Speech by E.A. Shevardnadze, Harvard University, 1991
То feel confident in a world in which the role of nuclear weapons will be diminished, we need to know how to protect ourselves from nuclear terrorism. Currently there are highly accurate non-nuclear weapons, which through surgical strikes have the capability of thwarting the plans of potential terrorists. Naturally, this problem merits the most serious consideration.
We must not forget yet another positive factor: our ability to know with reasonable accuracy what is taking place in the world as far as military activity is concerned. This transparency of the world will clearly continue to grow, along with our increased confidence that there will be less and less unexpected elements, and that we will know more and more about what is taking place throughout the world.
It would be wrong to see things as though all dangers stemmed from nuclear, chemical or bacteriological weapons. We must simply try to eliminate this category of dangers, which otherwise may make mankind pay a very high price.
Frankly speaking, I am concerned by the fact that we have become more tolerant of such threats as that of nuclear disaster. Yes, the world has changed. It no longer is characterized by that drastic military confrontation which imposed enormous stress on each and every human being.
Today the situation is different, politically and psychologically. Nevertheless, thousands of nuclear warheads remain in the arsenals of the nuclear powers. Unfortunately, the pace of progress in the disarmament process has slowed. After the initial striking successes,
there is now a process of marking time in negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons, on the prohibition of chemical weapons, and there has been an unwarranted delay in the ratification of the treaty on conventional forces in Europe.
The destruction of all intermediate and shorter range missiles covered by the treaty has been completed. But a gap has now emerged in the work of the assembly line for destroying missiles. And military plants are continuing their operations, although at less than their former capacity.
We cannot leave unfinished that edifice of a new world, which we have jointly undertaken to create. If we do not, every single day, add something to that structure, the building will start to collapse, and decline and fall.
That must not happen. Our children will not forgive us lost opportunities, for then they will not be getting such a good education, or the best medical care, or other social services.
We are still at the very first stages of our search for ways to organize the trade in conventional weapons, to establish regional security arrangements, to establish mechanisms to prevent crisis situations. We must all adapt to new realities, to a changed world.
For today, it is radically and even unrecognizably different from what it was only a few years ago. We have left behind both the Cold War and protracted conflicts in various regions of the world. Today we speak of a united Germany as of a basic fact of life.
But could all this really have been possible just two years ago? It would have been difficult to imagine something of this sort.
The world is becoming one in its actions, in its desire to rid itself of the onerous legacy of the past.
That legacy includes nuclear tests and nuclear arsenals. In a new situation, at a new level of awareness of mankind’s sense of community, it is high time — and it is our obligation — to get rid of them.
Academics in all countries must help people to become aware of the significance of events, to understand the point of the changes and to indicate what road we need to take to avoid losing our way in the thickets of life and politics.
We all need a prognosis for the future. For that, we need to unite those forces which are championing peace, freedom and democracy.