The article is based on the presentation by the author at the Conference América do Sul na era nuclear (South America in the Nuclear Era) organised in August 2018 by the Federal University of Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and Pugwash International.
Recent debates in Germany and South Korea concerning the alleged need for a national nuclear deterrent are signs of the pervading nuclear temptation, affecting even stalwarts of peace and multilateralism. The termination of the INF Treaty and the absence of progress on the renewal of the New START Treaty are signs of the deterioration of the strategic dialogue between the big nuclear superpowers against the background of increased global mistrust and sabre-rattling. The UN Secretary General does not hesitate to describe the current state of affairs as a new cold war. Former Mexico President Ernesto Zedillo warns about the negative impact this rarefied political atmosphere could have over the NPT, the corner stone of international security. Other analysts exhort Washington and Moscow to resume their nuclear dealings, recalling the positive experience of the Cold War years, when dialogue and restraint helped to prevent a fatal atomic exchange.
The current ominous situation demands a concerted action involving non-nuclear weapon states and global civil society to reinvigorate bilateral dialogue and multilateralism in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. As General Secretary Guterres points out: multilateral disarmament negotiations have been deadlocked for more than two decades, and bilateral channels have been allowed to stagnate. Latin America, with its distinguished record from the Tlatelolco Treaty to its recent, collective engagement in the successful negotiation of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty has an important role to play acting shoulder to shoulder with other Nuclear-Weapon Free-Zones nations. Civil society -today deploying its political muscle in the climate-change front- needs to be reignited in its awareness and commitment to nuclear disarmament. Our region bears a crucial responsibility next year, when Ambassador Rafael Grossi from Argentina will be chairing the X Review Conference of the NPT. The political legitimacy of this fundamental instrument could suffer severely from yet another failed outcome.
We must act now to revive a global movement towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.