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A Good “START” to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Posted by Peter Wilk, MD on February 18, 2010

 

Go to http://www.psr.org/nuclear-weapons/biden-letters-to-the-editor.html to take action in your local community! 

 

Having had the opportunity today to join the audience hearing Vice President Joe Biden’s speech outlining the Administration’s approach to managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, strengthening nonproliferation and reducing nuclear risks, I am struck again by their strong rhetorical commitment to “take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons”. 

 

The Vice President went on to declare: “The horror of nuclear conflict may make its occurrence unlikely, but the very existence of nuclear weapons leaves the human race ever at the brink of self-destruction”.

 

As has been true ever since the Obama administration took office, however, the challenges are as large as the opportunities for fundamental changes in nuclear weapons policy that would reduce risk and enhance our safety.  It is up to PSR advocates to make the case for the forward progress that we so desperately need.

 

This is especially true when it comes to ratification of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) deal with Russia and the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty).  

It is time for the United States to discard the outdated and ineffective Cold War thinking that no longer serves our national security interests.  Put most simply, we will be safer with fewer nuclear weapons in the world.  When it comes to our national security, nuclear weapons are a liability and not an asset.

The New START agreement better serves our national security and economic interests by verifiably reducing excess Cold War strategic nuclear weapons stockpiles by roughly 30% from current levels. This much needed cut in America’s bloated nuclear weapons stockpile, will help us meet more urgent 21st Century security needs. 

The New START agreement further advances our national security by significantly and verifiably reducing the excess number of strategic nuclear weapons in the Russian stockpile, as well as in our own.  Without implementation of the New START agreement and its updated and streamlined means of monitoring and verifying compliance, Russia is free to deploy many more nuclear weapons and risks will greatly increase without such a bilateral system in place.

The strong verification provisions included in the New START agreement will provide high confidence that each side is complying with the appropriate reduced numbers of deployed strategic warheads and delivery systems, which will greatly help in maintaining a predictable, stable U.S. and Russian nuclear relationship.   

Furthermore, the new START agreement will also help strengthen US and Russian efforts to win international support for measures needed to bolster the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before the upcoming NPT Review Conference in May.  These measures include more effective IAEA safeguards, tougher penalties for states that do not comply with their nonproliferation obligations, and faster action to secure the most vulnerable nuclear weapons usable materials.

In his speech Mr. Biden also stressed the administration’s commitment to the CTBT ratification.  Nuclear testing is a dangerous legacy of the Cold War which organizations like PSR and IPPNW fought for decades to ban.  In a culmination of a global campaign to ban nuclear testing, the United States negotiated and signed the CTBT in 1996.  However, in one of the worst displays of partisan politics, the Senate rejected the CTBT ratification in 1999.  In 2010, with technological advances in place to assure compliance with the ban on explosive nuclear testing, it is long past time to ratify this long delayed treaty. 

Now that the administration has made a strong case for the significance of the new START agreement and the CTBT for America’s national security, it is up to the U.S. Senate to ensure prompt ratification of these treaties. PSR activists have already been working hard to convince senators in key states of the importance of a swift ratification of both of these treaties.  In the coming weeks, as  the new START treaty is signed and brought up for senate vote and the administration resubmits the CTBT for a ratification vote  we plan to intensify this campaign.

While PSR wholeheartedly welcomes the effort to secure ratification of the New START agreement and the CTBT, we are very concerned about some aspects of the administration’s approach to management of the nations’ nuclear weapons stockpile.  As Vice President Biden indicated in his speech today, the administration is proposing an unprecedented increase in spending related to nuclear weapons projects. The administration wants a $624 million increase, and $5 billion in additional funding over the next five years in nuclear-weapons funding with most of the money going toward maintaining and monitoring the US nuclear stockpile.  Just as the country is coming out of one of its worst recessions and President Obama is proposing a spending freeze for most government programs and agencies, this astronomical and unnecessary increase in nuclear weapons funding is puzzling to say the least.  

Before going along with the administration’s proposed spending spree on nuclear weapons projects, the Congress and the American people must realize that U.S. nuclear weapons have been certified every year to be secure and reliable, and that they will continue to be, even without the additional funding asked for by the administration.  

We agree that increased spending on measures to reduce the risk of accidental launch or theft does increase our safety.  However, funding to increase our nuclear weapons manufacturing capacity runs counter to President Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and will undermine our efforts to engage other countries in a global step by step process to increase our security by eventually eliminating nuclear weapons.

After Vice President Biden’s speech, it is clearer than ever that sustained public education and advocacy is going to be essential to achieving the nuclear risk reduction that is essential for our national security.

 

Go to http://www.psr.org/nuclear-weapons/biden-letters-to-the-editor.html to take action in your local community!

 

Comments

Roger Eaton said ..

Could it be that the extra spending on manufacturing capacity is the political quid pro quo for extra spending on preventing theft or accidental launch? -- grasping at straws?

February 26, 2010
Paul Hodel said ..

PSR spoke at a conference we had yesterday on the threat of of nuclear war. The message is a powerful as it was 30 years ago when we hosted a similar conference before the NPT review process of that time. We do need to be in the streets, board rooms, houses of worship, etc. to mobilize an effective movement to push the Obama administration to abolish nuclear weapons.

February 20, 2010
Kay Lovejoy said ..

Decreasing nuclear weapons is important. However, I bellieve it is equally important to stop the advancement of nuclear power plants which this administration has also given money to. The use of nuclear power in any form puts us all in danger! We can not fight for the abolilshement of one and ignore the other

February 20, 2010
Keith Hughes Petersen said ..

It is a good thing to be a part of a larger voice and so thank you for your response. However I'm not optimistic that there is a solution since "Pandora's box" has been opened with the supposed Hiroshima blast's so-called solution to end the war to save lives. I'm sure that another leader in the furure will be so inclined too! All that is a certainty is that we all will live with a certain amount of anxiety forever. All we can do is keep talking so that at least we can say we did our best.

February 19, 2010
Jean Pouteau said ..

Although peaceful nuclear is likely to be very helpful in reducing the effects of global warming,nuclar weapons must be dismantled.The USA having the most nuclear weapons should take the lead in disarming them

February 19, 2010
Roy Major said ..

Billions are being allocated to new nuclear power plants when I have not been convinced that we have a safe disposal method for nuclear waste.

February 19, 2010
Roy said ..

I would have preferred a plant or two for the production of solar and wind energy rather than the nuclear power plant being planned at the expense of tax payers and electric bill payers in Georgia.

February 19, 2010
caryl Wolstenholme said ..

I'm happy that PSR exists; a group makes more difference, often, than a single individual. I have agreed with your reasoning and your topics.

February 19, 2010
Don Mellman said ..

Is that a typo: "indicted" in pargraph beginning "While PSR wholeheartedlly...."

February 19, 2010
A. Baker said ..

Thank you for keeping us on our toes. We need strong and firm advocacy against this growing financial budget support of nuclear plants and weapons.

February 18, 2010
jolie jones said ..

It's hard to believe that 30 yrs later we are still talking about how to convince our leaders ....especially with the current President's motto for Hope and Change ....that nuclear weapons are more dangerous than protective.Its like starting all over again like the fight years ago never happened.Maybe it is what we need to spark a fire for us to hit the streets again and say we aren't going to take this anymore!!!

February 18, 2010
Dorothy Many said ..

The U.S. can lead the way in reducing supposed need for more nuclear power. Physicians for Social Responsibility is a group to be commended.

February 18, 2010
Ina Hahn said ..

How can we demand that countries like Iran stop enriching uranium when we plan to increase our own stockpile???

February 18, 2010

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