THE threat of war over the crisis in the Gulf has revealed the urgent need to review the "cold war strategy of nuclear deterrence", the Vatican nuncio to the United Nations told a UN general assembly committee on disarmament this week.
Archbishop Renato Martino said that the "massive buildup" of arms in the Middle East following the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was in "startling contrast" with the end of hostile relations between the superpowers.
"The Gulf crisis is a reminder that the signs of danger must be heeded lest the gloss of postcold war peace turns out to be a veneer covering the militarism that is still deeply imbedded in the psyche of nations," Archbishop Martino stressed.
Foremost among these threats was the continued modernisation of nuclear weapons in the pursuit of a policy of deterrence which was "in no way morally acceptable" for the long term, said the archbishop.
He referred to Pope John Paul II's declaration that holding nuclear weapons was only permissable as "a stage towards disarmament". And he called on the UN to work towards the total elimination of the world's nuclear capacity.
"The present nuclear arms negotiations, welcome and essential as they are, do not obscure the fact that the modernising of nuclear weapons continues," remarked Archbishop Martino.
He urged that a conference on a partial banning of nuclear testing due to be held in January next year "be actively supported by all as a means of launching multilateral negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty". The conference is being sponsored by the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom — the signatories to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
"The end of nuclear weapons will not leave us with a perfect world, but will at least give the political order more room to deal with other imminent threats to peace caused by economic and social, deprivation," said the archbishop.