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Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1990, now heads the Gorbachev Foundation, a political think tank in Moscow, and Green Cross International (More on:


Mikhail Gorbachev

In May 1998 the nuclear tests in South Asia shook the international community. The tests did not increase the security of either India or Pakistan; on the contrary, they worsened an already unstable situation.
However, we should also recognize as valid the criticism levelled at the five nuclear powers, especially the USA and Russia. The tests made it evident that we may be near the end of the road for the system to control nuclear weapons, the international treaty on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament (the NPT).
It has long been clear that the treaty does not stand up without serious steps being made in the direction of nuclear disarmament. But the US and Russia have recently given more and more clearly to understand that their defence strategies are tied to nuclear weapons, and developing delivery and anti-ballistic systems. We could have foreseen that the extension of the NPT in 1995 would not increase its authority or effectiveness. We should accept the truth: it is not working any more.
As early as 1985, President Reagan and I, at our first summit, said that nuclear war can never be won, and must never be fought. Even then we knew something very important about the inadmissibility of nuclear war.
Today, it is just as true that if nuclear war, on any scale, were ever to be unleashed, or were ever to become a reality, it would threaten the very existence of life on earth.
What is not being discussed by the established nuclear powers today is that the process of nuclear disarmament has been stalled for several years now; it is just marking time. I believe we have not been properly using the opportunities opened up with the end of the Cold War, the possibility to move toward a really new world order based on stability, democratic cooperation and equality, rather than on the hegemony of one country.
Instead, the geopolitical games are continuing; we are seeing those old geopolitical games in places such as Bosnia, and we know the dangerous potential of such conflicts.
During the Cold War, many of those wars in small places festered for decades and became worse because the two superpowers and the two military alliances were fueling the hostilities in the pursuit of their own narrow interests.
During the years of the arms race, the United States and the Soviet Union spent $10 trillion each on weapons production. It is true that the danger of nuclear war has significantly diminished, but it has not disappeared for good. The so-called conventional wars and regional wars are still claiming thousands of lives and tremendous resources, and are also ravaging nature, the unique source of life on our planet.
After the Cold War, instead of conversion, we have seen defense production, arms trade and weapons-export policies continue.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, while Russia was immersed in its domestic problems, the United States captured 70 percent of the world trade in weapons, while not doing much for defense conversion.
The result is that Russia, too, has decided to step up the production and transfer of the most sophisticated weapons, and is pushing in the same direction and trying to capture that market.
Driving this development is the underlying as