If you watched or heard about the first Presidential debate on September 30th, then you probably already know that one thing both presidential candidates agree upon is that nuclear proliferation poses the biggest threat to the US. What you might not know is which candidate will actually make Americans far safer and more secure. Understanding how the presidential candidates will deal with nuclear proliferation is essential in allowing US citizens to make an informed decision on who is best suited to lead this great country.

One thing President Bush failed to mention is that, despite calls from past Presidents, nuclear weapons have assumed a far more central role in US security policy. The new, more “usable” role that the US government has assigned to nuclear weapons and its doctrine of pre-emptive warfare can encourage other nations to obtain nuclear weapons (and other weapons of mass destruction) in pursuit of their own security needs. These policies diminish US national security and attempts to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction, increasing the risk that other countries and terrorists will obtain and use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against the US.

So, let’s take a moment to examine exactly where President Bush and Senator Kerry stand on just four key policies that would protect Americans and their families.

Oppose creating dangerous new nuclear weapons that will lead others to follow our example.

President George W. Bush requested some $36.6 million in the 2005 Budget for research on dangerous new nuclear weapons, including the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator or “bunker-buster” and “mini-nukes.”

John Kerry has stated, “As president, I will stop this administration’s program to develop a whole new generation of bunker-busting nuclear bombs. This is a weapon we don’t need. And it undermines our credibility in persuading other nations. What kind of message does it send when we’re asking other countries not to develop nuclear weapons but developing new ones ourselves?”

Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and continue the current moratorium on nuclear testing, which are essential elements to promoting the international non-proliferation regime and protecting American security.

President Bush opposes ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, already ratified by 115 countries, and has proposed $30 million in the 2005 Budget for reducing the time to resume nuclear testing from 24 months to 18 months.

Senator Kerry supports ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and has emphasized its importance in promoting the international non-proliferation regime.

Cancel funding for and plans to deploy offensive missile “defense” systems that could ignite a dangerous nuclear arms race and offer no security against terrorist weapons of mass destruction.

In 2001, President Bush unilaterally withdrew the US from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union in order to deploy a missile “defenses.” He is seeking to deploy an inadequately tested missile defense system this year, and has requested a budget of more than $10 billion for this unproven system in 2005.

Senator Kerry has stated that he believes in further missile defense research, but he does “not believe in rapid deployment of a system that hasn’t been adequately tested.” He has stated that “to abandon [the ABM Treaty] altogether is to welcome an arms race that will make us more vulnerable, not less.”

Work with Russia to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries and ensure that nuclear weapons and materials stay out of the hands of terrorists or countries seeking to acquire nuclear capabilities.

President Bush signed a treaty with the Russians that calls for bringing down the number of deployed strategic weapons to between 2,200 and 1,700 by the year 2012. The treaty, however, does not provide for verification and does not make the reductions irreversible. The treaty also terminates in the year 2012. Since weapons taken off active deployment will be kept on the shelf in reserve, they will be a tempting target for terrorists. President Bush has also called for reductions of more than nine percent in the funding for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to secure nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.

Senator Kerry has stated that the treaty that President Bush entered into “runs the risk of increasing nuclear theft by stockpiling thousands of warheads.” He further stated that “if we are to make America safer, and we must, it will take more than cosmetic treaties that leave Russia’s nuclear arsenal in place.” Kerry has called for increased joint efforts with the Russians to dispose of stocks of existing nuclear materials. He has stated that he will make securing nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union a priority in relations between the US and Russia and work with our allies to establish global standards for the safekeeping of nuclear materials.

It is up to us voters to elect a President who will make us safer from the biggest threat facing the US. If you want to see the US implement more responsible nuclear policies, then visit www.chartinganewcourse.org to learn more and take action today.

Carah Ong is the Development and Communications Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation