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Sustainability

76th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

World War II veterans were still living when our family moved back to Iowa in 1993. In each conversation with one of them, I asked about the Aug. 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan and the Nagasaki bombing three days later. To a person, they felt the bombings were warranted, agreeing with President Harry Truman’s decision to drop them. As they aged and died a couple changed their minds.

We have come to accept what President Ronald Reagan and Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev said in Geneva, Switzerland 36 years ago, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Since then, the U.S. rushed to undo arms control measures. Under President George W. Bush we withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Under President Trump, we withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Deal), the New START Treaty, and the Open Skies Treaty. Hard work of arms control, and compliance with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, seemed to have been abandoned.

On the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombings we are heartened by the June 16 meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders released a joint statement, “Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” They pledged to launch a bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue to lay the groundwork for future arms control. We can only hope this time it sticks.

~ First published in the Solon Economist on July 29, 2021.

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Living in Society Sustainability

A World Without Nuclear Weapons

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

While it got scant notice in the U.S. press, the joint statement after the Geneva, Switzerland meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin was significant:

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

The White House, June 16, 2021.

The joint statement echoed what President Ronald Reagan and Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said 36 years earlier in Geneva, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

“The complete abolition of nuclear weapons is the only way to be safe from their threat,” president of Physicians for Social Responsibility of Los Angeles Robert Dodge, M.D. wrote in Common Dreams.

The United States and Russia possess far more nuclear weapons than the rest of the nuclear states combined, enough to destroy life as we know it on Earth many times over. The two states working toward strategic stability is essential to compliance with Article VI of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. During the previous U.S. administration, future compliance with the NPT came into doubt. President Biden is getting the U.S. back on the right track.

That’s not to say it will be easy. As Dodge points out, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into force January 22 this year. Currently it has been signed by 86 nations and been ratified by 54. Neither Russia nor the U.S. have joined the treaty and the prospects of them doing so near term are dim.

All nine nuclear states must take a step back from the brink of nuclear annihilation. The Geneva statement on strategic stability suggests it is possible to do so.

To learn more about the U.S. grassroots organizing effort to produce the safer, healthier and more just world that is possible without nuclear weapons, visit the Back from the Brink website.

~ First Published on Blog for Iowa

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Sustainability

New START Treaty Extended

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

We received news on Tuesday afternoon the New START Treaty was extended.

“A week ago, the United States and Russia ‘exchanged diplomatic papers’ in order to extend the New START treaty for 5 years,” wrote Physicians for Social Responsibility in a Feb. 2 email.  “Biden and Putin got this done in time — before New START was set to expire this Friday, Feb 5.”

Recent Republican administrations have not favored arms control treaties. In fact, the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations exited existing agreements. U.S. Admiral Charles Richard recently wrote in the U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings, the potential for nuclear war remains present.

“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state,” the four-star admiral wrote.

There’s nothing new in the Richard’s statement. While our relations with Russia and China require scrutiny, not only with regard to nuclear weapons, but with every facet of their complexity, a few things remain clear about the course the United States should be taking to prevent the detonation of nuclear weapons which may escalate into a full on war. In their new book, The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power From Truman to Trump, William J. Parry and Tom Z. Collina outline a framework that includes these items:

The president should not have sole authority to launch a nuclear weapons attack. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress sole authority to declare war. They should be engaged with any decision to launch nuclear weapons against another state or non-state actor. There is no need for the “nuclear football” that has been shadowing the president since the Kennedy administration.

We should never rush into nuclear war. Experience has shown us time is required to gather all the information needed to verify an attack is in progress. There is simply no need for the president to decide to retaliate based on sketchy or incomplete information in a matter of a few minutes. Launch on warning should be prohibited.

First use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited. Given U.S. conventional force superiority, there is little reason to use nuclear weapons.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles with nuclear warheads, positioned in silos to launch on warning are obsolete. If the U.S. were attacked with a large-scale nuclear missile launch, ICBMs in silos would be the among the first targets. They are part of the so-called nuclear triad which includes submarines and bombers ready to launch a nuclear attack or counter attack. If there were a nuclear attack on the U.S., submarines and bombers would comprise our primary retaliatory response. ICBMs are obsolete sitting ducks.

