Kazakhstan asked to lead global nuclear-disarmament effort

October 20. Central Asia Newswire

By Hal Foster

Kazakhstan asked to lead global nuclear-disarmament effortKazakhstan, which suffered 42 years of nuclear testing, has been a leader in pushing for the ratification of an international treaty to ban the practice.

Now the president of one of the world’s most respected anti-nuclear-weapons organizations has called on the country to help lead a worldwide effort to eliminate the weapons.

Kazakhstan’s record of stopping nuclear testing on its soil and scrapping its nuclear arsenal gives it the “moral authority and the right” to champion a worldwide nuke-elimination effort, according to Jonathan Granoff of the New York-based Global Security Institute.  

The fact that Kazakhstan persuaded its Central Asian neighbors to make the region a nuclear-free zone and that it persuaded the United Nations to adopt an annual anti-nuclear-testing day only adds to its stature on the nuclear issue, Granoff said at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture. His comments came during an address at the three-day forum, which ended today, and an interview with Central Asia Newswire.

Kazakhstan has been particularly active on the anti-testing issue during its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe this year.

On August 29, the country and the rest of the world marked the first International Day Against Nuclear Testing. President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the United Nations resolution creating the day – and the General Assembly embraced it unanimously.

Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, who is also the chairman in office of the OSCE, has addressed testing many times this year, including in a speech before the General Assembly last month.

“For the people of Kazakhstan, who know too well all the horrors of nuclear tests, the issue of their total ban is of special relevance,” he said.  “Over 40 years, some 490 nuclear explosions were carried out at the Semipalatinsk test site, affecting more than half a million people and damaging territory as big as today’s Germany.”

Saudabayev then called on the nine nations that have yet to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty to do so. Until all sign off on it, the treaty will not go into effect.

Granoff said in an interview that Kazakhstan should champion Malaysia and Costa Rica’s proposal to the United Nations in 2007 for an international convention aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons.

“The tragic image of the mushroom cloud” not only gives Kazakhstan the right to lead the anti-testing effort, Granoff said in his speech, but also the right to lead the nuke-elimination effort.

Many nations have said it’s too early for a weapons-scrapping convention, Granoff said, but he believes it’s not too early to begin preparatory work toward the event.

“We need a process moving toward a nuclear weapons convention,” he said in the interview, “and Kazakhstan must be part of that process.”

One reason for the preparatory work would be to cast a world spotlight on the question of scrapping nuclear arms, he said. At the moment, he noted, “the international discussion is log-jammed.”

Granoff said he became interested in the anti-nuclear movement in the 1960s when he met Senator Bobby Kennedy of New York, who told him “how close we came to ending civilization” during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Kennedy, who was the U.S. attorney general at the time, played a key role in helping his brother, President John F. Kennedy, avoid a nuclear holocaust with the Soviet Union.

Granoff, a lawyer, helped forge Cold War understanding by bringing Soviet lawyers to the United States for visits during the 1980s.

“Those lawyers helped build bridges” between the East and West, he said in the interview.

His institute also could be considered a product of East-West dialogue. California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston worked with former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and others on reducing the nuclear danger before founding the institute in 1999.

Granoff said he’s cheered that “recognition of the shared goal of zero nuclear weapons has become mainstream” over the past decade.

However, “the shared value has yet to be met by action of the nuclear-weapons states,” Granoff said.

Every day’s delay increases the chance that one of the world’s 20,000 nuclear weapons will go off, “with catastrophic results,” he said in his speech.