A total ban on nuclear weapons is the only path to global security

A total ban on nuclear weapons is the only path to global security
© Getty

I’ve just left the Congress Center at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where I sat in the audience and listened to Donald Trump’s address. Amongst the boos and talk of “America first,” one particular line is still ringing in my ears: “My administration is proud to…unite all civilized nations in our campaign of maximum pressure to denuke the Korean peninsula. We continue to call on partners to confront Iran’s support for terrorists and block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.”

The reason this line was so hard to hear is that we now know exactly how President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE intends to “denuke” North Korea: by escalating the possibility of nuking them first. We have seen leaked glimpses from the Pentagon of a new Trump nuclear doctrine. It is a large part of the reason why the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists yesterday moved the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, meaning we are closer to armageddon than at any point in the last 65 years.

Trump’s new nuclear doctrine is winding that clock ever closer to midnight. It calls for more nuclear weapons, and for it to be made easier for him to use them. He is trying to expand the number of reasons he can launch a nuclear attack, including in response to a cyberattack. The conventional policy has always been to use nuclear weapons only if attacked with nuclear weapons, and even then there is still no moral or security case for using them.

The essence of the Trump nuclear doctrine is, “What’s the point of having nuclear weapons if we can’t use them?” That’s why the cooler heads in Davos have been pushing another solution to this existential crisis: prohibiting and eliminating all nuclear weapons. The majority of the world agrees. My time here at Davos has put me face to face with leaders of industry, civil society and politics. Everyone I have spoken to here agrees that we won’t solve the crisis in North Korea by threatening more nuclear war. Many of them are already part of an alternative solution.

That solution has already been supported by 122 nations in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by the United Nations last year. It has a simple aim to eliminate nuclear weapons by making them illegal. Rather than trying to “de-nuke” North Korea by threatening to make more nuclear weapons and make it more likely to use them, the best way Trump can make sure North Korea does not have nuclear weapons is to join the global treaty to ban them.

While he makes strides towards basing his security policy on the ease with which he can unleash nuclear war, the rest of the world is making moves to stigmatize the weapons he is basing his doctrine on. Unless we eliminate these weapons, they will be used. It is only due to sheer luck that they have not been used again, and a luck-based security policy is simply not good enough.

Mutually-assured mass murder is not a moral or viable security policy either. That’s why so many states are rejecting the Trump nuclear doctrine. The majority of the world is opposed to this dangerous thinking, and are in support of the complete ban of nuclear weapons. There are no good nuclear weapons, and no good hands for them to be in. If Trump was serious about de-nuking North Korea, he would start by making sure all states prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. That is how the rest of the world is moving towards nuclear disarmament.

Beatrice Fihn is executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winner the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.