WASHINGTON—Former Secretary of State George Shultz said Saturday he thinks the world has a second shot at global nuclear disarmament, 25 years after he stood by at a summit where the U.S. and the former Soviet Union came close to an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Shultz is one of about a hundred prominent political, military and civic leaders who plan to call on the world's nuclear armed states to start negotiations leading to total disarmament over the next two decades.
The latest call for disarmament is expected at an event starting Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the historic 1986 summit between former President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland.
"I think that the objective of getting control of nuclear weapons is really important, and I think that it's important to keep the momentum going," Shultz said Saturday in a telephone interview from his home in San Francisco. He said skeptics who say that global disarmament is impossible "are wrong."
Officials with the arms control group Global Zero, which has organized the effort, said that talks probably wouldn't begin until after presidential elections next year in Russia, France and the united States.
The U.S. and Russia earlier this year implemented the landmark New START treaty, capping their strategic nuclear arsenals at their lowest levels since the early 1960s. But arms control advocates hoping for quick progress toward deeper U.S.-Russia cuts and a nuclear-free world say they are disappointed.
"We're like saber-toothed tigers in the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, stuck in the Cold War and in Cold War ways of thinking," said Richard Rhodes, author of the book "The Making of the Atomic Bomb."
"There's no upside at this point in having nuclear weapons," he said in an interview. "But it's hard to get the saber-toothed tigers out of the tar."
The Obama administration has said progress is being made on arms control along several fronts.
"Even as the U.S. and Russia move to reduce our nuclear arsenals, we are pursuing a balanced approach to multilateral arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation," said Jamie Mannina, a State Department spokesman.
But Global Zero's organizers said movement toward disarmament has slowed in recent months.
"The progress and the momentum have really stalled since the New START treaty was ratified," said Matthew Brown, co-coordinator of Global Zero. "We're not seeing the urgency from heads of government that we need to move this issue forward."
Global Zero has called for Washington and Moscow to agree to cuts leaving each with just 1,000 warheads, to be followed by the multilateral disarmament talks. The plan calls for cuts in stages, leading up to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in 2030.
Besides the U.S. and Russia, the current nuclear-armed states are thought to include Britain, France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. The U.S. suspects Iran of seeking the capability of building nuclear weapons, but Iran says its nuclear programs are strictly for peaceful purposes.