Nuclear Disarmament in Trump World

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

Elimination of nuclear weapons remains a priority for many of us who followed disarmament progress through the years. Our work hasn’t ended. What should be our priorities in Trump World?

To a large extent, society answered that question in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which the United States is a party. Article VI has been and remains a sticking point in meeting treaty obligations. Here’s the text,

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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 on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Nuclear states have taken inadequate steps toward compliance with Article VI. U.S. backpedaling on disarmament treaties began when in 2002 President George W. Bush removed the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Under Donald Trump, the United States is expected to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and negotiations for renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) have yet to commence. The Trump administration is heading the opposite direction of good faith negotiations to end the arms race. It is creating a political environment for a new arms race, a complete refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear triad, and development of new nuclear weapons.

Where should disarmament advocates focus their efforts? Here’s my list.

As the two largest nuclear states, the U.S. and Russia should de-escalate nuclear competition and establish a regular dialogue on strategic stability. At a minimum, we should make a mutual decision to extend the New START Treaty before it expires in 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly Russia would not make first use of nuclear weapons. The United States should adopt a no first use policy regardless of what Russia says or does.

During negotiations for U.S. Senate ratification of New START, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl negotiated a refurbishment of the nuclear weapons complex. Under President Trump, this budget has grown to over a trillion dollars. We should encourage the new U.S. House of Representatives leadership to cut back on the administration’s plan to upgrade the nuclear complex.

There has been talk of developing new types of more usable nuclear weapons. We should advocate to block administration plans to develop such weapons.

As President Trump withdraws from the Iran Nuclear Deal we should encourage and support our international partners to implement it without us.

Now is the time to implement realistic, action-for-action steps toward disarmament with North Korea. Any dialogue with North Korea should proceed with that goal as the basis for talks.

Finally, advocates should promote compliance with Article VI in the run up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

A nuclear weapons-free world remains possible. In Trump World making progress toward that goal will continue to be challenging. Like most citizens we have limited resources and a large number of issues wanting our attention. This list serves to focus on what’s most important politically, and look for opportunities to advance each item as they present themselves.

To learn more about nuclear disarmament efforts in the U.S., check out the Arms Control Association website by clicking here.

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