New Internationalist

Alarm Call

Issue 315

new internationalist
issue 315 - August 1999

Alarm call

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There is only one way to avert the danger of nuclear catastrophe posed by the Millennium Bug. That is for all nuclear powers to stand down from nuclear operations. This would involve taking all nuclear weapons on board submarines and in land-based silos off alert status and de-coupling all nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles.

In addition to removing us all from immediate danger, these moves would give a fresh impetus to a nuclear-disarmament process which has fallen into disrepair.

The New Internationalist believes last year’s nuclear tests by India and Pakistan demonstrated that the nuclear status quo – in which five powers are allowed to have nuclear weapons but all others are prohibited from developing them – is not only morally bankrupt but also completely unsustainable.

The way forward has been shown by the Mandela Government in South Africa which, on coming to power, unilaterally dismantled the nuclear-weapons capability which had been developed by the apartheid regime. South Africa is now playing a lead role in the international campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In June 1998, along with Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden, it launched the ‘Middle Powers Initiative’ which criticized the nuclear powers and demanded that they start work immediately to get rid of their nuclear arsenals.


To help raise the alarm, the NI suggests that readers send letters to the governments of all the nuclear powers (with the exception of China, the only one with a ‘no first use’ policy). The following sample text may help:

‘I am writing to convey my extreme concern over the possibility that Year 2000 (Y2K)-related computer failures in nuclear-weapons systems may lead to an unacceptable risk of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.

‘Because none of the nuclear-weapons states can guarantee that their nuclear-related computer systems are Y2K compliant, the only responsible solution is for them all to stand down nuclear operations. This should include taking nuclear weapons off alert status and decoupling nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles.

‘I strongly urge that you remove all strategic and tactical nuclear weapons from ‘hair trigger’ alert and place them in a status in which at least hours and preferably days would be required to launch them.

‘The immediate stakes are so high, and the potential for global catastrophe so clear, that mutually verified de-alerting in the face of the Y2K computer problem must take precedence over all other considerations of politics and national security.’

Send letters to:
Britain: Prime Minister Tony Blair, 10 Downing St, London SW1A 2AA.
France: President Jacques Chirac, Palais de l’Elysée, 55 rue de Faubourg St Honoré, 75008 Paris.
India: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, South Block, New Delhi 110011.
Israel: Prime Minister Ehud Barak, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919.
Pakistan: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Islamabad.
Russia: President Boris Yeltsin, Krasnopresenskaya-2, Moscow.
United States: President Bill Clinton, White House, Washington DC.

The Titanic sank in an ocean that
was 99-per-cent free of icebergs.

– Y2K microchip systems expert Mark Frautschi.


Middle Powers Initiative
126 Rogers St, Cambridge, MA 02142, US.
Tel: +1 617 492 9189. Fax: +1 617 868 2560.
E-mail: [email protected]

Disarmament and Security Centre
PO Box 8390, Christchurch.
Tel/Fax: +64 3 348 1353.
E-mail: [email protected]

Friends of the Earth
Sydney Suite 15, 1st Floor, 104 Bathurst St, Sydney, NSW, 2000.
Tel: +61 2 9283 2006. Fax: +61 2 9283 2005.
Web: [email protected]
Greenpeace Asia Web:

CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament)
162 Holloway Rd, London N7 8DQ.
Tel: +44 171 700 2393.
E-mail: [email protected]

Physicians for Global Survival
145 Spruce St #208, Ottawa, Ont K1R 6P1.
Tel: +1 613 233 1982 . Fax: +1 613 233 9028.
E-mail: [email protected]

Irish CND
Tel: +353 21 506 411.
E-mail: [email protected]

British American Security Information Council
1900 L St NW-725, Washington DC 20036.
Tel: +1 202 785 1266.
E-mail: [email protected]


Sangers Y2K News Reports

Gary North’s Y2K Links/ Forums

The Detroit News Y2K Watch

Y2K Today

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)

British American Security Information Council (BASIC)

Federation of American Scientists

People for Nuclear Disarmament (Western Australia)

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This article was originally published in issue 315

New Internationalist Magazine issue 315
Issue 315

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