Hans Blix (photo by Xuefei Chen)
The urgent thing is nuclear test ban treaty
Q: What is your comment on the vision of a nuclear free world?
Hans Blix: As a vision, I think this is desirable, we all want to have that. I don’t think it is necessarily naïve. Sometimes it occurs to me that between 1910 and 1950, we had two world wars, and one collapsed world organization, the League of Nations. A lot of things can happen between 2010 and 2050.
The risk of putting too much attention to it will divert the attention from what the fight is about today.
Today the most urgent thing is to go into effect the test ban treaty and there we need the ratification by the US and by China, and by Israel, Iran and Egypt, and a few other countries.
We also need to have more disarmament agreements between the US and Russia. We need a convention prohibiting the production of uranium and plutonium for weapons. These are the big task today. We must not divert the attention from today’s needs.
Q: What is your comment on the US and Russian signing of a treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons in early April?
Hans Blix: I think it is a very important signal that the executive powers in Washington and in Moscow want to reset the button as they said and move to the new direction. The cut is relatively very moderate, not significant, and above all, the maintenance of mutual inspection on the ground from America to Russia, from Russia to America is very important for the confidence building. At the same time it shows the difficulties that lie in the remained distrust.
Therefore the most urgent need I think is further détente or relaxation, diplomatic relations and diplomacy must give us more relaxations. The START treaty would not come about unless Obama has changed the policy regarding the missile shield positions in Poland and Czech Republic.
He modified that (you remember) and decided they would not have this for the basis of strategic shield in Poland and Czech Republic. But rather in the East Mediterranean for intermediate range missile, this was very important politically diplomatic step and that made the START possible. We need to go further in this direction.
He clearly indicated that the US intends to reach the policy of relaxation of accommodation with Russia, this is fundamental for further to go on. That has related to Russia, they also need similar policy of détente between the US and China, and between China and Russia, there must be relaxation between all the big powers in order to go further decisively in the field of disarmament.
China can take the lead to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty
Q: What is your comment on China’s role in maintaining world peace?
Hans Blix: China should go ahead to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty, there is a positive attitude of the Chinese government at the UN Assembly.
Many people suspected that China is waiting for the United States to be the first, I think China will be in a very influential situation over the US if China goes ahead, China will also not be bound by the ratification until the US ratifies. It will not bind China, but it will be very good thing for China to do.
China has been restrained. China of course can do much more to contribute to disarmament, China could contribute much more in the diplomatic side. It is wise to be restraint with Taiwan, China is pursuing a wise policy with Taiwan, the other is with India, you have a border with India, it should be negotiated and with diplomacy, there should not be much controversial, it is important to have the certain border.
The whole Asia gained in economic development as China is rising. They want to be guaranteed that China will not use any military power, the controversy is about some small islands in the South China Sea, sometimes other countries also claimed they own them, by the Philippines, or Vietnam, I always say that to my Chinese friends, why don’t you take it to the judicial measures to international court of justice for example, because for the moment it doesn’t seem to have any economic interest around them, if you negotiate, there is always a looser or winner, but if you go to the international court, like many other countries to settle that there, no one will be a loser, you will not be a loser even if you lose it, many countries have used it even the big powers.
The UK and France settled the islands in the English Channel by the International Court of Justice. I think the use of peaceful means of settlement of dispute is very important.
There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
Q: The Iraq war has passed 7 years. But your voice’ there is no weapons of mass destruction’ is still lingering around people’s ears. You were the one who dared to tell the truth at that time, against the wind, (you are the one who really deserves a Nobel Peace Prize) did you face a lot of pressure at that time from the US and the UK? How was the situation?
Hans Blix: We regarded ourselves as the international civil servants, and civil servants are to serve the governments, and to give them the objective basis for their decision as accurate as possible. The government has the popular democratic mandate to act. The civil servants do not have the democratic mandate, they are giving the basis for discussion and that must be the honest one, as objective as you can be in this world. And that was what we tried. We were trying to look for the truth all the time.
I would say that we were not threatened by the governments, by media yes, media in the United States were ferocious about us, they tried to skin us alive, but not the US government, they respect our independence I would say.
