Deteriorating Trust on Hiroshima Day

Summer flowers by the front door – August 2019

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “trust but verify,” about the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), quoting a Russian proverb.

The Trump administration believes Russia can’t be trusted, was in violation of the treaty, and formally withdrew last week. The Russian Federation accused the United States of being in violation and declared it was open to dialogue to resolve differences. It’s over now.

A background article on the INF by Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association is here. Reif explains what our country has been doing to prepare for exiting the treaty, including exploration of options regarding new intermediate-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs.

We knew we were in for the worst regarding foreign policy when Donald Trump won the 2016 general election. Our knowledge didn’t help us through the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor, described as a malign influence on U.S. arms control and international security objectives. With Trump we entered a new arms race.

Last year, President Trump told reporters he wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control,” according to Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. This seems all talk. Trump may be the first president since John F. Kennedy to fail to conclude any form of agreement with Russia regarding nuclear weapons. Without treaties, the door is open to a new and dangerous arms race, Kimball said.

In a time of America first, the administration has little appetite for elimination of nuclear weapons and wants more of them. They seem likely to let the New START Treaty expire and in so doing would create an arms control regime with no legally binding, verifiable limits on the U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time in nearly half a century. Both countries are required to eliminate nuclear weapons by Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by 188 nations, the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

Dr. Maureen McCue, coordinator of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, emailed a group of Iowans favoring nuclear abolition and her colleagues around the country this disheartening report:

At our booth at the county fair we spoke to almost 3,000 individuals and found that of all the issues and concerns out there, concern about nuclear weapons their costs, and risks was just not on the minds of very many.  On a list of seven concerns, it came in far to the bottom, dead last — even given the dangerous moves of this administration to increase spending on nuclear weapons updates and delivery systems… We live in dangerous times, but the opportunities to engage and educate a new generation are sorry lacking.

We must prevent what we cannot cure and eliminate nuclear weapons. The Trump administration seems intent on doing the opposite, opening the door to a new nuclear arms race. With every new nuclear weapon developed our likelihood of using them by intent or by accident increases. This is no kind of world to leave our children and grandchildren.

Aug. 6 is the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Who will notice what we should never forget?