President of the Republic of Kazakhstan publishes his views exclusively for DiplomacyCommerce magazine
Humanity hoped that the 21st century would herald a new era of global cooperation. This, however, may turn out to be a mirage. Our world is once again in danger and the risks cannot be underestimated. The threat is a deadly war on a global scale. Our civilisation, by scholars’ estimates, has survived more than 15,000 wars, approximately three every year. Hundreds of millions of people have died, cities and countries have been destroyed, cultures and civilizations have vanished.
At the dawn of the 21st century, stunning scientific discoveries are being made, and new technologies are being invented. The world is at the verge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Many horrific diseases are being successfully eradicated. But the virus of war continues to poison the international situation. It drives the military-industrial complex, which in some countries has become the most powerful sector of the economy. It may even in the future infect the development of artificial intelligence. Militarism has deeply penetrated our minds and behaviour. There are more than one billion small firearms in the hands of people. Thousands of civilians die every day from their use. We cannot exclude the risk that this military threat could become a tragic reality on a global scale.
We can see the signs of such a terrible outcome. In international relations, the risk of conflict has increased. Conflict has engulfed the historic battlegrounds of the two World Wars – Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is not fulfilling its purpose. Nuclear weapons and the technology that produces them have spread all over the world due to double standards of the main powers. It may be just a matter of time before they fall into the hands of terrorists. International terrorism has gained a more sinister character. It has moved from isolated acts in individual countries to a large scale terrorist aggression across Europe, Asia and Africa. The exodus of millions of refugees, the destruction of sites and historic monuments have become an everyday reality. Economic sanctions and trade wars are commonplace. Our planet is now on the edge of a new Cold War which could have devastating consequences for all humankind. This threatens the achievements of the last four decades.
As a result of successful negotiations, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia have been reduced substantially. Five nuclear powers have announced and kept a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. The process of forming regional security systems has accelerated. A unique and comprehensive security structure – the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe – was created on principles of mutual trust. Coordinated action between world powers and UN peacekeeping operations saw many conflicts ended.
However, today we are witnessing the erosion of these international security achievements. This is an increasing and serious concern for millions of people. How will the world situation develop? Could the tensions between the leading world powers escalate into a new long-term confrontation? Which country could be the next victim of the so-called “proxy-wars” between the world and regional powers? Which territory, flourishing for now, will be torn apart by tank tracks and explosive shells? In which cities will children die under heavy rocket fire? From where and where to will the refugees fleeing conflicts migrate next? More than 60 years ago two prominent scientists Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell presented their manifesto, in which they asked “a dreadful but an inescapable question: shall we put an end to the human race, or will mankind be able to renounce war?” The most brilliant minds of the 20th century have warned the people that in a future world war nuclear weapons will inevitably be used leading to the destruction of all life on our planet. Their demand that disputes between countries cannot and should not be resolved by military means remains hugely relevant in the 21st century. To end all wars is the most challenging task for our civilisation. But there is no other reasonable alternative. This task has to be treated by the world leaders as the highest priority on the global agenda.
In the 21st century humanity must take decisive steps towards demilitarisation. We won’t get another chance. If this objective is not achieved, our planet will end as a graveyard of radioactive materials. Our planet is unique. We have no other home.
It is why we need a new comprehensive PROGRAM – “21st CENTURY: A WORLD WITHOUT WARS”. Through this global strategy we need to identify joint and responsible actions to be taken by all nations in order to destroy the virus of war. This document should be based on three main principles. First, there will be no winners in any modern war; everyone would be on the losing side. Secondly, a new war will inevitably entail the use of weapons of mass destruction.
This will lead to the destruction of all humankind. It will be too late to argue over who is responsible for this catastrophe. This threat must be understood by all current and future national leaders and politicians. Thirdly, the main tool for resolving all disputes between states should be peaceful dialogue and constructive negotiations on the basis of equal responsibility for peace and security, mutual respect and non-interference into domestic affairs Taking all of this into consideration, the world community must take comprehensive action towards these goals.