The pressure, yes, but not the thing that we felt intolerable in any case, we did not intend to yield on any kind of pressures, so our instinct was simply to give the fact, as diligent as we could, and we were quite competent and we had a competent team of inspectors.
The US and UK tried to get a resolution which in fact authorize the war in Iraq, and they didn’t get it because the majority in the Security Council were skeptical , the majority were not certain if there were any weapons of mass destruction.
We had carried out 700 inspections in 500 different sites, and we haven’t seen any weapons of mass destruction, we have also followed up the leads given to us by intelligence organizations and we didn’t find any weapons in the places that they indicated. So I think that had an impact upon the majority in the United Nations, they said look inspections had been there, and they hadn’t seen anything, it is you who say there is something, they haven’t seen anything, let us continue with the inspection, that was the majority wanted, but the US particularly didn’t have the patience, they have 200 thousand men sitting in the desert and waiting, they said no, we can’t wait any longer. And they went ahead.
A victory for the Security Council not to give authorization
Hans Blix: But the inspection had the effect that the UN did not authorize the action. And some people have said that the fact that the US and UK went ahead, this was a sort of humiliation of the Security Council, I would say that the fact that the council did not give the authorization was a victory for the council. It was a victory for the council because the US and UK should not get authorization and they didn’t get it. So the council was right.
Q: It was after the war that you said it was certain there were no weapons of mass destruction, why?
Hans Blix: We made many reports to the Security Council to say that we haven’t found the weapons.
After the war, something became clear, and it was the US that interviewed many Iraqi military, political and scientific people and while Saddam was still there, we also interviewed them, but it could not be sure that they will tell us the whole truth, if there had been any weapons of mass destruction that they had known about it, would they have told us? Probably not because they wouldn’t have dared to.
But when Saddam was gone, and the US came. People should have rewards if they told yes, they are there. They could have gone silent or they could go for rewards, so there was much more credibility in interviews once the US occupied than we did. So we realized it immediately when the US didn’t find any weapons, then there are not weapons, so then they can ascertain about it, before it was uncertain.
Then the media became angry because they have been wrong, they have been so certain that of course there are weapons. It is a naïve idea that Saddam is evil so there are weapons. There was misleading in the US media and there was a lot of misleading in the US government.
I am not accusing Bush for talking about not being faithful, some people say they lied, I am not saying that, I am saying that first they misled themselves, then they misled the public, it is a bad judgment.
In the UK there was much opposition to the war, there was also opposition in New York, demonstrations were everywhere, there were a lot of demonstrations before the war, and in London there were enormous demonstrations against the war, but they were misled by Saddam.
The reason why they stressed so much weapons in London was that they can sell the war on the weapons, but they cannot sell the war on democracy in Iraq.
The parliament said democracy is not our job, but the weapons are an argument that they could sell.
The only gain of the Iraq war was that Saddam was toppled
Q: Was there really weapons of mass destruction before? Or biological and chemical ones in Iraq?
Hans Blix: After 1992, Iraq didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction or biological or chemical weapons any more.
In fact, Saddam ordered the destruction of all the biological and nuclear and chemical weapons in 1991 when the UN adopted the resolution in 1991 after the Gulf War.
Some chemical weapons were not destroyed in 1991 but they were declared, and they were then destroyed under the supervision of the UN in 1992.
So after 1992 there were no weapons of mass destruction.
Q: That means the UN sanctions on Iraq had been effective?
Hans Blix: The UN sanctions forced Iraq to destroy the weapons of mass destruction. But they made a mistake that they destroyed them without the presence of UN inspectors, we found the relics of the broken bombs and material that had been destroyed in 1991, but if Saddam invited the UN inspectors in 1991, then it would have been much easy to see how much was destroyed. Whereas he did it alone without any inspectors, then when the inspectors came and said you had so and so missiles and now we only see so and so many, where are the others, ‘well we destroy them’, you could not verify then. Much of the uncertainty rose because they had not had any international presence.
Many people suspected that Saddam wanted the ambiguity about it. On the one hand he said to the UN that they had destroyed the weapons of mass destruction, on the other hand, he wanted to create the impression that maybe I have some still, and that caused the second war, that uncertainty caused the second war. So it was unwise. You can put up a sign in a house saying watch the dog.