Strategic missile defense systems don’t work, despite billions of dollars spent developing them. Russia sees U.S. missile defense systems as a threat to their ability to retaliate in the event of a U.S. nuclear attack. U.S. missile defense systems, by their existence, block advancement of arms control negotiations between the world’s two owners of 90 percent of nuclear armaments.

The bigger picture is nuclear states should take seriously Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and work toward elimination of nuclear weapons. For those nuclear states which haven’t joined the treaty, they should. Countries should reduce and eliminate spending on weapons of mass destruction.

While I don’t agree with the Biden administration’s military spending priorities, I’m glad to receive the news they extended New START for five more years. Now build upon it.

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Living in Society

Fall Cleanup 2020

Big Grove Township, Nov. 8, 2020

While returning from a walk in the state park I picked up four yard signs a neighbor placed in their yard. Two of the candidates are poised to win and two are not.

While crossing the street, another neighbor called out but I couldn’t hear them. They walked over to discuss Saturday’s events in the general election. They had considered leaving the country if the president were reelected. Like many in our neighborhood, they keep their politics private. Sigh of relief the president was defeated. They are good neighbors.

After my walk I drove over to a damaged street sign and removed the signs from the pole. It is hard to get the screws loosened so I brought it home to repair in the garage if I can. Leaves are mulched with the mower so the minerals can return to the soil. The smell of neighbors burning leaves permeated the neighborhood. What fall work remains in the yard is optional. Today looks to be in the 70s so it is a chance to work outdoors.

Emails began arriving from groups with which I associate after the election. This one from the Climate Reality Project is typical.

We will mobilize support like never before for federal-level climate policy, and will bolster this with continued state and local-level work, which has been so instrumental in building this movement since 2016. We will persist in fighting for climate justice, by forging partnerships and adding capacity to campaigns that address systemic ways the climate crisis hurts historically marginalized communities. And we will continue to the grow the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, ensuring we have even more voices conveying our clear message. We have the solutions at-hand, and there is no more time to waste.

Ken Berlin, President and CEO, The Climate reality Project

To work on any of the received requests, I had to get organized. Here is what I came up for post-election priorities from an email to friends:

My first Iowa work will be determining a leverage point to advocate for mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus prevents us from organizing as we are accustomed. I plan to follow State Senator Rob Hogg’s lead on this. As you likely know, experts are saying we will be challenged by the virus into 2022. This is a high priority.

I’m working on nuclear arms control issues with the Arms Control Association, and on the climate crisis with the Climate Reality Project. I’m also working with the Sierra Club on the Pattison Sand proposal to pump water from the Jordan Aquifer and ship it to arid western states. However those things dovetail with your organization will be our points of opportunity to work together.

The Biden administration will quickly become besieged with its efforts to undo the four years of the current administration, therefore I view moving the ball forward on our issues as something our folks in DC should lead. My expected local contributions include writing an op-ed for the Cedar Rapids Gazette every 4-6 weeks (arms control and social topics), organizing a group in Solon to help me work on issues including politics and political advocacy, and set the stage for a Democratic comeback in the 2022 election. Tall orders all.

I don’t see Iowans devoting much bandwidth to the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons) until there is an opportunity for the administration to listen and take action on the treaty. I forget who’s having the Zoom meeting that includes Rose Gottemoeller but I plan to listen in. For the time being, the U.S. government and those of the other nuclear states are ignoring the treaty. If that changes in the next couple of years I’ll get more involved.

If we don’t get organized ourselves, we will be hindered in working with others. Onward we go!

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Sustainability

UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Ratified

The weekend has been a stream of emails from friends leading to ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

On Oct. 24, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), reported Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the treaty. This started a 90-day clock for the treaty to enter into force and become international law on Jan. 22, 2021.

Congratulations to everyone who worked to achieve this significant milestone.

What we have known all along is the nine nuclear states have scant interest in eliminating nuclear weapons, even if most of them give lip service to Article VI of the Non-proliferation Treaty which calls for it.

During the Obama administration activists fully understood the United States would not lead on abolition of nuclear weapons. ICAN, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and others took the cause to the international stage and yesterday set the world on a more definitive path by making nuclear weapons illegal. The hard work now begins.

