Press Briefing

Press conference ON 2005 ALAN CRANSTON PEACE AWARD

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon prior to an awards ceremony at which he was to receive the 2005 Alan Cranston Peace Award, businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner called the huge nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia “the most important threat we face” and cited the urgent need to get rid of all nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

The Award, sponsored by the Global Security Institute, honoured world leaders who demonstrated a commitment to global security and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  It would be presented by the former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who called Mr. Turner “one of my heroes”, a comrade and a humanist, and added that Mr. Turner knew not only how to make money, but how to spend it, as well.

Jonathan Granoff, President of the Institute, said Mr. Turner merited the Award due to his courageous leadership in business, the environment and arms control, including creating the United Nations Foundation and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Joining him and Mr. Gorbachev were Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and Jane Goodall, United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Mr. Turner, who was inspired by the late United States Senator Cranston’s work for nuclear disarmament, said, “it was hypocrisy, in my opinion, for us with our 30,000 nuclear weapons to tell smaller countries about theirs”.  All nuclear Powers, when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, agreed to substantially reduce -- heading towards zero -- the nuclear arsenals.  “We haven’t lived up to the obligations we took on.”  It was easy to understand why other countries felt that, if the United States, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India and France could have nuclear weapons, then why couldn’t they.  “Either we all have them or nobody has them.” 

“Assuming we can get rid of nuclear weapons, we have to preserve our environment”, he said.   Time magazine was off when it picked Einstein as man of the century, he added, saying “my man of the century is right here”.  Mr. Gorbachev, he felt, more than anyone else was responsible for the peaceful end of the cold war and the peaceful reorganizing of the Soviet Union.  Never had such a huge transformation taken place so peacefully as under Mr. Gorbachev’s leadership.

Jane Goodall, United Nations Messenger of Peace, said it was desperately important to make peace with environment and better use of the planet’s non-renewable natural resources.  Mr. Turner had been instrumental in helping people, particularly youth, to understand environmental problems.

Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, who would preside over the awards ceremony, also made a brief statement, stressing Mr. Turner’s remarkable faith in the United Nations as the world’s most important multilateral institution.

During the question-and-answer period, Mr. Turner was asked, in light of the NPT Review Conference next month, what could be done to take those thousands of weapons off hair-trigger alert.  He responded that time was running out.  “We’ve been lucky that something hasn’t gone wrong.  We need to get rid of the weapons before they get rid of us.”  He felt there hadn’t been nearly enough preparation for the upcoming review conference as there needed to be. 

Mr. Gorbachev agreed with the need to get rid of nuclear weapons, noting that the speed at which that was being done had slowed down recently.  It was necessary, he said, to review and change military doctrine, including with respect to first use and preventive use of such weapons.  The United States and Russia must continue what they started, he added.  What was needed for that was trust and cooperation.  Russia was ready to cooperate, he stated.

As for whether the United States, the only remaining super-Power, was ready to do that, he said he didn’t think it was, adding “The United States is sick.  It suffers from the sickness, the disease of being the victor.  And it has to cure itself of this disease.” 

Asked how leaders could be motivated to work towards sustainable development, Mr. Gorbachev said action could not be postponed on security, poverty and the environment.  He called poverty “a slow fuse bomb”, saying that it was not possible to deal with anything else unless that was dealt with first.

Before concluding, Mr. Granoff urged leaders to de-alert the weapons; achieve a fissile material cut-off treaty; make sure that the Moscow Treaty was in compliance with the NPT by being verifiable and irreversible; and get serious about stopping proliferation and obtain a comprehensive test-ban treaty.  “These are the threat-reducing steps that will bring us to a safer world.”

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