An address to the Olaf Palme Institute in Stockholm, Sweden
You are certainly aware that the United States is committed under Article VI of the Non Proliferation Treaty to work in good faith for nuclear disarmament. You are probably also aware that last year President Clinton approved a policy that nuclear weapons would remain the cornerstone of U.S. security for the indefinite future. It is very difficult to reconcile these conflicting positions. Disarm or maintain a massive nuclear war fighting capability? It is impossible to do both. My purpose here is to explain why President Clinton made his decision, what it means to prospects for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and what can be done to promote progress toward a non-nuclear world.
First, let me tell you why I am here to advocate the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have been personally involved with these engines of destruction since the beginning of the nuclear era. 42 years ago I was a pilot prepared to destroy a European target with a bomb that would have killed 600,000 people. 20 years ago, as the Director of U.S. Military Operations in Europe, I was the officer responsible for the security, readiness and employment of 7,000 nuclear weapons against Warsaw Pact forces in Europe and Russia, weapons which could never defend anything – only destroy everything. My knowledge of nuclear weapons has convinced me that they can never be used for any rational military or political purpose. Their use would only create barbaric, indiscriminate destruction. In the words of the Canberra. Commission, “Nuclear weapons create an intolerable threat to all humanity…”
Now, to address the reasons for President Clinton’s decision concerning the U.S. nuclear posture. When the nuclear era opened in the U.S. the atom bomb was seen as a source of immense national power and as an essential contribution to efforts to thwart any expansionist efforts by Stalin’s Soviet Union. It was also seen by the United States Army, Navy and Air Force- as the key to service supremacy. The newly autonomous Air Force under General Curtis LeMay saw atomic warfare as its primary raison d’etre and fought fiercely for the dominant role in U.S. atomic plans. The Army and Navy feared that without atomic weapons in their arsenals they would become irrelevant adjuncts to strategic air power.
This interservice rivalry led to the rapid proliferation of nuclear missions. Without going into needless detail, each service acquired its own arsenal of nuclear weapons for every conceivable military mission: strategic bombardment, tactical warfare, anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank rockets and landmines, anti-submarine rockets, torpedoes and depth charges, artillery shells, intermediate range missiles and ultimately intercontinental range land and sea-launched ballistic missiles armed with multiple, thermo-nuclear warheads.
The Soviet Union, starting more than 4 years behind America, watched this rapid expansion of our war fighting weapons with shock and fear and set out to match every U.S. capability. Despite the obvious fact that the USSR lagged far behind, alarmists in the Pentagon pointed at Soviet efforts as proof of the need for ever more nuclear forces and weapons and the arms race continued unabated for 40 years. During this wasteful dangerous competition the United States built 70,000 nuclear weapons plus air, land and sea-based delivery vehicles at a total cost of $4.000 billion dollars.
As the Soviets’ arsenal grew, Mutual Assured Destruction became a fact and the two nations finally began tenuous arms control efforts in the 1960’s to restrain their competition. This effort was accelerated in the mid-1980 as a result of world-wide fears of nuclear war when President Reagan spoke of the Soviet
Union as the “evil empire” and doubled U.S. military spending. Unfortunately, the excesses of the nuclear arms race had created an extremely powerful pro-nuclear weapons establishment in the United States. This alliance of laboratories, weapon builders, aircraft industries and missile producers wielded immense political power in opposition to nuclear disarmament proposals. Abetted by Generals and Admirals in the Pentagon this establishment was able to turn arms control efforts into a talk-test-build process in which talks went slowly and ineffectually while testing and building went on with great dispatch. This same establishment remains extremely powerful today and explains why the United States’ continues to spend more than $28,000 million dollars each year to sustain its nuclear war fighting forces and enhance its weapons despite the formal commitment in the Non-Proliferation Treaty to take effective measures leading to nuclear disarmament. Pressure from the establishment is the primary reason why in November, 1997, President Clinton decreed in Presidential Decision Directive #60 that nuclear weapons will continue to form the cornerstone of American security indefinitely. This directive also set forth a number of other policies that are directly contrary to the goals of non-proliferation and nuclear abolition. He reaffirmed America’s right to make first use of nuclear weapons and intentionally left open the option to conduct nuclear retaliation against any nation, which employs chemical or biological agents in attacks against the United States or its allies. He went on to direct the maintenance of the triad of U.S. strategic forces (long range bombers, land-based ICBM’s and submarine-based SLBMs) at a high state of alert which would permit launch-on-warning of any impending nuclear attack on the U.S. This is the dangerous doctrine, which puts thousands of warheads on a hair trigger, thereby creating the risk of starting a nuclear war through misinformation and fear as well as through human error or system malfunction.
Finally, his directive specifically authorized the continued targeting of numerous sites in Russia and China as well as planning for strikes against so-called rogue states in connection with regional conflicts or crises. In short, U.S. nuclear posture and planning remain essentially unchanged seven years after the end of the Cold War. The numbers of weapons are lower but the power to annihilate remains in place with 7,000 strategic and 5,000 tactical weapons.