Q: Was it necessary to have the second Iraq war?
Hans Blix: Totally unnecessary war.
Q: Could that have been avoided?
Hans Blix: Yes, if we got a few more months of inspection.
Q: What is your comment about the global security now?
Hans Blix: Much better now than the Bush period, during the Bush administration, we were moving to a ‘cold peace’, in particular the missile site in the Czech Republic and Poland sharpened the relations with Russia, and they plan the NATO to push Georgia and Ukraine to become a member of NATO caused the sharpening of relations, Georgia started the war with Ossetia because they have been given a lot of arms by the United States. So I think this has changed now.
I think the US agreement on nuclear with India under Bush administration was unwise. I don’t think it was prohibited under the non-proliferation treaty, but it was certainly a contradiction with the guidelines that you should not export to the country that has not joined the NPT.
The worry I and many had under the agreement is that India will be able to import uranium fuel for its nuclear reactors, and then it can use the rather limited resources they have or their own uranium to enrich to weapons grade, if they want to do it, I am not saying that they are using it, but anyway, Pakistan and China can suspect that India is using and then you can have a race.
Thus, I think US-India agreement is not in the right direction. And the US and Australia and Japan as alliance are not in the direction of detent, but China reacted rather calmly. We need all the countries to work multilaterally rather than through blocks.
The solution for this is a convention by India, Pakistan, China, the US and other countries to agree that they will not produce any uranium plutonium for nuclear weapons purposes, and this will be with verification, this way we can ensure that there will not be piles of rich uranium or plutonium.
There has been a proposal for such a treaty in Geneva, but the only country that resisted it is Pakistan, which is blocking the decision.
I think it is very unwise of Pakistan to block the discussion. So there is such a draft for the convention, cut off the production of uranium and UK, France and Russia will not produce any more because they have had enough, China will not too. There is no resistance of the big powers. So far it is Pakistan that resists it. But they operate by consensus.
Q: What is your dream world? Or what are you striving for?
Hans Blix: I have been lucky in my life, in two important areas, one is disarmament, two: the energy, the world without wars.
Look at the history, most wars were with borders, wars about territories, Saddam was the last ‘emperor’ to invade Kuwait, now that ideology has gone.
Oil or gas should not be a reason for war. There are civil wars, some regional wars but no world war.
My basic optimism based on independence of countries. China owns more bonds of the US and needs to export to the US. , EU and Russia. Russia needs money and EU needs gas, so they pay attention to each other, they don’t go to security council until they find a solution after negotiation.
I welcome China to be in the WTO, I think it is also important that Russia should get into the WTO.
And we all need to develop these institutions and we all use the judicial organizations to solve our disputes. Integration and building multilateral institutions are very important.
Q: Why is Iran not trusted?
Hans Blix: There is mistrust on Iran because Iran has two nuclear reactors helped by Russia. It is not economical for Iran to build nuclear because it costs a lot of money to build the enrichment facilities, and it is not economical to build it, it will be more economic for them to import uranium.
South Korea has 20 nuclear reactors, they import enriched uranium, Sweden has 10 nuclear reactors, we import uranium too. Iran only has two, so it is not economical for them to build enrichment facility of their own, they would need assurance of import of uranium for the power plant they have, and I think they could have that.
I think there are diplomatic solutions for the Iran issue. It would be disastrous if anyone tries the military solution because if Iran is attacked, it is not sure if you can destroy all the nuclear, if Iran didn’t want to develop nuclear weapon and if they are attacked, they will really develop it.
I suspect that the root of Iranian uranium enrichment program came in the 1980s, when it had a terrible war with Iraq. And they suspect that Iraq was going to use nuclear weapons, they might not have decided to have the weapon, but they could have moved closer to the weapon option. It was foreign policy, it was the relations with the outside world that is more important, the Israeli has the weapons because they have the fear of Arab countries, India has the nuclear weapon because they think of China and Pakistan because they are afraid of India, so doing away all these tensions, that is also doing away with the will to build the weapons.
Q: How can you prevent nuclear weapons?
