The Obama Administration will pay a heavy price to ratify the modest New START treaty should it receive the required 67 Senate votes this week to enact it into law. The President originally promised the weapons labs $80 billion over ten years for building three new bomb factories in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Kansas City to modernize our nuclear arsenals as well as an additional $100 billion for new delivery systems—missiles, bombers, and submarines. He then sweetened the pot with an offer of another $4 billion to the nuclear weapons establishment to buy the support of Senator Kyl. Additionally, he is assuring the Senate hawks that missile development in the US will proceed full speed ahead, even though Russia and China have proposed negotiations on a draft treaty they submitted to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to ban space weaponization. Every country at that conference voted in favor of preventing an arms race in outer space except the United States, still caught in the grip of the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex which President Eisenhower took great pains to warn us against in his farewell address to the nation.
There are 23,000 nuclear weapons on the planet with 22,000 of them in the US and Russia. The other 1,000 are in the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. In order to honor our promise in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament in return for a promise by non-nuclear weapons states not to acquire nuclear weapons, it is essential that the US and Russia continue to make large reductions in their arsenals to create the conditions for the other nuclear weapons states to come to the table to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb, just as we have banned chemical and biological weapons.
At the NPT conference this spring, for the first time the possibility of negotiating a nuclear weapons convention was adopted by consensus in the final document. Civil society and friendly governments are now exploring opportunities for starting an “Ottawa Process” for a nuclear weapons ban, just as was done for landmines. China, India and Pakistan have already voted on a UN Resolution to open such negotiations. Perhaps Asia will lead the way. But if the US persists in developing its nuclear infrastructure with new bomb factories while threatening Russia with proliferating missiles, it’s unlikely that this modest New START will help us down the path to peace.