The decision to use the atom bomb on Japanese cities, and the consequent buildup of enormous nuclear arsenals, was made by governments, on the basis of political and military perceptions.
There is no direct evidence that nuclear weapons prevented a world war. Conversely, it is known that they nearly caused one.
I have to bring to your notice a terrifying reality: with the development of nuclear weapons Man has acquired, for the first time in history, the technical means to destroy the whole of civilization in a single act.
But scientists on both sides of the iron curtain played a very significant role in maintaining the momentum of the nuclear arms race throughout the four decades of the Cold War.
But the first the general public learned about the discovery was the news of the destruction of Hiroshima by the atom bomb. A splendid achievement of science and technology had turned malign. Science became identified with death and destruction.
At a time when science plays such a powerful role in the life of society, when the destiny of the whole of mankind may hinge on the results of scientific research, it is incumbent on all scientists to be fully conscious of that role, and conduct themselves accordingly.
Long before the terrifying potential of the arms race was recognized, there was a widespread instinctive abhorrence of nuclear weapons, and a strong desire to get rid of them.
The Cold War is over but Cold War thinking survives.
The most terrifying moment in my life was October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I did not know all the facts - we have learned only recently how close we were to war - but I knew enough to make me tremble.
The present basic philosophy is nuclear deterrence.
Indeed, the very first resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations - adopted unanimously - called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
We are told that the possession of nuclear weapons - in some cases even the testing of these weapons - is essential for national security. But this argument can be made by other countries as well.
When the START 2 treaty has been implemented - and remember it has not yet been ratified - we will be left with some 15,000 nuclear warheads, active and in reserve. Fifteen thousand weapons with an average yield of 20 Hiroshima bombs.
My third appeal is to my fellow citizens in all countries: Help us to establish lasting peace in the world.
I saw science as being in harmony with humanity.
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