Nuclear strategist Paul Bracken is interviewed by Robert Kazel for the Nuclear Age Foundation on December 17 2012. Professor bracken has recently published his second book on the nuclear danger,The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics.

Professor Bracken seems to be mostly concerned with the risks associated with nuclear proliferation, and not with the danger arising from the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the USA. He does not see as real the risks of nuclear war started by mistake or intervention in the command systems. One reason is that he is convinced that the nuclear weapons are no longer on High Alert. He states that [protocols concerning] emergency authorization to use nuclear weapons have been revoked.

It would be very helpful if he provided us with the reason for that opinion. The information available to me gives no support for his statement. Thus, the report by the group lead by General James Cartwright,Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture, for Global Zero, and published last year, emphasizes that strategic nuclear weapons are still on High Alert. They stress that the time to evaluate whether the threat is real and a nuclear response is necessary is very short, counted in minutes.  I quote: “The risks, while low, still exist for missiles to be fired by accident, miscalculation, mistake, false warning, bad judgment or unauthorized action. The results would be catastrophic.”

I do hope Professor Bracken in the future will be right in his assessment. Today he seems to be mistaken, unfortunately.

He also says, “I would be the first to give up U.S. nuclear weapons, all of them – every single one – if other countries would do so.” How does he know that other countries are not willing to give up their nuclear weapons if the USA does?

Without US leadership we will not reach a nuclear weapons free world.

Gunnar Westberg is former President (2004-2008) of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.