In a carefully worded press release, the U.S. State Department indicated it would attend the Dec. 8-9 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Vienna. (The full release appears below).
What that means is uncertain, but the press release language indicates inherent skepticism about potential outcomes of the conference, and that the U.S. won’t be distracted from it’s own nuclear agenda.
The conference could easily have come and gone without U.S. participation, and no one here except a select group of NGOs would have noticed, even if the rest of the world would.
Despite the large number of countries participating in the two previous conferences, the idea of nuclear abolition, for any reason, has not penetrated American society with any depth.
On Friday I attended a local Rotary Club meeting. When asked what brought me there, I pointed to the Rotarian Action Group for Peace‘s recent embrace of the humanitarian campaign, saying I wanted to be a part of it. The response was “I hadn’t heard of that.” There is a lot of work to do to raise awareness of the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in the U.S.
At the same time, the fact that we are sending an official delegation is a small step in a positive direction. For if we don’t discuss the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, and what we as a society should do to abolish them, we will linger on in a twilight between fear and uncertainty.
Here’s hoping this news will lead to something more positive.
Office of the Spokesperson
November 7, 2014
The United States will attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons this December. Following a careful review of the agenda, as well as discussions with the conference host Austria, the United States concluded there were real prospects for constructively engagement with conference participants.
The United States fully understands the serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and gives the highest priority to avoiding their use.
The United States is committed to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. As we have said previously, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the focus of our efforts on disarmament, as well as on nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, this conference is not the appropriate venue for disarmament negotiations or pre-negotiation discussions and the United States will not engage in efforts of that kind in Vienna.
We look forward to presenting the U.S. perspective at the Vienna Conference. This event will be a useful opportunity to highlight the significant progress the United States has made and the resources it devotes to create conditions under which nuclear weapons are never again used.