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Category: Nuclear Weapons

New START vs. the Tea Party: What's the Greatest Threat?

Written by Don Kraus for the Huffington Post

What's more dangerous: the thousands of nukes that will still target U.S. and Russian cities if the New START treaty is not ratified OR the opportunistic, Tea Party pandering politicians who would derail this commonsense agreement?

If you answered "the nukes", you're wrong.

New START will reduce the global inventory of strategic nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert to levels not seen since I was born in 1954. But these weapons are not nearly as dangerous as the obstructive "Cold War" messaging that treaty opponents are deploying to upset New START's ratification.

Seven former commanders of the Strategic Air Command and the U.S. Strategic Command who recently endorsed the pact said, "There is little concern today about the probability of a Russian nuclear attack." The terrorist bomb that takes out Washington or New York will most likely come in a shipping container rather than an ICBM.

The utility of New START is that it makes the world more predictable. It replaces the START treaty originally negotiated by President Reagan that expired last December. Like its predecessor, New START not only reduces the number of warheads, it assures that both nations "trust but verify" each other's compliance with the terms of the treaty. Ratification will send a strong message that the U.S. is seriously pursuing its nuclear disarmament obligations, giving it more credibility to demand that nations like Iran and North Korea not build nuclear weapons.

Misconceptions About Missile Defense: The Truth About the New START Treaty

As the hearings on the New START Treaty continue in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, support for the treaty has come from many sources, including the United States military. Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Command Chief and the man responsible for the country's nuclear forces, presented both financial and tactical reasons for ratification. Without the treaty, U.S. insight into Russian nuclear capabilities would be severely limited. Guesstimates would replace concrete Intel, leading to one of two possibilities:

  • Under development: "It will be a security issue." By underestimating Russia's capabilities, the U.S. fails to develop necessary systems.   
  • Over development: "It would be a cost issue." By overestimating, the U.S. could end up pouring money into the development of capabilities that it does not require.

Considering the budgetary quagmire the U.S. is currently faces, we can ill afford an unnecessary and unwarranted spending spree.

Does this treaty endanger America's National Security?

But with a vocal minority up in arms over perceived limitations to missile defense, suspicion abounds that the New START treaty will critically hinder U.S. defenses. Are these concerns warranted? The answer is a resounding no, and it has been reiterated by steady stream of military officials and foreign policy experts from both political parties. During his testimony before the SFRC, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates emphatically noted, "The treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible nor impose additional costs or barriers on those defenses."

How Romney Got It Wrong: The Truth About the New START Treaty

Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and failed presidential contender, now sets his sights on the 2012 election. He has decided the best way to secure the nomination is to ramp up the crazy.

Romney took to the Washington Post to decry the New START treaty currently making its way through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rather then add substantively to the debate, the former governor trotted out the same tired arguments that treaty opponents have been bleating since Senators Kerry and Lugar began hearings over two months ago. From Senator Inhofe and DeMint to the Heritage Foundation, Republicans focused on what they view as a glaring flaw in the treaty, missile defense. They claim the treaty will severely limit the development of a U.S. missile shield, and will signal to hostile powers that America lacks the will to defend itself. There's one problem with these claims: they are flat out wrong.

Romney's argument follows the rich tradition driving the Republican Party right now. The tea-partiers and other fringe groups require a certain level of cocksure militarism. Just look at McCain in 2008, with his impromptu hit song "Bomb Iran" set to the tune of the Beach Boy's "Barbara Ann." It evoked a jingoistic swagger that the Republican base ate up, akin to G.W. strutting on an aircraft carrier in his flight suit and codpiece. After all, what could be the harm in starting a third war with a far better equipped country while still hemorrhaging resources in America's two current wars?

Tell Me About the New START Treaty!

What is the New START treaty?

The New START treaty is a treaty that will, if ratified, "replace" the START treaty that was signed in 1991 and expired in 2009. Secretary Clinton stated today that the three goals of the START treaty are to promote stability, transparency and predictability between the U.S. and Russia on the topic of nuclear arms control.

Will the New START treaty cut the total number of nuclear weapons held by both the United States and Russia?

Yes. START will reduce the total number of nuclear weapons held both the United States and Russia. Essentially, START will place limits on the number of nuclear warheads and deployed nuclear delivery vehicles for both the United States and Russia. Each country will be permitted to have a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads and a maximum of 700 deployed nuclear delivery vehicles.

Will the New START treaty adversely affect our missile defense or compromise United States national security?

No. There is nothing in the treaty that will limit the United States ability to continue to cultivate the U.S. missile defense program. Additionally, the New START treaty will not compromise the United States ability to protect itself and does include a provision for a strong verification regime.

Will the New START treaty have any effect on Iran and North Korea?

An NPT Review Conference Update: Iran stirs up trouble, U.S. announces size of stockpile, and Indonesia ratifies the CTBT!

The Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference has just wrapped up its 3rd day in what has been a highly charged arena: the place of a showdown between the U.S. and Iran and historic announcements from the U.S. and Indonesia.

On the first day, President Ahmadinejad's deriding speech was met with sharp criticism from Secretary Clinton and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Iranian cooperation with the IAEA.  Ahmadinejad insists that nuclear developments have peaceful intentions, but there is good reason to suspect that this is not the case. Thus far, Iran has made more enemies than friends. This might even be an opportunity for President Obama to garner support for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran and strengthen the role of the IAEA in monitoring Iran's development of nuclear capabilities. Plus, with Iran in the spotlight, the divide between the nuclear haves and have-nots seems less stark.

