In February two nuclear-powered submarines armed with missiles carrying atomic warheads, collided in the bottom of the Atlantic. The two vessels, the French Triomphant and the British Vanguard, were about to set the stage for a tragedy. Far from showing concern about the damage that the accident could cause, both navies instead hastened to clarify that their respective deterrent capabilities would not be affected. To whom is this message directed now that the Soviet Union no longer exists? Is it necessary for submarines to patrol the oceans with a superior destructive capability of more than a thousand times of that of the impact that destroyed Hiroshima?
What has taken place reinforces the voices that demand the abolition of atomic weapons from the face of the earth and from the oceans. Despite the end of the Cold War the world maintains an enormous potential of atomic annihilation. From the time the Kremlin or White House leaders give the order, it would take only a matter of minutes for scores of nuclear missiles to be deployed from their silos and from submarines. Washington and Moscow have a combined store of 95 percent of the 27,000 nuclear weapons in existence. In a few instants, among the two of them, both countries can fire some 2,600 maximum power warheads, or the equivalent of 100,000 times the force of what was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 — a power of 15 kilotons.