Austria Against Faith in Nuclear Deterrence

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: August 6, 2023; 23:30 ♦ (Vindobona)

On the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg stresses the urgency of nuclear disarmament. The terrible effects and the immeasurable human suffering caused by nuclear weapons must continue to be raised awareness.

Because of the enormous destructive power of nuclear bombs, there have always been efforts to abolish all nuclear weapons and to ban them in general in order to prevent them from destroying mankind. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / United States Department of Energy, Public domain

The tragic events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 people and left tens of thousands injured. Today, the risk of nuclear weapons use is higher than it has been in decades. The notion that nuclear deterrence can serve as a security guarantee is a fatal fallacy, according to Schallenberg. It is more urgent than ever, he said, to call for a move away from nuclear weapons and to bring about a paradigm shift.

New scientific findings show that the effects and risks of nuclear weapons would be even more serious and global than previously known. Threats of mutual destruction could not form a sustainable security order. For this reason, Austria is at the forefront of states pushing nuclear disarmament. The so-called Doomsday Clock, which measures the risk of nuclear war, is currently closer than ever: 90 seconds to midnight.

The threat of weapons of mass destruction offers no protection whatsoever but poses a global existential threat that can be resolved politically. Especially given Russia's irresponsible nuclear threats, it is crucial to make concrete progress toward nuclear disarmament.

14000 Nuclear Warheads Worldwide

Today, nine states are considered nuclear powers: the USA, Russia, Great Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Together, these states have about 13,865 nuclear warheads today; in the mid-1980s, there were about 70,000. That is enough to destroy humanity several times over (so-called overkill). Worldwide, in part also in the USA itself, the use of these weapons of mass destruction mainly against the civilian population is condemned as immoral and ethically irresponsible. The development of the atomic bomb is now regarded by many as the darkest chapter in the history of technology and science, and the atomic bomb has come to epitomize the "curse of technology."

Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is considered a major challenge to international security in the 21st century. Since the first use of nuclear weapons, there have been many calls for their complete disarmament, given the catastrophic humanitarian consequences and the danger that nuclear weapons, and nuclear war in particular, pose to humanity. Some international treaties have led to restrictions and reductions in nuclear arsenals (arms control) and to nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Austria in favor of nuclear weapons ban treaty

Austria plays an important role in this context. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force in 2021, for the first time prohibits the possession, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons under international law. Austria chaired the first meeting of state parties in Vienna in 2022, which adopted a strong multilateral condemnation of nuclear threats. To date, 92 states have signed the treaty and 68 states have acceded to it.

The treaty gives a voice to survivors of nuclear bombings and tests and highlights their important warnings about the devastating risks and effects of nuclear weapons. It is a commitment to finally eliminate these inhumane weapons before they cause further suffering.

In the spirit of the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and all victims of nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Schallenberg calls for consistent implementation of nuclear disarmament. Efforts to achieve a peaceful, secure, and nuclear-weapon-free world must continue.

MFA Austria