Hans Blix: It depends on the will power, for example Japan, if they want to develop, they can develop in a year, but in their constitution they are against it, so I don’t worry about it. But now the nuclear technology is very popular, South Korea and North Korea all can develop that. The US is doing it in 1940s, so the question is the will power and the resources.
That is why it is very important to understand this. 98 countries among 198 countries in the world decided they don’t want it.
If you don’t feel threat, you don’t need the weapons. So the important thing for the world is the relaxation of the world tension or detente.
Now all the major governments are pragmatic, Chinese government is regarded very pragmatic; the US current government is very pragmatic, and wanting to go to peace; Moscow as well, and Mr Putin is too pragmatic.
The UK and France are both very pragmatic, so we have relatively sensible governments in the world for the moment, and that is a good situation.
Q: What is your comment on China’s nuclear policy?
Hans Blix: I think it is very progressive. China is looking energy issues seriously, it is very important. When you look at coal, carbon capture, and separate carbon from coal, I hope this will be successful in the future.
China is really trying and developing more advanced nuclear technology. You have Russian reactor, French reactor, American one and you develop your own design too.
To improve the living standard in the world, we need energy, and industrialized world has tremendous use of the fossil fuels, and raised our living standards enormously, unfortunately we haven’t been aware until recently that the burning of the fossil fuels resulted in so much carbon dioxide, that threatens the climate in the future,
Nuclear has always provided a lot of power, so I was always in favor of the nuclear power even before the climate issue came out because this is tremendously powerful and condensed power. Not without risks, but all energy has risk.
It is one sort of energy, with global warming added, it is efficient process, otherwise, it is very clean, the same with wind power, solar power, these are important source for the future, nuclear power today can give us enormous efficiency.
I am interested in using thorium which is another basic element. If you can use thorium, it is very good. Thorium is three time more available. It is very sustainable. Nuclear has development possibilities. China is aware of that and can use it.
Q: Which is the largest threat to mankind, nuclear weapon or climate change in your opinion?
Hans Blix: I am inclined to think that climate change is the number one threat because nuclear weapon concerns a number of countries, we can abolish nuclear weapons with agreements of some major countries.
But climate issue concerns people all over the world in using energy.
China has been very restrained in the military side, although the US is very worried about the buildup of Chinese military force, when I see the statistics, today the world is spending 1400 billion dollars a year, 45 percent of it was the US spending and five percent in China.
I think the total sum is ridiculously high everywhere, and we could cut this in half and use it for energy saving, and defending it from global climate change.
Q: What is the most important thing in your life?
Hans Blix: The family is very important. I married in 1962, soon 50 years. We have two sons, both are PHDs, they both have one boy and one girl.
And I am not going to retirement again, I have been going to retirement three times before, I will continue to work as long as I can.
My work is my hobby. We both are interested in art. We have rugs, antique rugs, we both like nature romantics, we hikes, skis and go out to the nature. I have never enjoyed spring so much as this spring when you look out and see the trees.
Q: What is the driving force for you in your life and work?
Hans Blix: I always like to do things, to get results, in many areas is the same. If I want to write a book I should get out a book, or my wife gives me a vacuum cleaner then I clean the apartment and like to see it is clean, or I cook in the kitchen and I like to see the food come up.
Results, I like to see the results. That has always been the drive to get results when you do things.
Dr. Blix visited China in 1964 for the first time.
“We have been many times in China. I can see tremendous evolution in China and freedom as well. We know China has a long way to go, but I don’t like to preach because Chinese people know very well in what direction they are going to go and that pragmatism development is good, I like to go now to two great universities, I come from a university town and I am going to visit Tsinghua University, a chance to discuss with students and teachers and then to Fudan University and this process of searching the truth is universal and in everywhere,” Blix concluded.
About Hans Blix
Dr. Blix graduated from Uppsala University and was Associate Professor in International Law at Stockholm University. From 1963 to 1976 he served as the Adviser on International Law in the Ministry. He was State Secretary for International Development Co-operation from 1976 to 1978. Then he became Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. From 1981 to 1997, he worked as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA for 16 years.
In 2000 when he decided to retire at 72, he received a call from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to nominate him as the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003.
By Xuefei Chen, People’s Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm, email@example.com