General Butler's Speech to the National Press Club
Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Statement by International Current & Former Heads of State
Embargoed for Release, Feb. 2, 1998
The end of the Cold War has wrought a profound transformation of the international political and security arena. Ideological confrontation has been supplanted by burgeoning global relations across every field of human endeavor. There is intense alienation but also civilized discourse. There is acute hostility but also significant effort for peaceful resolution in place of violence and bloodshed.
Most importantly, the long sought prospect of a world free of the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons is suddenly within reach. This is an extraordinary moment in the course of human affairs, a near miraculous opportunity to realize that noble goal. But, it is also perishable: the specter of nuclear proliferation cannot be indefinitely contained. The urgent attention and best efforts of scholars and statesmen must be brought to bear.
Leaders of the nuclear weapons states, and of the de facto nuclear nations, must keep the promise of nuclear disarmament enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and clarified and reaffirmed in 1995 in the language codifying its indefinite extension. They must do so by commencing the systematic and progressive reduction and marginalization of nuclear weapons, and by declaring unambiguously that their goal is ultimate abolition.
Many military leaders of many nations have warned that all nations would be more secure in a world free of nuclear weapons. Immediate and practical steps toward this objective have been arrayed in a host of compelling studies, most notably in the Report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Among these proposals, we fully subscribe to the following measures:
- Remove nuclear weapons from alert status, separate them from their delivery vehicles, and place them in secure national storage.
- Halt production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
- End nuclear testing, pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- Launch immediate U.S./Russian negotiations toward further, deep reductions of their nuclear arsenals, irrespective of START II ratification.
- Unequivocal commitment by the declared and undeclared nuclear weapon states to join the reduction process on a proportional basis as the U.S. and Russia approach their arsenal levels, within an international system of inspection, verification, and safeguards.
- Develop a plan for eventual implementation, achievement and enforcement of the distant but final goal of elimination.
The foregoing six steps should be undertaken immediately.
The following additional steps should be carefully considered, to determine whether they are presently appropriate and feasible:
- Repatriate nuclear weapons deployed outside of sovereign territory.
- Commit to No First Use of nuclear weapons.
- Ban production and possession of large, long-range ballistic missiles.
- Account for all materials needed to produce nuclear weapons, and place them under international safeguards.
The world is not condemned to live forever with threats of nuclear conflict, or the anxious, fragile peace imposed by nuclear deterrence. Such threats are intolerable and such a peace unworthy. The sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons invokes a moral imperative for their elimination. That is our mandate. Let us begin.