World leaders from China, the US, the UK, Russia, and France have come together to declare something that we’ve known since 1983: When it comes to global thermonuclear war, “the only winning move is not to play.”
That line, of course, is from 1983’s WarGames starring Matthew Broderick as a young hacker who finds a back door into a U.S. military computer and almost starts World War III. When the computer threatens to fire nuclear missiles at the U.S.S.R., Broderick’s character suggests making the computer play itself in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. The computer realizes that there can be no winner in Tic-Tac-Toe (without human error as a factor) and proceeds to play out global nuclear war scenarios with the same outcome. “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
But now, almost 40 years later, the great nuclear superpowers of the world have put that sentiment down in writing. The joint statement from the members of the United Nations Security Council have declared that nuclear war would have no winner and it’s their responsibility to avoid war between any of them.
“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the statement on the White House’s website reads. “As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”
Yet, the council has acknowledged the importance of addressing nuclear threats from those not in the UN, such as North Korea and Pakistan who have nuclear weapons currently, and further establishing arms control agreements with them.
“We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorized or unintended use of nuclear weapons. We reiterate the validity of our previous statements on de-targeting, reaffirming that none of our nuclear weapons are targeted at each other or at any other State.”