In September the US intelligence agencies reported that Russia has developed a new nuclear submarine, which the Pentagon calls “Kanyon.” Then in October the Russian military confirmed the report and released photos of its new nuclear missiles, called RS-28 or Sarmat, which are supposedly powerful enough to destroy an area the size of New England. These missiles are intended to replace the SS-18 “Satan” weapons, which date back to 1974.
Obviously, tensions were already high between Russia and the West when this news was disclosed, exacerbating a negative relationship that was simultaneously going downhill because of CIA revelation that the Kremlin had tried to help Donald Trump become president by hacking and publicizing damaging emails from the Clinton campaign.
The Russians were already nervous. In October they held a training in civil defence for the whole country, calling it preparedness for the West to attack them with nuclear weapons.
Source: Caroline Mortimer, The Independent, 10 Dec 2016
The UN General Assembly will shortly decide to start negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. It will make illegal the development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, deployment, threat of use, or use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance, financing, encouragement, or inducement of these prohibited acts.
The nine nuclear-armed states will no doubt attempt to ignore this decision, since all of them are modernizing the nuclear forces—or even talking in threatening ways about using them. Nevertheless, money talks, and the nuclear states may not like what it says after the ban treaty is adopted.
Private investors provide the financing for the companies that produce weapons. A new Dutch report, “Don’t Bank on the Bomb!” notes:
“Public exclusions by investors including governments and financial institutions have a stigmatizing effect on companies associated with illegitimate activities. There are numerous examples from child labour to tobacco where financial pressure had a profound impact on industry. While it is unlikely that divestment by a single financial institution or government would create sufficient pressure on a company for it to end its involvement in nuclear weapon production, divestment by even a few institutions, or States based on the same justification can. As a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is negotiated in 2017, States should include a prohibition on financing to provide an added incentive for the financial industry to exclude nuclear weapon associated companies from their investment universe, and raise the economic cost of nuclear weapons deployment, stockpiling and modernisation.”
Peace workers will soon have an excellent new opportunity to demand greater transparency from their financial institutions, and to publicize that information as part of a campaign to prohibit future investment in nuclear weapons. Enter that on your to-do lists for 2017!
Source: Don’t Bank on the Bomb: A Global Report on the Financing of Nuclear Weapons Producers” PAX and ICAN. (Utrecht, Dec. 2016).
One conspicuous gap in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the omission of peace as a human right. For twenty years, peace activists have campaigned to fill that gap, and this fall they were joined by other well-known persons who urged Member States of the Third Committee of the General Assembly (the committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs) to adopt a Declaration on the Right to Peace.
Finally they have succeeded. During its 71st session, on 18 November 2016, the General Assembly adopted that declaration by a majority of its Member States.
The resolution had been diluted somewhat and did not fully represent the voices of civil society. Indeed, it is not actually a law, having been adopted by the General Assembly rather than the Security Council, which alone can enact binding international legislation. Still, it passed and peace activists rejoice.
Source: International Peace Bureau, Geneva.
António Guterres is now the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, replacing Ban Ki Moon. He had been the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.
Guterres was the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, and Secretary-General of the Socialist Party from 1992 to 2002. He served as President of the Socialist International, 1999 to 2005.