Younger people may be key to nuclear arms control

Younger people may be key to nuclear arms control

OGDEN — Most Weber State University students never had to practice nuclear war “duck-and-cover” drills in school like Rose Gottemoeller remembers so vividly.

But even though the nuclear age might just be a history lesson to them, Gottemoeller says young people are key to a future world where nuclear weapons explosions don’t exist.

Gottemoeller, U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, discussed U.S. nuclear weapons policy Tuesday at WSU’s Elizabeth Hall as part special event sponsored by the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service.

Gottemoeller was appointed the under-secretary position in March and advises Secretary of State John Kerry on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. Gottemoeller has served in a variety of positions involving arms control, non-proliferation and national security and also has expertise in the affairs of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. 

“Young people, in particular, don’t know a lot about the nuclear generation,” Gottemoeller said last week. “It’s not something that has a feeling of reality to it for them, (but) they have the capability to steer us away from past mistakes and past conflicts and move us in a direction that relegates nuclear proliferation to the pages of history.”

Much of Gottemoeller’s presentation focused on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and creating a “grass-roots buzz” about it. She’ll be visited other universities in Utah during the week with the same purpose.

The CTBT, as it’s commonly called, is a multilateral treaty where states agree to ban nuclear explosions in all environments, whether for military or civilian purposes. The treaty was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, but it hasn’t come into effect because several states have failed to ratify it — a group that includes countries like the United States and China. To date, the treaty has been signed by 183 nations and ratified by 163.

Gottemoeller urged WSU students to become involved in the new effort to generate support for the treaty.

“It’s really important to think about ways to join public debate,” Gottemoeller said. “We want people to commit to listen, learn and develop their own opinions about the treaty. I’m convinced when people learn about it, they’ll be supportive.”

Gottemoeller said her ultimate goal is to urge citizens to talk to their state and national legislators and ask them to help ratify the treaty. 

While a total ban on nuclear testing isn’t currently a reality, Gottemoeller said a ban is in the United States’ best interest. She said if the Senate votes to ratify the CTBT, it places “speed bumps” in the way of other countries, like North Korea, advancing their nuclear weapons technology.

“There was a time when active and robust nuclear testing was necessary,” she said. “But that time is more than 20 years in the past.”

Gottemoeller said modeling and simulating today provides more information than live tests do.

When speaking of the biggest worldwide threats involving nuclear weapons, Gottemoeller said North Korea and the possibility of nuclear weapons or material falling into the hands of terrorist groups top the list.

Carol McNamara, Walker Institute director, said Gottemoeller’s visit to Weber State was meant to inform students about issues that may seem a world away, but could ultimately have a very direct impact on their lives.

“(This) is an important opportunity for students to become informed about the issues of international relations, in this case, nuclear weapons policy,” McNamara said. “These issues seem remote to Utah but can affect our lives directly in terms of war and peace, at home and abroad.”

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