The End of Warfare? Blog

The Covid-19 pandemic is another stark reminder that some of the biggest threats to human life on Earth can only ever be solved by coordinated international efforts. A virus is not stopped by arbitrary national barriers, and all countries must work together to stop the spread and to assist scientists in their efforts to find a vaccine. 

Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize wrote for Time Magazine in April comparing the pandemic to the situation he faced in the 1980s with the threat of nuclear war. 

“The breakthrough came when we understood that it is our common enemy, a threat to all of us. The leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Then came Reykjavik and the first treaties eliminating nuclear weapons. But even though by now 85% of those arsenals have been destroyed, the threat is still there.”

He argues that international foreign policy is still governed by militarism. In the last year, there has been the serious threat of international hostilities fuelled by conflicts in Iran, Iraq and Syria. Of all the issues facing the world at the moment, including the pandemic and the ever-increasing threat of climate change, war is not the answer. Arms are not going to solve these problems. 

Gorbachev is not alone in these thoughts. On March 23rd 2020, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres called for a worldwide ceasefire in response to the crisis making it clear that countries that already have fragile health systems will not be able to contain the virus should fighting continue. In response, over 2 million people have signed a petition backing the call (you can see the petition here https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/global_ceasefire_loc/ link).

As of June 24th 2020, 170 signatories have endorsed the ceasefire. You can read a full list of signatories here; https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066982 (link). 

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” - António Guterres

Despite this apparent ceasefire, fighting has continued in Yemen which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the coronavirus and the ongoing conflict. You can learn more about the conflict in Yemen here; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29319423?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c77jz3mdq72t/yemen&link_location=live-reporting-story (link)

Whilst in theory a ceasefire is a much needed step towards a peaceful future, the reality for many around the world is still a cycle of violence and war. Any global ceasefire must also extend beyond the coronavirus pandemic, with lasting peaceful solutions.


Many peace groups are now calling for this long lasting renunciation of war, and pleading with the international community to work together and focus on issues of human security, above wars, weapons and violence. You can read more about the peace groups response in Protest in Lockdown section of the exhibition.

You can read the Time article here: https://time.com/5820669/mikhail-gorbachev-coronavirus-human-security/

Written by Shannen Johnson, Learning and Engagement Officer

Image: Mikhail Gorbachev from Freeimages.com.