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Everyone to Vienna to save the world!

October 2, 2014

On the 26th of September in 1983 one man, a Russian officer whose name is Stanislav Petrov showed so much civil courage that he was later called ”the man who saved the world.” When he was on duty as the commander of a Soviet radar station, he disobeyed standing orders and refrained from launching a nuclear counterattack when everyone at the station misinterpreted the radar images and believed they saw a US nuclear missile attack on the Soviet Union.

Without knowing it, on that day we were one hair’s breadth from total extermination. Stanislav Petrov saved us.

In the fall of 2013, the UN decided, with an overwhelming majority of votes, to commemorate the 26th of September as the international day for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. Guess who voted against. Despite opposition from five nuclear-armed States, including Russia and the US, the day was celebrated for the first time this year both at the UN and with civil society actions all over the world.

Who has the courage to go to Vienna to save the world in December? All governments and all peace- and life-loving people have been invited to come to Vienna to participte in a big civil society event on December 6 and 7, followed by the third intergovernmental conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by the Austrian government on December 8 and 9. The first such conference, held in Oslo, Norway, in 2013 gathered 124 countries to discuss the topic, and the second, in Nayarit, Mexico, in February of this year, attracted 146 countries, along with UN agencies and many international organizations.

Participation in Vienna should be just as large. The conference is open to all States, but the outcome is blockable by none. Guess what states did not come to Oslo and Nayarit and have still not said whether they will come to Vienna. The US and some of the other nuclear-armed states are sending signals that they might be be represented this time. They need to come on board soon.

The time has come for all civilized states in the world to put a final ban on nuclear weapons, as we already did with chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munition. The nuclear-armed states are welcome to join, but we are not dependent on them. The important thing now is that a lot of us show the courage to come to Vienna in December, in order to save the world .

One Comment
  1. October 3, 2014 2:20 am

    See you in Vienna!
    Colonel Petrov’s story is a very important one, so it is important to get it right or risk that it will becomes discredited. Petrov did not have the power to launch even one rocket. The decision within his power was whether to kick the warning of attack upstairs or to discount it at his level. If he had sent it up the line of command, it would have been all that much harder for the next commander to discount the warning. On the other hand, that commander would have had other lines of evidence coming into him(/her?) which might have made the decision easier to make. In a complex world, there is a small chance that the easier decision would have been to kick it up another step. How many steps were there on the way to a person actually authorized to launch the weapons? Not many, and at each step the time to decide would be verging toward zero.
    So Colonel Petrov nipped the crisis in the bud. Thank you oh-so-much Colonel!

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