There remains a growing danger of nuclear weapons proliferation. In an Oct. 24 statement, reacting to the 50th state ratification of the TPNW, IPPNW laid out the risks:

The treaty is especially needed in the face of the real and present danger of nuclear war climbing higher than ever. The hands of the Doomsday Clock stand further forward than they have ever been: 100 seconds to midnight. All nine nuclear-armed states are modernizing their arsenals with new, more accurate and “useable” weapons; their leaders making irresponsible explicit nuclear threats. The cold war is resurgent—hard won treaties reducing nuclear weapons numbers and types are being trashed, while nothing is being negotiated to replace them, let alone build on them. If the Trump administration allows the New START Treaty to expire, then from 5 February 2021, for the first time since 1972, there will be no treaty constraints on Russian and US nuclear weapons. Armed conflicts which could trigger nuclear escalation are increasing in a climate-stressed world. The rapidly evolving threat of cyberwarfare puts nuclear command and control in jeopardy from both nations and terrorist groups. Close to two thousand nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched within minutes of a leader’s fateful decision.

~ Tilman Ruff, Ira Helfand, Arun Mitra, and Daniel Bassey—Co-presidents of IPPNW

This milestone is a moment for celebration as the plan to eliminate nuclear weapons comes together as well as it has since the United Nations was established 75 years ago. Whatever uncertainties there are in our global civilization — the coronavirus pandemic, economic injustice, and armed conflict — today there is hope for a better world. That’s worth noting.

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Sustainability

75 Years After Hiroshima

Chia Fen Preserve, Aug. 3, 2020

President Harry Truman did not need to drop the atomic bomb to end World War II.

The first test explosion of an atomic bomb, called Trinity, was conducted by the U.S. Army July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project on what is now part of White Sands Missile Range.

The day after Trinity, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson flew to Potsdam, Germany where President Harry Truman was meeting with Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin to determine the fate of Germany which had surrendered unconditionally on May 8.

Truman wrote about this meeting with Stimson in his memoir:

“We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have, physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.”

A committee had been established to evaluate use of the atomic bomb once testing was successful. On June 1, 1945 the committee of government officials and scientists made their recommendation, which Truman recounts:

“It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning and against a target that would clearly show its devastating strength.”

Ultimately Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Aug. 6 the U.S. Air Force delivered it. On Aug. 9 the Air Force bombed Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered Aug. 10.

Historian Gar Alperovitz, in his book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, asked two well-known questions about Truman’s decision.

“To what degree did (the president) understand that a clarification of the officially stated demand for ‘unconditional surrender’ specifying that Japan could keep its Emperor would be likely to end the war?”

“To what degree did (the president) understand that the force of a Russian declaration of war might itself bring about an early end to the fighting?”

The book based on his research is 847 pages.

The idea that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved tens of thousands of allied forces lives by ending the war early is a myth perpetuated by those who would absolve our country from a decision to kill tens of thousands of Japanese children and as many or more other non-combatants. Historian Howard Zinn asked, “Would we have sacrificed as many U.S. children to end the war early?” Obviously we wouldn’t.

A friend, the late Samuel Becker, was in Guam in August 1945 preparing for the invasion of Japan. I recently asked him about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reaction in Guam was positive he said. U.S. military personnel were in favor of it because they felt it would bring a quick end to what could have been a prolonged, bloody conclusion to World War II. Before he died, Becker changed his mind. With time and reflection he found the notion that the atomic bombings saved many lives was a myth. The Japanese were already in a position to surrender.

Alperovitz said in a recent webinar that, to a person, contemporary military leaders went on the record to say there was no need to use the atomic bombs to end the war early. The war had already been won.

Truth matters and one truth is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary. Their effects would fuel the Cold War and the idea of mutually assured destruction should they be used. This is crazy talk. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the only way to do that, to pierce the wall of our federal government, is citizen action demanding it.

On the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima it’s past time we took action.

~ Written for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and published Aug. 9, 2020. Used with permission of the author.

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Living in Society Sustainability

Trinity 75 Years Later

Trinity Marker near Bingham, N.M.

Trinity was the code name for the first nuclear bomb detonation 75 years ago today.

The test explosion was conducted by the U.S. Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. It took place in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what is now part of White Sands Missile Range.

The day after Trinity, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson flew to Potsdam, Germany where President Harry Truman was meeting with Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin to determine the fate of Germany which had surrendered unconditionally on May 8.

