Nuclear disarmament long overdue, Vatican diplomat tells UN

Nuclear bomb Credit KREML Shutterstock CNA KREML, Shutterstock

Reluctant states should sign a treaty banning nuclear weapons, Vatican diplomat Archbishop Paul Gallagher told the United Nations on Tuesday. The nuclear arms race and strategies of nuclear deterrence are dysfunctional, draw resources from humanitarian concerns, and distract from the imperative to seek peace, he said.

“Faced with a global pandemic of uncertain duration and the worsening effects of global climate change, States must reduce military expenditures in the interest of meeting humanitarian needs and the demands of our common home,” Gallagher said Sept. 28. “I particularly urge those States benefiting from the nuclear umbrella to help recalibrate global priorities by supporting nuclear disarmament efforts under the Non-Proliferation Treaty Article VI.”

He criticized factors that help perpetuate the current situation on nuclear weapons. He warned of “the exorbitant spending by a few States in the production and deployment of nuclear arsenals,” saying this is a source of inequality within and across countries.

Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, cited previous Vatican exhortations that governments redirect money for weapons into “a global fund that can finally put an end to hunger and favor development in the most impoverished countries.”

His pre-recorded Sept. 28 statement addressed a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. The U.N. was hosting a high-level plenary meeting that marked the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In 2017, some 122 U.N. member states voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It took force in January. It currently has 86 signatories and 56 states are parties to it.

“The Holy See is grateful to those States that have signed and ratified the treaty, and it encourages reluctant States to join this important agreement,” Gallagher said Tuesday.

For Gallagher, the policy of nuclear deterrence “drives the arms race and generates a dehumanizing technological environment that sustains and aggravates mistrust among nations.” He cited St. John XXIII’s endorsement of “mutual trust,” not “an equal supply of armaments,” as a source of lasting peace.

“Trust among nations warrants verification and the Holy See strongly endorses verifiable disarmament agreements,” he said. He invoked the U.N. Charter’s commitment to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” which has “brought untold sorrow to mankind.”

In 2017 the Holy See was among the first countries to sign and ratify the treaty. It bars the development, production, testing, acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices. It also bars the use or threat of use of these weapons.

It is the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades.

Most nuclear powers did not take part in the treaty negotiations.

The United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, and other countries possessing nuclear weapons did not sign or ratify the treaty, nor did some ally countries of nuclear powers, including South Korea and Japan.

In May 2021 the Congressional Budget Office analyzed U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy budget requests. It estimated the costs of maintaining U.S. nuclear forces at $60 billion per year, totaling $634 billion from 2021-2030. This includes ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons laboratories and supporting activities.

Pope Francis has condemned not only the potential use of nuclear weapons but also “their very possession.”

“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” he said in a November 2017 speech to participants in a nuclear disarmament symposium.

Pope Francis’ Sept. 25, 2015 speech in New York urged the U.N. General Assembly “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons” and for a full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that aims for “a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

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