Einstein says don’t give Russia A-bomb secret (1945)

Einstein says don't give Russia A-bomb secret

Don’t give Russia A-bomb secret, Einstein warns

by Joseph Nolan

Boston – Asserting that two-thirds of the earth’s inhabitants might die in an atomic war, Professor Albert Einstein strongly urged today that the bomb’s secret be withheld from the United Nations Organization — and especially from Russia.

Control of atomic energy should be a closely-guarded United States secret until such time as it can be entrusted to a world government, Einstein said in an article appearing in November’s Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Even though 1,400,000,000 persons might be destroyed, Prof. Einstein said, civilization probably would not vanish.

“Perhaps two-thirds of the people of the earth might be killed but enough men capable of thinking and enough books would be left to start again, and civilization could be restored,” he wrote.

The famed physicist and Nobel prize winner, whose formula led to the utilization of atomic energy, said he did not consider himself father of the atomic age.

“My part in it was quite indirect,” he said. “I did not, in fact, foresee that atomic energy would be released in my time. I believed only that release was theoretically possible. It became practical through the accidental discovery of chain reactions, and this was not something [I] could have predicted.”

Describing atomic energy in its present state as a “menace,” Einstein expressed hope that it would “intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs.” This order he would achieve through a world government established by the United States, Great Britain and Russia. To the proposed government all three nations would turn over their full military strength.

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“Since the United States and Great Britain have the secret of the atomic bomb and the Soviet Union does not,” he said, “they should invite the Soviet Union to prepare and present the first draft of a constitution for the proposed world government.”

That, however, was the only concession Einstein would make to Russia. He was adamantly opposed to giving the Russians the secret of the bomb at present, comparing such a move to the action of a man with capital who starts out by giving his prospective partner half of his money at the risk of making a rival.

“But we must make it clear, as quickly as possible,” he said, “that we are not keeping the bomb a secret for the sake of our power, but in the hope of establishing peace in a world government.”

“We shall not have the secret very long. I know it is argued that no other country has money enough to spend on the development of the atomic bomb, and this fact assures us the secret for a long time. But other countries which have the materials and the men can apply them to the work of developing atomic power if they care to do so. For men and materials and the decision to use them — and not money — are all that is needed.”

Einstein refused to predict when atomic energy could be applied to constructive purposes, but added he did not foresee it as a boon “for a long time.”

“What now is known is only how to use a fairly large quantity of uranium,” he said. “The use of quantities sufficiently small to operate, say, a car or an airplane is as yet impossible. No doubt it will be achieved, but nobody can say when. Nor can one predict when materials more common that uranium can be used to supply atomic energy.”

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Einstein admitted that he feared the tyranny of a world government, but said he preferred it to a third world war. Unless such a government is established by agreement, he challenged, it will come about in a more tragic fashion.

Photo: Albert Einstein at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany in 1945

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