Truman wrote about this meeting with Stimson in his memoir:

We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have, physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

A committee had been established to evaluate use of the atomic bomb once testing was successful. Before Trinity, on June 1, the committee of government officials and scientists made their recommendation, which Truman recounts in his memoir:

It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning and against a target that would clearly show its devastating strength.

Ultimately Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Aug. 6 the U.S. Air Force delivered it. Truman threatened to drop a second atomic bomb. On Aug. 9 the Air Force bombed Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered Aug. 10.

A friend and fellow Veteran for Peace, the late Samuel Becker, was in Guam in August 1945 preparing for the invasion of Japan. I recently asked him about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He said the reaction in Guam was positive, they were in favor of it because it brought a quick end to what could have been a prolonged, bloody conclusion to World War II. In the years before he died, Sam didn’t believe it was a good idea. With time and reflection, the notion that the atomic bombings saved many lives turned out to be a myth. The Japanese were already in a position to surrender. At a Zoom call on Monday, author of the book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb Gar Alperovitz said that to a person contemporary military leaders went on the record to say there was no need to use the atomic bombs on Japan. The war had already been won.

On July 1, 1968, states began to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which entered into force on March 5, 1970. Every state on the planet has joined the treaty with the exception of India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan. India, Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. The treaty has three interrelated parts: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Article VI states, “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.” 75 years after Trinity we missed the “early date” by a country mile.

Progress is measured in a meeting of the parties every five years. This year’s scheduled NPT review conference was postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Trump administration nuclear arms control is not even up for discussion, except to eliminate constraints on “American freedom.” The U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion on the nuclear complex in the coming years. That will drive Russia to do likewise. FOX News personality Chris Wallace recently wrote a popular book regurgitating false myths about the history of the atomic bomb. Alperovitz debunked some of Wallace’s claims on Monday.

Also on Monday Sueichi Kido spoke about his experience as a five-year-old during the bombing of Nagasaki. People like him are called hibakusha or survivors of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945. Over the years he and other hibakusha told their story many times. The hibakusha are aging and will soon all be gone. Along with them will go living memory of the effects of a nuclear weapon.

Truth matters and one truth is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary. Atomic bombs were never needed for defense. Their existence, as demonstrated at Trinity, would fuel the Cold War and the idea of mutually assured destruction should they be used. This is crazy talk. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the only way to do that, to pierce the wall of our federal government, is citizen action demanding it. On the 75th anniversary of Trinity it’s past time we took action.

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Sustainability

No First Use

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

On Jan. 30, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced companion bills in the 116th Congress to establish the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.

That’s the bill, 14 words, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

Sounds like a no-brainer for rational people. Nuclear weapons should never be used. Under what circumstances would our country ever consider using them first? No rational person could come up with a scenario to do so that would stand the light of public scrutiny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. He acknowledged the global catastrophe that would result from a nuclear war. “We can’t be those who initiated it,” Putin said.

H.R. 921 has 25 house co-sponsors, all Democrats. S-272 has six co-sponsors including five Democrats and one Independent. None of the six members of the Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress has signed on as a co-sponsor. That is unfortunate.

The reason Iowa’s lack of co-sponsors on this no first use policy is unfortunate includes:

Iowa’s agricultural industry would be particularly hard hit in the aftermath of a limited nuclear war elsewhere in the world. Smoke and debris thrown into the upper atmosphere would disrupt the growing season. Crop yields in Iowa and other Midwestern states, as well as in other parts of the world, would plummet according to a 2012 study, due to declines in precipitation, solar radiation, growing season length, and average monthly temperature. As many as two billion people would be at risk of food insecurity.

There is no adequate medical response to a limited nuclear war. “We know from the International Committee of the Red Cross’s first-hand experience in Hiroshima in 1945 that the use of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons would cause death, injury and destruction on a massive scale, that there would be no effective means of providing aid to the dying and wounded, and that those exposed to radiation would suffer life-long and fatal consequences to their health,” Kathleen Lawand, head of ICRC arms unit said.

Preparing for a limited nuclear war, one which should never be fought, is costly. The Trump administration is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including improved weapons, delivery systems and labs. They are even considering development of so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons which were phased out at the end of the Cold War. Those funds could be better used elsewhere or could even pay for tax cuts.