First, there must be gradual progress to a world free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. An important step, to which Kazakhstan made a significant contribution, has already been taken in the right direction. On December 7, 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World put forward by Kazakhstan. 25 years ago Kazakhstan permanently closed the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. We were the first, and for now, only such country to take this action. Our newly independent state then voluntarily renounced the world’s 4th largest arsenal of nuclear weapons – the menacing legacy of the collapsed Soviet Union. These decisions triggered a moratorium on conducting nuclear tests by world nuclear powers. Twenty years ago, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was developed in the UN and was put forward to Member States to sign but has still to come into force. Under the IAEA auspices, Kazakhstan is to host the Low-Enriched Uranium Bank on its territory, which will allow countries to develop civilian nuclear energy. Global nuclear security summits are of great importance. We now need global decisions to prohibit deploying lethal weapons in outer space, on the seabed and in international waters of the World Ocean, as well as in the Arctic.We should develop and adopt international binding agreements to ban the creation of new types of weapons of mass destruction through new scientific discoveries. It is necessary to create a register in the UN of such scientific developments, which could be used for the creation and advancement of weapons of mass destruction.
Secondly, we must build on and expand existing geographical initiatives to gradually eliminate war as a way of life. There are already six nuclear weapon free zones in the world. They encompass Antarctica, virtually the entire South Hemisphere, including Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Oceania. The newest is a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia created 10 years ago in Semipalatinsk by five states of the region. Now we must intensify international efforts to create a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. In 1992, Kazakhstan put forward the initiative to convene the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. This century the forum has been successfully institutionalised with participation of 26 Member States of the continent, the United Nations and other international organizations. Multilateral cooperation among the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s activities has had a positive impact. Peace zones in South America, South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean have significant potential. We should bring together these initiatives to create global areas of peace based on a special international law. Issues of security and development in these Areas of Peace could be guaranteed by all the UN Member States as well as the UN Security Council.
Thirdly, it is necessary to eliminate such relics of the Cold War as military blocs, which threaten global security and impede broader international cooperation.
Geopolitical reality means that when one military bloc is established and developed an opposing bloc will be created. Power generates anti-power. Military blocs can include countries which are not always aware of their responsibility to promote peace and security. We have also seen attempts by some states to use the protection of military blocs to their advantage in their interactions with third countries, including immediate neighbours.It is how confrontation can be infinitely cloned in different regions and globally. We should also have learnt from past wars and conflicts that it is impossible to ensure our own security by undermining the security of others. That is why a Global Coalition of States for peace, stability, trust and security under the UN auspices should be set up against military blocs. Our common task for the next decade should be to end wars and conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, in eastern Ukraine and the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. We must reduce the dangerous potential of the situations on the Korean Peninsula, the basin of the South China Sea, and the Arctic.
Fourthly it is important to adapt the international disarmament process to the new historic conditions. A short-sighted dismantlement of previous treaty limitations on anti-missile systems and conventional arms has resulted in militarization in the political space of Eurasia. This increases the risk of a new global war, even by the possible failure of electronic defense management systems.
We need a new strategy for the UN Conference on Disarmament.The world needs to eliminate the new threat of cybercrime, which can become a very dangerous weapon if used by terrorists.
Fifthly, a world without war requires primarily fair global competition in international trade, finance, and development. During the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Kazakhstan proposed the development of a 2045 Global Strategic Initiative Plan. Its main goal is to eliminate the root causes of wars and conflicts. This can best be achieved by through equal and fair access to infrastructure, resources and markets for all nations.The plan should be implemented in time for the 100th anniversary of the United Nations in 2045. Kazakhstan proposes to convene a high level UN Conference in 2016. At this conference we should confirm the basic principles of international law to prevent devastating wars and conflicts in the 21st century. Calls for reason and dialogue, restraint and common sense should not be the targets of attacks by those opposing global peace.
In the 21st century, we all need peace. This is a key mission of our time. Peace is worth fighting for just as deliberately and persistently as did people in the past century. We should think hard about the future of our children and grandchildren. We must combine the efforts of governments, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and millions of people around the world in order to prevent a repetition of tragic mistakes of past centuries and spare the world from the threat of a war. Failing to act or putting limits on efforts to promote peace risk global catastrophe. My Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century” reflects a sincere concern for the fate of future generations, which will live and work in the coming decades. We, the leaders of states and politicians, bear an enormous responsibility for the future of the humanity. As an individual who went through hardship and difficulties, and as a statesman who made a difficult decision to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and renounce nuclear weapons, I urgently call on world leaders and the entire international community to listen to reason. We need to do our utmost to free humanity from the threat of deadly wars forever. There is no more important goal.