Five Former Soviet Republics Give Up Nukes
By Aaron Glantz
09/14/06 "OneWorld" -- --
SAN FRANCISCO, Sep 13 - The Bush
Administration is objecting to a groundbreaking treaty that set
up a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia.
Under the treaty signed Friday, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan committed themselves
not to produce, buy, or allow the deployment of nuclear weapons
on their soil.
But the United States, along with Britain and France, refused to
attend the signing ceremony in the Kazakh capital, Almaty,
citing a 1992 treaty that Russia signed with four of the five
nations that Moscow claims could allow missiles to be deployed
in the region.
In a fresh statement issued Monday, the U.S. Embassy in
Kazakhstan warned that "other international treaties could take
precedence over the provisions of this treaty, and thus obviate
the central objective of creating a zone free of nuclear
Arms control groups believe the Bush administration is being
"The reason that many of us suspect the U.S. is opposed to this
is more fundamental," the independent Arms Control Association's
Daryl G. Kimball told OneWorld. "This is a very strategic
region. The U.S. is reticent to give up the option of deploying
nuclear weapons in this region in the future."
In May, the journal Foreign Policy named Manas airbase in
Kyrgyzstan one of the six most important U.S. military bases in
the world. The base was originally established as a hub for
multinational operations following the September 11th attacks
five years ago.
"In addition to its proximity to Afghanistan," the Foreign
Policy article stated, "Manas is located near the immense energy
reserves of the Caspian Basin, as well as the Russian and
According to Jackie Cabasso, who heads up the Western States
Legal Foundation in Oakland, California, "the United states had
drawn up a battle plan for the potential use of nuclear weapons
in Iraq and the Untied States has been involved in planning
potential nuclear use scenarios for Iran."
"The United States is now involved in a massive program to
overhaul its nuclear arsenal," she added. "In fact they're
working to replace every nuclear warhead and all of the existing
delivery systems in the arsenal to ensure prompt precision
global strike capabilities. So the United States is openly using
the threatened use of nuclear weapons around the world."
David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation added that
members of the Bush administration "like to talk about expanding
the use of nuclear weapons and talk about the 'preventive use'
of nuclear weapons [but seem] to be negative toward a group of
countries trying to create a ban on nuclear weapons within their
By contrast, arms control experts argue, former Soviet republics
in Central Asia have every reason to want to rid themselves of
their nuclear legacy.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used a facility at
Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan to test new nuclear weapons. Between
1949 and 1989 almost 500 nuclear explosions were carried out
there, equaling the explosive power of 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.
According to the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
those explosions caused irreparable damage to the health of more
than 1.5 million Kazakh citizens, blighted lives, and rendered
vast stretches of land useless for generations.
Western States Legal Foundation's Cabasso told OneWorld the
central Asian nation has one of the strongest anti-nuclear
movements in the world.
She described a visit to Kazakhstan, made in 1990 shortly after
the fall of the Soviet Union.
"It was amazing," Cabasso said. "When we flew from Moscow to the
capital Almaty, there were people on the run-way in traditional
costumes holding signs like 'Let the Generals Build Their Summer
Houses on the Nuclear Test Site.'"
Cabasso said the movement for a nuclear free Central Asia began
with a poet and member of the Soviet Duma named Olzhas
Suleimenov. In 1989, after discovering that some of the
underground nuclear tests had leaked radiation into the
atmosphere, he went on television and called for a mass meeting
at the writers' union hall. Over 5,000 people showed up the next
"They organized on a massive scale," Cabasso said. "Ten thousand
copper miners went out on strike, there were billboards at the
airport. Imagine if you had anti-nuclear demonstrations going on
during half-time at the Super Bowl. They were calling for a
peaceful non-nuclear transition to the 21st century back in 1990
and now they have completed that transition in a way."
The treaty between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan created the first nuclear-weapons
free zone in the Northern Hemisphere. Countries in Latin America
and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Africa
have already pledged to remain nuclear free.
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