It has been a privilege on behalf of PSR to be participating for the past two days in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Annual Conference on Nuclear Policy. This gathering with over 700 top level participants from 40 countries has been grappling with some of the most pressing issues facing our world today.
The presenters at the conference are highly experienced in national security matters and the discussions have been very thoughtful. However, as a health professional and PSR’s Executive Director, I am deeply concerned that much of the discussion about nuclear policy lacked the sense of urgency that these issues demand. We are currently not on a sustainable path. To protect our fragile world and all who inhabit it, we need to dramatically shift our policies and actions with regard to both nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.
After our success helping to secure the ratification of New START, it is clear that transformational change is needed. PSR believes that the time is right to advance efforts on further dramatic reductions, de-alerting nuclear weapons, and on increasing the rate of dismantlement of non-deployed weapons. Given the unfolding nuclear reactor disaster in Japan, the time is also right to shift away from reliance on nuclear power.
The session on “Deep Reductions: Stability at Low Numbers” was encouraging. National security experts James Acton (from the US), Alexi Arbatov (from Russia) and Bon Li (from China) agreed that all countries would be safer with fewer nuclear weapons. As they recommended, to enhance both strategic and economic stability, it is vitally important that the U.S. and Russia begin work toward a New START follow-on agreement to get down to 1000 warheads.
But this doesn’t go far enough. With the grave threat to human health posed by even a few hundred nuclear weapons deployed on each side, PSR has been calling for a clearer commitment to beginning negotiations toward completely eliminating nuclear weapons. We have also been calling for a moratorium on construction of new nuclear reactors.
In the closing session, it was great to hear from Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller. She was the lead negotiator on New START and an effective advocate for the treaty in the US Senate. Last year, she even participated in a PSR speaker’s tour. Ambassador Gottemoeller celebrated "the wild rollercoaster it was" to achieve New START ratification and thanked us all for our invaluable help.
At this session she was joined by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who declared Russia is ""ready to move on to next steps", while also noting what a complex world we live in. He spoke of Russian concerns we are familiar with including missile defense, conventional weapons imbalances, tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and weapons in space.
Ambassador Gottemoeller responded by reminding us of the President's three goals for the next round of negotiations: decreased strategic deployed weapons, decreased non-strategic deployed weapons, and non-deployed weapons. She spoke of "a new phase of innovation" that is required and invited NGOs to participate.
And participate we must.
Both a bold policy agenda and a strong sense of urgency are needed at this critical moment. Delay now will make it harder to ever achieve the transformational change necessary to fulfill our mission. We know that nuclear weapons are not an asset, but instead are a liability to both national security and public health. We must share this key message broadly to bring about the changes we desire.
Please join the growing international movement to abolish nuclear weapons at: 1 More 4 Zero.org