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Senior Statesmen on Campaign to Abolish Nukes

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from Oslo.

ROB GIFFORD: It's Albert Einstein who's supposed to have said that politics is tougher than physics. And the radical goal set by four American statesmen this week at a largely unnoticed conference in Oslo might well prove that point. The idea was first floated in an op-ed last year in the Wall Street Journal. And the unlikely band of anti-bomb protestors includes Henry Kissinger, and first to speak at the conference Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, George Schultz.

S: We cannot wait for a nuclear Pearl Harbor or a 9/11. We must get ahead of the game to prevent an even more catastrophic event. So wake up, everybody. The danger is real.

GIFFORD: The two other senior statesmen involved are former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn, who says this is the new Realpolitik, because in nuclear proliferation terms, a perfect storm is brewing.

S: Nuclear material is spread all over the world. Knowledge is out there now which we thought could only be possessed by the state 30 years ago. Now, individuals have the knowledge to be able to put together a crude weapon. You've got terrorist groups who would do exactly that if they had the opportunity. And you've now got a resurgence of nuclear power, which can be a good thing and a blessing for mankind, but it also means a lot of countries are talking about enriching.

GIFFORD: But, of course, the plans face many obstacles, as Alexei Arbatov of the Carnegie Center in Moscow made clear.

MONTAGNE: As an ideal, Russian government position is in favor. The big problem is to prove to Russians that this is not designed to disarm them of their only reliable guarantee of security.

GIFFORD: Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, says the goal is very difficult, though not impossible. He says Washington's role will be key.

MONTAGNE: I think the world is looking to persons like George Schultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, William Perry to try and really gauge their sincerity and their willingness to leverage their political connections to move this process within the Washington context. If there's no progress there the rest of the world will remain complacent on the question.

GIFFORD: Rob Gifford, NPR News, Oslo.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rob Gifford
Rob Gifford is the NPR foreign correspondent based in Shanghai.