This doctrine would be bad enough alone but it is reinforced by continued efforts to extend and enhance the capabilities of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. A major element of this process is benignly labeled the Stockpile Stewardship Program costing more than $4, 100 million per year to maintain weapons security as well as test and replace weapon components to insure full wartime readiness of approximately 12,000 strategic and tactical bombs and warheads. In March the U.S. Air Force dropped two B61-11 bombs from a B-2 bomber on a target in Alaska to complete certification of a new design for earth penetrating weapons, clear proof of U.S. intentions to improve its nuclear war fighting capabilities.
Furthermore, the Los Alamos National Laboratory recently resumed the manufacture of plutonium triggers for thermo-nuclear weapons while the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is preparing a new capability called the National Ignition Facility where conditions within an exploding nuclear device can be simulated Supplemented with continuing sub-critical explosive tests in Nevada and extremely sophisticated computer modeling experiments, this new facility will give the U.S. means not available to other signatories of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to develop and validate new nuclear weapons designs.
To give even more evidence of the power of the pro-nuclear establishment, the U.S. will decide this year -on how and when to resume the production and stockpiling of tritium, the indispensable fuel for thermo-nuclear explosions. The fact is that the military has enough tritium on hand today for all of its weapons until the year 2006 and enough for 1,000 warheads and bombs at least until the year 2024. To invest thousands of millions of dollars for unneeded tritium is a waste of precious resources undertaken solely to placate and reward the nuclear establishment. It is particularly alarming and discouraging to see the United States investing heavily to perpetuate and increase its nuclear war fighting capabilities when only three years ago it was the dominant force promoting indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). To encourage support for extension the U.S. led in the formulation of the important declaration of “Principles and Objectives For Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.” More clearly than Article VI of the NPT itself, this statement reaffirmed commitment to: “The determined pursuit by the nuclear weapons states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons…” This renewed and strengthened pledge to reduce nuclear capabilities offered as an inducement for non-nuclear states to agree to extension of the NPT makes the current U.S. nuclear program an affront to all of the signatories. It is not only a direct violation of both the letter and spirit of the NPT; it is a provocation, which jeopardizes the goal of non-proliferation. The clear message is that the foremost nuclear power regards its weapons as key elements of security and military strength, a signal, which can only stimulate other nations to consider the need to create similar capabilities.
What must those who favor nuclear abolition do to counter this threat to non-proliferation? First, as individuals and as organizations, we must redouble our efforts at home to publicize the dangers created by as many as 35,000 weapons still ready for use in the world. A broadly based global demand by all non-nuclear states that the nuclear powers must live up to the letter and spirit of the NPT extension agreement should precede the first review conference in the year 2000. A call for worldwide public demonstrations on the order and magnitude of those, which supported the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980’s, should be made. The nuclear powers must not be permitted to dictate the results of the review conference in the same manner the United States dominated the 1995 extension conference.
The message to be stressed is that it is illogical and unrealistic to expect that five nations can legally possess and threaten to use nuclear weapons indefinitely while all other nations are forbidden to create a nuclear capability. Pressure to break-out of the Non Proliferation Treaty is further intensified because one of the nuclear powers is actively developing new, more threatening weapons and pronouncing them essential to its future security.
A good strategy is to follow the lead of the 62 Generals and Admirals who signed an appeal for nuclear abolition in December of 1996. We stated that we could not foresee the conditions, which would ultimately permit the final elimination of all weapons, but we did recognize many steps, which could be safely begun now to start and accelerate progress toward the ultimate goal.
As a first step toward nuclear disarmament, all nuclear powers should positively commit themselves to unqualified no-first use guarantees for both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Their guarantees should be incorporated in a protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the review conference in 2000.
Concurrently, the process of actual reduction of weapons should begin with the United States and Russia. They should proceed immediately with START III negotiations, particularly since the implementation of START II has been delayed for four years. Even with the delay Russia cannot afford all of the changes required under that Treaty and has suggested willingness to proceed with additional reductions because far deeper reductions by both sides would be less costly.
At the same time, both nations should agree to take thousands of nuclear warheads off of alert status. This action would reduce the possibility of a nuclear exchange initiated by accident or human error. Once fully de-alerted, warhead removal (de-mating) should commence and the warheads stored remotely from missile sites and submarine bases. Verification measures should include international participation to build confidence between the parties.
Disassembly of warheads under international supervision should begin in the U.S. and Russia. When a level of 1,000 warheads is reached in each nation, Great Britain, France and China should join the process under a rigorous verification regime. De facto nuclear states, including Israel, should join the process as movement continued toward the complete and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons. Finally, an international convention should be adopted to prohibit the manufacture, possession or use of nuclear explosive devices just as current conventions proscribe chemical and biological weapons. All fissile material should be safely and securely stored under international control.
Verification of this entire process could best be accomplished by U.N. teams formed and operating in accordance with principles developed by UNSCOM teams operating in Iraq today. This model provides a precedent already accepted by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the nuclear powers.
None of these progressive steps will happen until the community of nations comes together to make the United States understand that non-proliferation will ultimately fail unless the U.S. abandons its delusion that nuclear superiority provides long term security. Even when the dangers of this delusion are understood, progress toward the complete, final abolition of nuclear weapons will be painfully slow. Nevertheless, the effort must be made to move toward the day that all nations live together in a world without nuclear weapons because it is clear that our children cannot hope to live safely in a world with them.