North America

April 5, 2013

Global Zero: A World Without Nuclear Weapons?

From President Obama’s declaration of a radical reduction of American nuclear weapons in his State of the Union address, to the approval of Chuck Hagel (an avowed enemy of nuclear weapons) as new Secretary of Defence, and the announcement of new disarmament negotiations between Russia and the US – signs are pointing to Global Zero, a world without nuclear weapons.

In 2008, during his speech in Berlin, Obama emphasised his objective of a world without nuclear weapons, and on April 5, 2009 in front of the Castle of Prague he reaffirmed worldwide disarmament as his long-term goal. Ever since, he has been true to his word and signed the new START-treaty together with Medvedev in 2010 according to which the number of nuclear warheads has to be reduced to 1,550 by 2018.

In order to make Obama take the last steps towards Zero, April 5, 2013 – the fourth anniversary of his speech in Prague – was turned into “Demand Zero Day”: the movement Global Zero has planned the biggest campaign of its history with events taking place all over the world. And the chances for it to                                             succeed are better than ever.

With Charles Timothy “Chuck“ Hagel as Secretary of Defence, Obama will have a new ally in the government. Hagel is an active supporter and signatory of the Global Zero petition and has been promoting nuclear disarmament as well as real cuts in the gigantic arms budget for a long time.


The idea of nuclear disarmament is also finding increasing support in Europe. On January 17, 2013 the majority of the European Parliament approved a written declaration supporting the Global Zero Action Plan which provides for a step-by-step elimination of all nuclear weapons by 2030. In times of the financial crisis, fewer and fewer governments can afford these weapons: over the next decade, they will cost the nine nuclear powers about 1000 billion US dollars. Moreover, much more precise conventional weapons have been invented which inflict less casualties and thus make nuclear weapons superfluous.

After Russian-American disarmament negotiations have come to a halt in the last few months due to a dispute over a European defence missile system, a new bilateral treaty on the limitation of strategic Russian and American nuclear weapons is coming closer again since Hagel rejected the plans in mid-March.

However, in order to fulfil the obligations under the START-treaty to reduce the number of weapons to 1, 550, only the so-called Phantoms Platforms have been removed as of yet. These are aircrafts capable of carrying equipment that make them accountable under the treaty even though they are no longer assigned a nuclear mission.

In its goal to change this situation, Global Zero is supported by Hollywood stars such as Naomi Watts and Michael Douglas who recently made a film for Global Zero.

Global Zero, founded in 2008 by the Yale alumni Bruce Blair and Matt Brown, has grown to a global movement over the past few years. Hundreds of thousands of citizens all over the world have signed the first petition and are supported by more than 300 personalities such as Jimmy Carter, Valerie Plame-Wilson and Queen Noor of Jordan.

In addition, a new petition on invites Obama to take the last steps towards Zero. There will be photo campaigns and movies directed by students from all over the world which portray central passages from Obama’s speech in Prague in lots of different creative ways. Now they just have to wait and see whether Obama reaffirms “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons“, as he stated clearly 4 years ago.

About the Author

Lara Wolf
Lara Wolf, 22 has been a Global Zero student leader since 2011. She has studied Law at Cambridge, UK, and is currently specialising in International and European Law at the Free University in her hometown of Berlin. Passionate about Criminal Law as well as International Law she is planning to do a Ph.D. in International Criminal Law.

One Comment

  1. Cody

    Interesting article. Irish noble goal to seek the elimination of nuclear weapons, but I am too much of a cynic to believe it will ever happen. For states, having a nuclear weapon is the ultimate form of security. Look at North Korea and Iran. Both of these countries are willing to endure crippling international sanctions in order to obtain the means of their own defense. Going forward, despite the NPT, we are much more likely to see more nations joining the nuclear club than a reduction of arsenals.

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