Following the launch of the Programme by former President Gorbachev last November,
the WMD Awareness Programme achieved a major success by arranging for former US Secretary of State Robert McNamara to visit the UK in June to support the aims of the Programme in creating a wider public debate on the very real threat from the possession and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Mr McNamara’s visit was launched at a Press Conference in London chaired by Medact Deputy Director Gill Reeve. Together with General Sir Hugh Beach, and in the wake of the disastrous NPT Review Conference which he had attended, Mr McNamara warned of imminent nuclear dangers, and stressed that empathy – the ability to understand an opponent’s point of view – was key in solving difficult international situations.
Mr McNamara said that the greatest threat to humankind is nuclear proliferation, that Britain should not develop a new nuclear weapons capability and that the development of new nuclear weapons is insane and a waste of money.
He also said that ‘Despite the end of the Cold War 15 years ago, the US nuclear weapons policies are today essentially what they were when I was Secretary of Defense 40 years ago. If I were to characterise US and NATO nuclear policies in one sentence, I would say they are: immoral; illegal; militarily unnecessary; very, very dangerous in terms of the risk of inadvertent or accidental launch; and destructive of the non-proliferation regime that has served us so well over the 40 years.’
To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, Mr McNamara urged the current nuclear weapons states to take action to provide confidence building measures. He said, ‘The US and Russia should be directed to remove their nuclear forces from hair-trigger alert and from preparation for launch on warning. The five declared nuclear weapons states should follow a policy of No-First-Use, reinstate and make explicit their Negative Security Assurances pledges and accelerate reductions in their level of their nuclear forces.
After extensive media interviews, Mr McNamara together with Professor Robert Hinde, chair of the British Pugwash Group, took part in a session at the Guardian Hay Festival on Sunday 5 June chaired by Jon Snow and attended by 1200 people. Back in London he spoke at a packed meeting in Parliament attended by MPs and Peers.
For more information on Mr McNamara’s visit and for a copy of his recent speech at the UN, where he set out further steps to reduce the dangers of nuclear proliferation, see