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The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us - all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all  faiths - must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.

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15 November 2021

Address to the Conference on Nuclear Disarmament

In a written address to the conference in Kazakhstan’s capital, which opened today, Mikhail Gorbachev welcomed the initiative of the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to create a Global Alliance of Leaders for Nuclear Disarmament and called for new efforts to demilitarize international politics and rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.


Dear Nursultan Abishevich,

Distinguished participants in the conference,

          First of all, I want to salute the initiative of the first President of Kazakhstan to create the Global Alliance of Leaders for Nuclear Disarmament. It is important that its participants represent different regions and generations of political leaders. While conveying to them my support and wishes of success, I would like to share my thoughts and concerns.

          Today, we have to consider all that is happening in the world in the light of a huge and still ongoing global threat of the pandemic, which has already claimed millions of human lives. It has faced all states with a common challenge, which none of them can defeat alone. Yet other global challenges remain and have even become more urgent: poverty and inequality, shortage of water, the degradation of the environment and global warming, the depletion of the earth and the oceans, the migration crisis.

          How can humankind cope with this avalanche of problems? In thinking of this, one has to conclude that it is necessary to rethink our concept of security. Up until now, it has been envisioned mostly in military terms. I regret to say that little has changed in this regard after the end of the Cold War.

          The priority must now be given to human security. It means, above all, providing food, water and a clean environment and caring for people’s health. This is what our efforts should be devoted to. This should be the responsibility of governments and leaders at all levels.

          Yet, all our efforts will fail if governments continue to waste vast amounts of money by fueling the arms race. I am following the situation in this area with increasing concern, even though in the past few months there have been some signs that the nuclear powers have finally awakened to their responsibility and have taken the first steps in the right direction.

          At their meeting in Geneva, the presidents of Russia and the United States reaffirmed the fundamental principle that President Reagan and I declared at our first meeting in 1985: that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. A strategic stability dialogue has been started, seeking to lay the groundwork for nuclear arms control. I hope that these negotiations will not become a dialogue of the deaf and will begin to yield real results.

          Yet, unfortunately, there is a lot more reason for concern today than for even modest hopes. The collapse of trust between two nuclear powers has undermined the foundation on which the efforts for nuclear disarmament were built and which made it possible to eliminate 85 percent of the nuclear weapons accumulated at the height of the Cold War. The very goal of a world without nuclear weapons has been virtually consigned to oblivion. Military doctrines increasingly rely on nuclear weapons and their use in various scenarios of conflict.

          Yet, it is the existence of nuclear weapons that represents a deadly threat to humanity. They are like a rifle that is hanging on the wall and is bound one day to fire accidentally, as a result of technical failure or of human or computer error. There have been so many examples – in aviation, in industry, in various control systems – of accidents related to electronics or computers. Nuclear weapons could also be launched in response to false alarm. They could fall into the hands of terrorists. Who know what other “surprises” they have in store for us!

          The proponents of nuclear weapons are claiming that they guarantee peace and security, that they have saved the world from war. My response to them is: This is a dangerous myth in a dangerous world. I want to remind those who believe in it that at least once during the Cold War those weapons caused a crisis that put the world on the brink of a war between nuclear powers. I am referring to the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. Recently published documents have revealed how close the world was then to a fatal line.

          I am convinced that our ultimate goal must be the world without nuclear weapons. So I will never tire of repeating: We need to demilitarize global politics, international relations and political thinking, to rid them of the nuclear sword of Damocles. Everyone can contribute to this goal – ordinary citizens, scientists, artists, and of course political leaders.

          I am sure that your contribution to these efforts will have a real impact.




                                                                                                                                  Mikhail Gorbachev


          November 11, 2021