nuclear arsenals”. And this is the policy they
have all been trying to follow since, until the changes in the US policy
under George W. Bush.
Of course such a treaty has to be safeguarded; we have to make sure that
after some nations have disarmed, one nation is not going to reveal that
it has hidden small arsenals or that is has started anew, and so this
treaty needs a proper safeguard. And this is why scientists, like myself,
who know the problem, have been working on it. It can be done.
But we must abide by the treaty. And the Bush policy violates this treaty.
We therefore have nothing to go by. How can we exist in this world if
the governments of the world, the most powerful governments, sign, and
then turn around and just violate a treaty of this importance?
Q: So if we are not going to develop superior nuclear weapons, and
if we are not going to conduct pre-emptive strikes against places where
terrorists are being harbored – then what can we really do to keep
our children safe?
There are two dangers we face right now. One is from terrorist groups,
The other is from governments, from the types of policies I mentioned
First of all, the possession of nuclear weapons does not help you at all
in the fight against terrorists. Terrorists are loosely organized. They
are not identified with a given country. They are a group within a country.
You cannot attack, or try to fight terrorists, by using nuclear weapons.
Most of the people you kill will be innocent. There are only a small group
of terrorists there. These weapons are no use whatsoever.
On the other hand, the very existence of nuclear arsenals makes the situation
in relation to terrorists much worse. As long as nuclear weapons are in
the arsenals, sooner or later a terrorist group of one kind or another
will acquire one. These groups have resources. Or they could acquire materials
from which to make the bomb. Compared to the effects of a nuclear warhead
in the hands of the terrorists willing to use them, September 11th will
look like a Christmas.
Should this happen, we are to some extent guilty ourselves. We are using
terror ourselves, as a means of keeping our security. The whole problem
of the nuclear deterrent is based on the threat of using nuclear weapons,
using the most powerful, destructive power in the world. And the US says,
“we are prepared to use it against you”. We don’t call
it terrorism. We call it a different name, we call it nuclear deterrent.
But it still comes back to the same thing. We are still prepared to press
the button and unleash such enormous power against innocent individuals.
If we want to fight terrorism properly, we must go from a culture of violence
to a culture of peace. We must learn to solve our problems by negotiations,
not military confrontations. This is what I have been advocating over
the years, and it is only becoming more necessary.
People in other parts of the world have learned the lessons of history.
Many nations in the world are trying to find solutions to their problems
by other means than military confrontation. The best example I can give
is Europe. After all, in the past century, there were two world wars where
France and Germany were mortal enemies, and millions of people have died
in the wars that resulted. Today a war between France and Germany is inconceivable.
Of course there are still conflicts, but they don’t go to war to
solve it. People don’t realize what a revolution this was.
The European Union means something, it means we have learnt a lesson.
We will try our best not to repeat our mistakes in the past. Unfortunately
this is not yet universally accepted as a solution. And this is why we’re
still in danger.
Q: Do you think this is a lesson the United States has still to learn?
They’ve still got to learn it, yes, I’m afraid. Well, I imagine
if Clinton were in power, or if John Kerry comes to power, that they will
take the lesson to heart. I’m not sure if George W. Bush will if
he is returned to office.
Q: You have been campaigning against nuclear weapons for more than
50 years. How does it feel to see the nuclear threat rising up again?
I was shocked after the first bomb was used because I thought that perhaps
it wouldn’t be used, and I knew that we would be going into an arms
race, that we would be building more and more of these powerful weapons.
This is why I worked so hard since 1945 to bring about the end of deterrence,
the end of nuclear arsenals.
After the end of the Cold War, there was a very good climate. We were
optimistic that we could complete our work toward nuclear disarmament.
But then four years ago, the whole thing reversed itself, with the new
aggressive policy of the United States. Other countries are following
their suit. And we are back in the position in which I felt the fear,
I felt the alarm, after the first bomb was used.
But we have to start all over again. We cannot at all accept that nuclear
weapons are going to exist in the world.
It is still my aim in life to see the end of nuclear weapons in the world.
As long as I am alive, I will go on working for it.