Getting to Zero Timeline: 2008

November 23, 2008: UN Secretary General recommends Five steps to a nuclear-free world, Ban Ki-moon, Also see the text of the UN Secretary General’s statement from 24 October 2008, in which he proposes his five-point agenda for disarmament. The speech was made during Seizing the Moment: Breakthrough Measures to Build a New East West Consensus on Weapons of Mass Destruction and Disarmament, an EastWest Institute event co-sponsored with BASIC and other NGOs.

July 24, 2008: Four prominent Italian political figures and one well-respected physicist came together to write an op-ed to endorse the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. The article, “For A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” was published in Italy’s leading newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera. The authors include: Massimo D’Alema, former Prime Minister and recent Minister of Foreign Affairs; Gianfranco Fini, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies; Giorgio La Malfa, former Minister of European Affairs; Arturo Parisi, former Minister of Defense and Francesco Calogero, Professor of Physics, University of Rome and former Secretary General of the Pugwash Conference.

July 23, 2008: “Preventing a new age of nuclear insecurity
Presentation by The Rt. Hon. William Hague, MP, International Institute of Strategic Studies, London.

July 16, 2008: Addressing an audience at Purdue University in Indiana, US presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama declared, “It’s time to send a clear message to the world: America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons.”

July 15, 2008: U.S. presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama highlighted the dangers of nuclear weapons in a major foreign policy speech in Washington, DC, stating:

“We need to work with Russia to take US and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert; to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material; to seek a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons; and to expand the US-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global. By keeping our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we’ll be in a better position to press nations like North Korea and Iran to keep theirs. In particular, it will give us more credibility and leverage in dealing with Iran.”

June 30, 2008: In a ground-breaking op-ed in the Times (London), former UK Foreign and Defence Secretaries endorsed the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative), Lord David Owen (Crossbencher), Lord Douglas Hurd (Conservative), and Lord George Robertson (Labour), in an article titled ‘Start worrying and learn to ditch the bomb’, warned that the world is entering a dangerous new phase “that combines widespread proliferation with extremism and geopolitical tension”. They argued that the only way to deal with this danger is to work multilaterally towards complete nuclear disarmament. See the related Times article, Former rivals join forces in nuclear plea: Weapon stocks must be cut, say ex-Cabinet ministers and BASIC’s Media Advisory: Another milestone to Zero: UK Statesmen Call for a World without Nuclear Weapons.

  • The Times (London) op-ed is partly the inspiration behind an Early Day Motion (Parliamentary petition) opened for signature. The Motion is sponsored by recent Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, recent Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard, recent Defence Secretary John Reid, serving and former Chairs of the Commons Defence Committee James Arbuthnot and Michael Ancram and recent Liberal Democrat Leader and foreign affairs luminary Menzies Campbell. The Motion welcomes the previous calls by Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measures and the subsequent endorsement by the four UK Statesmen in the Times.

Related Times (London) editorial: Disarming Ideas: It is time to start negotiating reductions in nuclear stockpiles.

April 6, 2008: U.S. President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi in south-western Russia. The meeting resulted in a Strategic Framework Declaration. The Declaration included references to nuclear and conventional arms control, most notably stating that the two countries would “continue development of a legally binding post-START arrangement”. Previous indications from the Bush Administration had placed in doubt whether US officials would pursue such a binding agreement.

February 26-27, 2008: official website of the international conference on nuclear disarmament in Oslo: Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.

February 5, 2008: Speech by the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Rt. Hon. Des Browne, MP, “Laying the Foundations for Multilateral Disarmament.”

January 21, 2008: Gordon Brown, in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Delhi, India on January 21, renews the UK government’s commitment to move toward a nuclear-weapon free world. He said: “I pledge that in the run-up to the Non Proliferation Treaty review conference in 2010 we will be at the forefront of the international campaign to accelerate disarmament amongst possessor states, to prevent proliferation to new states, and to ultimately achieve a world that is freer from nuclear weapons.

January 15, 2008: The ‘Hoover Group’ – George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and William Perry – publish a renewed call to action in the Wall Street Journal, sparking off another flurry of debate. This came a year after their original letter in the Journal triggered a series of responses from governments and civil society around the vision of a nuclear-weapon free world. The growing and impressive list of elite US supporters include seven secretaries of state, seven national security advisors and five former secretaries of defense.

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