US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World
An Appeal to President Obama
Submitted by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on March 11, 2009
|A More Detailed Look at the Seven Steps
About one third of the deployed US and Russian nuclear weapons are on “high-alert;” they can be deployed in less than fifteen minutes. If either country’s automated early warning system detects something that looks like an impending nuclear strike, a very small handful of individuals would have less than ten minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike. The current “launch on warning” protocol for each country is prone to accident, miscalculation, or malicious tampering such as infection with a sophisticated computer virus. Keeping Armageddon on “high-alert” does not serve any nation’s national security and only deters rationality. A policy that keeps nuclear warheads separate from delivery vehicles is a sensible first step toward preventing nuclear war. Such separation would ensure an additional time buffer to guard against launching nuclear weapons based on false data or the emotionally charged whims of a few very powerful individuals.
No First Use
“No First Use” refers to a commitment to never use nuclear weapons first under any circumstances. The commitment does not stipulate policy regarding retaliatory strikes. Several countries around the world have pledged “No First Use” of nuclear weapons. These countries include China, India, Israel, and North Korea. On the other hand, The United States, France, The United Kingdom, and Pakistan have not made such a pledge. Legally binding commitments to “No First Use” of nuclear weapons and the establishment of nuclear policies consistent with this commitment would further guard against life extinguishing nuclear warfare. There is no moral, legal or logical justification for the first use of nuclear weapons. A policy that maintains such an option is inherently aggressive and dangerous for all humanity.
No New Nuclear Weapons
Article VI of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which the United States is a signatory along with 188 other countries, stipulates that the Nuclear Weapon States undertake to pursue "negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament," and a "treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." The pursuit of a new line of nuclear weapons under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program or any other program directly violates the terms of Article VI, as any work on new nuclear weapons is not work toward nuclear disarmament. Such research and development of new nuclear weapons undermines the NPT regime and has the potential to start a new arms race or encourage proliferation among non-nuclear weapon states. If the United States government continues to pursue new nuclear weapons, breaking the terms of the NPT, then it should expect that other countries will follow suit.
Ban Nuclear Testing Forever
While the US has signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it has yet to ratify it. Ratification of the treaty would establish an international precedent that would encourage other nuclear weapons states, such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea, which have not yet signed and ratified the treaty, to do so. The CTBT would effectively ban nuclear testing forever. Nuclear testing has had extremely devastating effects on the Earth’s natural environment, and on human populations displaced by testing and exposed to the resulting radioactive fallout. A ban on testing would remove a crucial step in a country’s development of a nuclear weapons program, thus making new development practically impossible. The United States has upheld a voluntary moratorium on critical nuclear testing since 1992 and has maintained its nuclear weapons stockpile through the Stockpile Stewardship Program, relying on advanced computer based testing simulations and sub-critical testing. Entry into force of the CTBT would prevent environmentally damaging and culturally marginalizing nuclear tests from ever occurring again and would significantly guard against further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Control Nuclear Material
The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) is a proposed international treaty that would prohibit all production of weapons grade uranium and plutonium, but would still allow the production of medical or fuel-grade uranium and plutonium. Despite a call for the treaty by former President Bill Clinton and adoption by the UN of a resolution calling for the development of an FMCT, negotiations have remained stalled. The United States has almost exclusively kept the treaty from being enacted based on criticism of its verification regime. 179 countries have voted in favor of the treaty, including Iran. Both the UK and Israel have abstained. If the United States were to sign the treaty, these other countries would very likely follow suit. The enactment of the FMCT would be a significant step in halting the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Weapons Convention
A Nuclear Weapons Convention would prohibit the development, production, stockpiling, testing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. It would represent the most comprehensive international regime leading to nuclear disarmament and the diplomacy required for the establishment of such a regime would satisfy the established requirement of Article VI of the NPT for good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Under the regime, each nuclear weapon state would be required to verifiably destroy its nuclear arsenal through a series of specific disarmament phases over a period of years. Weapons-grade fissile material and nuclear delivery vehicles would be destroyed or converted. The Convention would stipulate phases for the elimination of nuclear weapons starting with taking nuclear weapons off high-alert, removing nuclear weapons from deployment, separating nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles, disabling nuclear warheads, removing and disfiguring the weapon "pits" and ensuring that fissile material is placed under strict and effective international control.
Resources for Peace
The United States government has spent around 7.5 trillion dollars (adjusted sum in today’s dollars) on nuclear weapons programs throughout the Nuclear Age. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government has continued to spend tens of billions of dollars per year on nuclear weapons related activities. These resources are far better spent enriching human life instead of on the tools of destruction and extinction.