A nuclear free world and the realm of realpolitik

G7 Hiroshima summit fell short of the expectations of Japan’s 'hibakusha' survivors who want complete nuclear disarmament

Cristian Martini Grimaldi

Updated: May 26, 2023 11:54 AM GMT

World leaders pose for a photograph during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on May 21 on the sidelines of the G7 Summit Leaders' Meeting. (Photo: AFP)

The devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 left an indelible mark on history and the survivors, known as hibakusha, who bore witness to the catastrophic power of nuclear weapons.

Over the years, these brave individuals have become leading voices in the global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons, fervently advocating for a future free from the threat of nuclear devastation.

However, the challenging realm of realpolitik casts doubt on the feasibility of complete nuclear disarmament.

As the G7 leaders' visit to Hiroshima last week aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons, particularly in the context of rising nuclear tensions, they issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to non-proliferation principles.

The document, called the Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament, along with the existing deterrence policies supported by the nuclear states it emphasized the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone for disarmament.

But in the end the outcome of the summit disappointed the A-bomb survivors.

All in all, the world leaders' gathering fell short of meeting the expectations of hibakusha survivors who had called for a straightforward nuclear abolition.

The seven leaders did stress the need for cooperation with countries like Russia and China to achieve disarmament. But calls for commitments such as no first use of nuclear weapons and joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons were not mentioned in the final declarations.

The summit's Hiroshima Action Plan, which concerns itself with a variety of fields, from nuclear weapons abolition processes, to reconstruction and peace building, and whose main focus was intended to support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, received minimal attention in the leaders' statement, leading to tangible concerns about the commitment to disarmament.

It is natural for hibakusha, with their firsthand experiences of the horrors of nuclear weapons, to aspire to create a world rid of destructive arsenals. I had a chance to meet them in person recently and they exude enormous charisma. Their memories are still incredibly sharp despite their age and what they suffered.

Their hopes are rooted in the belief that no individual or nation should endure the immense sorrow they have endured. Their activism is primarily driven by a deep desire for peace, justice and a commitment to safeguarding future generations from the catastrophic consequences of nuclear warfare.

Now, while the aspirations of hibakusha can definitely be considered noble, realpolitik often brings forth a different perspective. The very concept of nuclear deterrence argues that these weapons serve as a necessary evil in preventing large-scale conflicts among nuclear-armed nations. It contends that the presence of nuclear weapons creates a delicate balance of power, deterring aggression and ensuring stability between nations.

M.A.D. stands for Mutually Assured Destruction. It was a term, now somewhat outdated, that was often heard during the Cold War years. It is a concept in nuclear strategy and deterrence theory that refers to the idea that if two or more nuclear-armed nations engage in a full-scale nuclear conflict, the resulting damage and devastation would be so catastrophic that it would lead to the complete annihilation of all parties involved.

The concept of M.A.D. was based on the belief that the possession of nuclear weapons by multiple nations served as a deterrent, not a threat, as the potential consequences of using such weapons would be mutually catastrophic.

From this standpoint, the hopes and ideals of hibakusha and the realities of concrete real-politics (sanctions against Russia, China military advancement, a nuclear North Korea) seem irreconcilable positions.

Surely, finding common ground is essential to make progress in the pursuit of a nuclear-free world. Encouraging dialogue, promoting confidence-building measures and fostering a culture of trust and cooperation are vital steps toward achieving the shared goal of global nuclear disarmament.

We, therefore, see the hibakusha today as the embodiment of the human spirit's capacity for forgiveness, reconciliation and resilience. They may have lost a practical capacity to move the strings of international politics but their symbolic value is still alive, it lies in their very ability to transcend political and ideological boundaries. Their message of peace reminds us that the pursuit of global security requires dialogue, diplomacy and cooperation among nations even more so when they possess destructive weapons.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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