With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, the world's attention has been directed once again to South Africa, most notably known for apartheid, and its eventual demise under the leadership of F.W. de Klerk. What is equally impressive is the fact that South Africa was the first nation to voluntarily abolish its nuclear weapons. In 1989, President de Klerk made the decision to dismantle the country's nuclear weapons capability, and South Africa signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1991. After the Soviet Union was dissolved, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine disarmed and joined the NPT.
Unfortunately, while the United States is also a member of the NPT, we focus our energies on preventing additional countries from acquiring nuclear weapons as we firmly maintain our own. Recently it was reported that the Obama administration plans to spend about $335 billion over the next decade on the modernization of bombs, delivery systems and laboratories.
My wish for the new year is that we follow South Africa's lead and President Obama's inspiring rhetoric, remembering what Mandela said: "It always seems impossible until it is done." Our Utah senators could begin this important process by championing the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Let 2014 be the year we move decidedly toward a nuclear weapons-free world.
Salt Lake City