Congratulations on your Nobel Peace Prize! How did you become interested in nuclear disarmament? I’ve always been interested in international issues. But as with many people who grew up after the Cold War, nuclear weapons didn’t feel relevant.
How so? Nuclear weapons just don’t make any sense! They’re sitting there with their papers talking about these crazy weapons that can end us all, and no one said: “This is crazy! What are we doing?” I was fascinated by the power dynamics, and I just got hooked.
We saw, for example, with the Land Mines Treaty, that the United States or Russia or China didn’t sign it, but they change their policies and behaviors. This treaty creates a norm that nuclear weapons are bad.
People think nuclear weapons are like a natural disaster or an asteroid hitting Earth, because the consequences are so awful. But we need to see them as just weapons; we can control them. They’re just really giant, expensive, dirty bombs that could end us all. We built them; we can take them apart.
Are there ways to change people’s minds about nuclear bombs? We have to keep talking about the humanitarian impacts of what would happen if you use them. We get a glimpse of it when we talk about North Korea, but we don’t think about how American nuclear weapons are aimed right now. They can be launched within 20 minutes. If the U.S. nuclear arsenal all went off, it could kill civilization, and Donald Trump has the ultimate authority to do that, as commander in chief. But if you’re really uncomfortable with Trump having that power, you are really uncomfortable with nuclear weapons in general. There are no right hands for these weapons. There’s no one who should have that kind of power.