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Humanity is connected by common threats and shared benefits

July 17, 2018

by Ilkka Taipale

Honorable Russian President Vladimir Putin

Honorable US President Donald Trump

First of all, let me congratulate you on your great achievement – which neither you nor anybody else has noticed. You have awakened humanity from years of deep hibernation. And let’s not forget the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. Together you have reminded the peoples of the world about the existence of nuclear weapons. The greatest threat today is not global warming but nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war.

Your colourful speeches have let the genie out the bottle. The spirit of nuclear disarmament has escaped, and can no longer be shut away. 128 countries have signed the United Nations’ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Your countries also pledged to promote this goal in the treaty, which was agreed 50 years ago. You, and other nuclear states, have not kept your part of the bargain.

The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, was conceived in Finland in 1985 in Helsinki Peace Station and Helsinki Workers’ House, while Asian and European leaders were meeting here. The congress was organised by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which received the Nobel Prize in 1985.

That is why we – and the world – eagerly await your visit to Finland, a country that, according to international studies, is considered the world’s safest and most stable country, even populated by the happiest people.

Thirty years ago I gave a speech nearby when President Ronald Reagan came to visit Helsinki. Europe and the world spent the beginning of the 1980s in the shadow of the nuclear arms race and the real threat of nuclear war. Then-presidents Reagan and Mikhail Gorbatsov were able to take great strides in reducing the number of nuclear weapons. They even considered total nuclear disarmament.

We expect you to show the same degree of courage, now and in coming years. We look forward to welcoming the first president of your countries to declare “nuclear disarmament in my lifetime” – and to play your part in making it happen. History will not forget that person’s name.

President Urho Kekkonen, who hosted the European Security and Cooperation Conference in Helsinki in 1975, had a saying about international relations: Finland is not a judge but a doctor. We do not want to lay blame on different parties. Each side has played a role in the emergence of a new cycle of militarisation and distrust. Iron and nuclear weapons have magnetic properties. When iron moves towards the border, iron moves to meet it.

The prominent twentieth-century English historian E.P. Thompson founded the anti-nuclear END movement, saying that “The human mind has been constructed as a missile launcher.” Also UNESCO, which was founded in your countries, states that: “Wars begin in the minds of men”. I hope it doesn’t begin in yours.

Humanity is connected by common threats and shared benefits. You must also realize that nuclear weapons constitute a common threat and their destruction benefits us all. No matter if the country is large or small, a permanent arms or military economy offers no solution for the world’s biggest problems.

President Martti Ahtisaari has stated that the biggest threat to global peace is 300 million unemployed young men and 300 million young women with no education. The answer to this can only be a global social policy. Social politics is the only answer to global repression and chaos.

Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein issued a manifesto in 1955. Under this banner, scientists from around the world organized against nuclear weapons. I’ll paraphrase it here:

We appeal, as Finnish human beings, to you, as Russian and American human beings: remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.

We are lucky enough to welcome you both to visit us. Do not betray our happiness – but come again when you are ready to sign Great Contracts.

[Dr. Taipale delivered this address from the balcony of the Old Student House in Helsinki, Finland, on 8 July 2018.]

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