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If you like Mohamed ElBaradei's's story, you might also like:
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International Atomic Energy Agency

ElBaradei Addresses UN on Iraq

Nobel Prize

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Mohamed ElBaradei
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Mohamed ElBaradei Interview (page: 5 / 7)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  Mohamed ElBaradei

In your Nobel lecture, you looked back briefly at the end of the Cold War and the prospect for world peace at that time. It hasn't worked out that way, has it?

Mohamed ElBaradei: No. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out quite that way. At that time, everybody was euphoric that we will have a new world order, you know, a world order that does not rely on nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way.

We still have thousands of warheads in existence. We still have more than 20 -- 30 countries relying on nuclear deterrence for their own survival. It's always baffling to me. We seem -- as we mentioned -- to appreciate each other's cultures. You know, you would like to go and have an Ethiopian meal at Adams Morgan. You would like to go and have Ashtanga yoga, but when it comes to resolving our differences, it is really the Stone Age. It is, "Who has the biggest club?" We need to move away from that. We just need to understand that any system of security has to be based on human solidarity. It should be people-centered, and it should be based on a world that is interdependent, integrated, where everybody understands that security is not just based on border or language. Security is based on providing every single member of this one human family the right to live in peace and dignity. I think if we do that, you will see that we will not talk about war, but we will be talking about art, about culture, about education, about health.

There's lots of work we still need to do, and we need to start. As I said, we need to start with development work, but...

We also need to start with the weapon states -- the U.S., Russia -- leading by example. They haven't been leading by example. They have been continuing to send the message that, "We would like to keep our nuclear weapons. We would like to continue to rely on our nuclear weapons. We would like to modernize our nuclear arsenal." These are statements completely contrary to the commitment in 1970 to move toward nuclear disarmament. The whole nonproliferation regime was based on a commitment by those who do not have nuclear weapons, not to have them, but also equally a commitment by the five nuclear weapon states to move to a nuclear disarmament, and 30 years after the Nonproliferation Treaty, we are still far away from that goal.

You made an analogy once with your wife's being a preschool teacher. These countries say, "I don't want to give up my toys."

Mohamed ElBaradei Interview Photo
Mohamed ElBaradei: Absolutely. I talked about psychology in negotiation. Lots of our differences are really not about substance, they're about the way we were brought up in kindergarten, I think. "I don't want to share my toys! I would like to have the whole pie for myself!" It's an art of sharing. It's an art of understanding that we need to share -- we need to have a fair system of distribution -- that lies at the heart of our security or insecurity right now.

At this time, the United States insists that nuclear weapons are the only effective deterrent.

Mohamed ElBaradei: My response is that instead of just saying, "This is the only effective deterrent," you should try to work on an alternative deterrent. "We are the one who created that nuclear deterrent, but we owe it to humanity to work on alternative deterrents." There's lots of ways that one can think of to have a world that does not rely on nuclear weapons. Of course, as I said, an important part is this interdependence, this integration, which would make it too costly to resort to war.

If I look at the European Union right now, it's absurd to think that any member of the European Union will go to war over their differences. They would continue to play dirty tricks against each other. They will continue probably to cheat each other here and there, but I don't think they will ever think of using force. Can we expand that European model of 25 countries to be a global model?

So it is not unthinkable. It is just a question of getting people and countries to integrate, getting people and countries to understand that what they have in common is much more than what separates them, and then the whole idea of borders, resources, nationalities, language will disappear, and we will have to find a better way to resolve our differences peacefully.

It is not an easy thing. We are reaching a fork in the road right now. Technology is out of the tube in every way: chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons.

Either we are going to see President Kennedy's prediction in the '60s that we will have 20, 30 countries with nuclear weapons -- which to me is the beginning of the end for civilization, because the possibility of having a nuclear holocaust through miscalculation, through unintentional error is there -- or we are going to say, "Well, we have to get rid of these nuclear weapons. We have to. We cannot continue to live under this Damocles' sword of a world that could destroy itself in a matter of an hour."

Right now, we still have U.S. missiles and Russian missiles targeted at each other, and the president of either country has half an hour to react in case of a report of a nuclear attack.

I was talking to (former Senator) Sam Nunn. I was talking to (former Defense Secretary) Bill Perry last week, and it is just unfathomable, for them and for me, that 15 years after the cold war, we still live under this hair-trigger alert between Russia and the U.S. So lots of work can be done. We need to take a cold-headed approach, and we have to understand that business as usual is not the way. We need to look for a new framework for security that is not based on more armaments, but is based on integration of humanity, reducing inequalities, and trying to build institutions that help us to find peaceful solutions to our differences.

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This page last revised on Sep 19, 2010 13:52 EDT