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It is time to confront "the greatest danger to the American people"

Posted by Jaya Tiwari on January 28, 2010

In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama eloquently described the threat of nuclear weapons as the “greatest danger to the American people.” Invoking the arms control legacy of President John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, the President also repeated his earlier promise to pursue a strategy that reverses the spread of nuclear weapons and seeks a world without them. Alluding to the ongoing negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the President declared that the United States and Russia are close to completing “the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.”

The President further touted the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington, DC, in April this year. The Nuclear Security Summit, as the President stressed, aims to bring together forty-four nations to agree on a strategy to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

As an organization working for over four decades to draw attention to the threat of nuclear war Physicians for Social Responsibility applauds the President for rightly recognizing and declaring nuclear weapons as the greatest danger to American people. Indeed, the bloated stockpile of nuclear weapons and fissile material in the United States and Russia and the risk of the continuing spread of nuclear weapons around the world, present the gravest threats to the safety and survival of the American people.

The President’s State of the Union address clearly sets the agenda for the United States leading the world toward achieving a meaningful and deep reductions in global nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles. These are long overdue but welcome steps.  Reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Russian arsenals as a part of the new START agreement and the effort to curb the global spread of nuclear material at the Nuclear Security Summit in April is laudable; however, much more needs to be done to set the United States’ nuclear strategy free from outdated Cold War thinking. We call on the President to utilize the opportunity of the upcoming release of the Nuclear Posture Review document to pledge not to pursue development of a new generation of nuclear weapons under any guise. Furthermore, President Obama must keep his promise to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) up for a Senate ratification vote and work with the Senate to ensure its passage.

The President cannot achieve these goals alone and needs the help of Congress and the American people. For example, even after the United States and Russia complete the new START negotiations and the treaty is signed, the agreement will have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate by a 2/3rd majority (67 Senators voting in support of the treaty). The ultimate fate of the treaty, therefore, is in the hands of 100 U.S. senators. The same is true for the CTBT ratification process.

We cannot allow politics as usual to trump our genuine national security interest.  Nuclear weapons are a liability, not an asset to our security.  We will be safer with fewer nuclear weapons in the world once a new START agreement is implemented.  As citizens, it is our responsibility to hold our senators accountable for ensuring that they are doing what they can to reduce the greatest danger to their constituents.

It is the responsibility of every American - Democrat, Republican and independent alike - to make sure that his or her Senator votes for safety and security by supporting the new START agreement.     




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