My ask is modest. The Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress should sign on as co-sponsors to the no first use bills. It is a rational first step in reducing global tensions surrounding the use of nuclear weapons. Those of us in the nuclear abolition community would ask for a lot more, but a no first use policy is something upon which people could agree without even considering more controversial aspects of a ban on nuclear weapons.

There is no cure for a nuclear war. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

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Sustainability

Will Lady Conductors Sing Karaoke for Kim Jong Un?

On June 14, 2018 PSR Board member Ira Helfand, MD met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon in Seoul, urging South Korea to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The main nuclear weapons threat on earth is increasing tension between the United States and Russia over Syria, Ukraine, Crimea and other issues. Not far behind is the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Either conflict, if escalated to nuclear war, could end life as we know it.

So what the hell was the Hanoi Summit between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un?

As a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army often described our duty performance when it did not meet his refined standards, it was a “goat screw.”

We don’t know what preparations the North Korean dictator made, in fact we know little about his country except what we might read in books like Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. He presumably prepared for the summit, and had a 60-hour train trip from Pyongyang, North Korea to Đồng Đăng, Vietnam, in case last minute changes and consultations were required. Kim traveled by rail for security considerations according to Associated Press.

Air Force One’s 20-hour trip to Hanoi, with two refueling stops, was also very long. We don’t know what preparations the U.S. President made either, but it was clear from the news coverage it wasn’t much. Here’s CBS News reporter Mark Knoller:

Couldn’t this have been discovered and vetted long before the actual, expensive in person meet up? Isn’t that why we have diplomats? Why elevate this meeting to a “summit” if we didn’t know the basis for an agreement beforehand?

While Air Force One was enroute home, North Koreans disputed this characterization of the summit. Why cut the meeting short before agreeing what happened and would be said to the press? Seems like basic diplomacy is missing from this administration.

What a bunch of knuckleheads. I’m not referring to the North Korean dictator and his staff. Why would the U.S. elevate this guy to this level of prominence on the world stage? Importantly, it was a staged distraction from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s dismantling of the U.S. – Russia arms control protocol. There is other stuff going on the the country to be distracted from as well. The tail is wagging the dog.

We don’t know but Kim must have been feeling good on the long trip home to Pyongyang after the president failed to find common ground for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We do know something about his green, bullet-proof train with yellow trim on the cars.

“Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying and traveled by train on several trips to China,” Eric Talmadge and Adam Schreck of AP wrote. “He is said to have fitted his train out to accommodate lavish parties and karaoke sessions.”

His father is also said to have kept four female singers on the train when he traveled, referring to them as “lady conductors.” Will lady conductors sing karaoke for Kim Jong Un on the trip home? Since the U.S. president won’t hold him to account, there may be something for a dictator to celebrate.

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Sustainability

Helsinki and New START

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

I don’t know one person, acquaintance or public figure who thought the July 16 meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki went well.

The only people who found a ray of hope in the awkward encounter are those in the arms control community who pointed out some positives, not the least of which is an easing of tensions between the two nuclear powers evidenced in the meeting.

“It looks like Trump and Putin may have agreed in Helsinki to resume strategic stability talks.” Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, posted on twitter. “One key issue: New START, which can be extended without complex negotiation, without further approval by Senate or Duma, and without Trump making unwise concessions.”

Such a move makes sense and would be an easy win for Trump. It may not be well received among Trump’s base supporters because, after all, the Obama administration negotiated New START. The 44th president called in his markers to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty. Some of us felt he gave away too much with a complex offering of perquisites to Republican hawks led by Jon Kyl. Not the least of these was an expensive, unneeded modernization of the U.S. nuclear complex. The Trump crowd won’t like it, regardless of the efficacy of an extension, because of the association with President Barack Obama.

Republicans have expressed disappointment with Trump’s foreign policy, such as it exists. They may (publicly or privately) attempt to reign in the president. At some point the U.S. wants to address perceived Russian violations of the INF treaty negotiated between Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, signed in 1987. Russia has threatened to withdraw from the INF treaty for many years, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

As we look forward with trepidation to the next meeting between the two heads of state, the arms control community will be working to advance the causes of nuclear disarmament and abolition. It is something they do regardless which party has majorities in the Congress or who is president.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa