PAX remembers Ruud Lubbers

Image: Ruud Lubbers, 10 juni 2016, foto Sebastiaan ter Burg / /

February 15, 2018

PAX mourns the passing of former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, who died yesterday at his home in Rotterdam. PAX is grateful to Mr. Lubbers for his important efforts toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Ten years ago, Mr Lubbers took part in a group advising PAX. He worked with wholehearted conviction on a report still relevant today: about the urgent need and political possibility for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Media attention
Lubber’s work for PAX raised some eyebrows, and got the attention of the media. This is not surprising. In 1985, the then-prime minister and PAX were on opposite sides of the issue. PAX gave Prime Minister Lubbers a petition with no less than 3.7 million signatures telling the government not to allow American nuclear weapons to be stationed in the Netherlands. Even so, Mr. Lubbers decided to allow the weapons. In the end, the cruise missiles were not stationed here due to an agreement reached between the US and the Soviet Union.

In 2009, he joined with three other prominent elder statesmen to call for a world free from nuclear weapons. They said that nuclear weapons had become outdated, in part because the logic of deterrence no longer worked and the policy of non-proliferation had failed. In addition, the chance that terrorists may get hold of a nuclear weapon is not unrealistic.

Mr. Lubbers called on the Dutch government to work toward nuclear disarmament. Referring to the nuclear weapons that are stationed at the Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, he said, “I never thought those stupid things would still be there. I think they’re absolutely useless; part of a tradition of military thinking.” Lubbers’ comment caused political commotion.

The PAX report Lubbers contributed to lay the basis for a new campaign for a nuclear weapons-free world. PAX became one of the driving forces in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which received the Nobel Peace Prize for getting the UN to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Global Zero
When ICAN and PAX accepted the Peace Prize in Oslo, we wrote to Ruud Lubbers, thanking him for his efforts and letting him know the prize was also partly for him. We also said how hopeful it is that a new generation has assumed the mantle in the struggle toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Mr Lubbers thanked us for the letter. He also sent us a copy of a letter which he had written to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev looking back on his efforts toward disarmament. He wrote, “Sadly enough, Mikhail, I am aware that, when it comes to ‘Global Zero Nuclear’, Reykjavik – however promising it was – contributed more to an ongoing US supremacy on nuclear power than it did to Global Zero.”

That´s how we´ll remember Rudd Lubbers. As a wise advisor, and a driven politician. As a realistic idealist who with wholehearted conviction worked toward a nuclear free world.

Jan Gruiters, General Director PAX


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