Secretary Clinton spoke after Ahmadinejad, making the long-awaited announcement that the U.S. arsenal contains 5, 113 deployed warheads (as of September 2009). The U.S. has never before released this number. It is down from 31, 255 in 1967, when the U.S. nuclear arsenal was at its height. Still, some NGOs estimate that there are 4,600 in reserve.

Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Begins Monday - There is still time to sign the petition!

Monday May 3 will mark the beginning of the 8th Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, and 189 governments party to the treaty and hundreds of NGOs will flock to New York to discuss our world's greatest security concern - nuclear weapons. The stakes are high, with issues such as demands of disarmament and Iranian development of nuclear weapons topping the agenda. The last review conference, held five years ago, was such an abysmal failure that the pressure is strong on all parties to reach agreement on the many controversial issues.

Yesterday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the urgency of the Review Conference and some of the top considerations for the agenda. While stressing the importance of holding realistic expectations, Ban Ki-moon asserted that the opportunities presented by Review Conference must not fall by the wayside, especially on the topics of disarmament, non-proliferation, a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In particular, Ban Ki-moon focused on the need for a serious and thorough consideration of disarmament. "The Earth's very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament," he said. "And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation."

If the Review Conference does not address the issue of disarmament, it is sacrificing an opportunity to start taking the necessary steps to make the world safer. The very real possibility of nuclear terrorism - highlighted in President Obama's recent Security Summit- reinforces the widespread relevance of the issue and underscores the necessity of international cooperation. "Nuclear terrorism is not a Hollywood fantasy," wrote Ban Ki-Moon. "It can happen."

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference: Sign a Petition Calling on President Obama to Take Action

"I state with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." ~President Obama, Prague Nuclear Security Speech, April 2009

The existence of nuclear weapons remains the greatest threat to life on earth.  Sign the petition and call on President Obama to make good on the commitment he declared in Prague one year ago.  Call on President Obama to initiate talks on an international agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. Call on President Obama to work with international leaders to abolish nuclear weapons – within our lifetimes.

You can be a part of the over 5 million signatures that will be delivered to the White House and the United Nations in early May to coincide with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.  Click here to Sign the Petition Now.

In 1970, the NPT was created to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. But it is unequipped to deal with 21st century challenges, and the NPT alone cannot bring about a world free of nuclear weapons. The 8th Review Conference of the NPT (May 3-28, 2010) provides a key forum to initiate good faith talks on disarmament, and it is an opportunity for President Obama to publicly restate his commitment to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons must be eliminated to ensure a safer future for generations to come. Unite with more than five million voices and urge President Obama to begin multilateral talks on an international agreement to abolish nuclear weapons.

More on the 2010 NPT Review Conference:

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Historic New START

President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) alongside Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague early Thursday morning, which proposes modest cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The 30% reductions required by the treaty will bring the number of nuclear weapons available to levels not seen since the 1960's. The signing ended more than a year of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Obama noted that New START has been an opportunity to "reset" relations between the two countries. This constitutes a diplomatic victory for President Obama, who hopes that the Senate will be receptive to the treaty. Still, some advocates insist that the cuts were not deep enough, and hope that priority will be given to securing further agreements on arsenal cutbacks with the Russians.

The treaty and accompanying protocols will be forwarded on to the State Department, where it will undergo an article-by-article analysis. Then it will be sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for hearings. There have been relatively few criticisms of the treaty's provisions, and it received bi-partisan support throughout the negotiation process. Still, the treaty is likely to face some trouble once it reaches Senate, where 67 votes are required for the Senate to pass its "advice and consent" on to the President for ratification. Republican roadblocks may lie ahead on the path to ratification, especially when it comes to the U.S. plans for missile defense and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear Posture Review sticks to the middle ground

Today the Obama administration released the much-anticipated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), coinciding with the anniversary of President Obama's progressive Prague speech last April. Splitting with Bush-era nuclear doctrine, the NPR renounces the development of new nuclear weapons and states that the "fundamental purpose" of nuclear weapons is deterring other states from deploying them. The NPR is the beginning of a six week focus on nuclear issues, as President Obama signs New START on Thursday, hosts a Nuclear Security Summit in April, and the UN holds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.

Yet the NPR might be more of a status quo document than an expression of President Obama's Prague vision, as some advocates had hoped. Despite the its modest advances, there were early expectations that the language in the NPR would be bolder and suggest more concrete numbers for nuclear weapons reductions. The NPR's largely middle ground stance indicates some political signaling to Congress. The Obama administration's nuclear priority in Congress at the moment is to ratify the New START, which will require 67 votes in the Senate, including the votes of key Senate Republicans. More drastic changes to the NPR might have fueled conservative opposition to New START.

U.S. & Russia reach agreement for New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)

After more than eight months of talks between the U.S. and Russia, negotiators have reached agreement on the terms of the New START treaty, reported the Kremlin on Wednesday. The most comprehensive arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia in almost two decades, the treaty calls for reductions of more than one-quarter in the number of deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles in both countries.

New START replaces START I, the 1991 bilateral pact governing arms reduction that expired in December 2009. A new treaty was originally anticipated prior to the December expiration of START I, but disagreement over thorny issues such as the American missile defense system in Europe and the verification process for nuclear arsenals prevented the two parties from finding consensus. Officials from both countries have not disclosed detailed contents of the treaty nor have they discussed how these particular issues were ultimately resolved.

The date of the treaty's signing has yet to be determined, though early April seems likely. Prague is the tentative location for the signing in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary of President Obama's famed Prague speech on nuclear non-proliferation. If the signing ceremony takes place in early April, it will precede the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13.

However, some challenges to ratification are anticpated in the Senate, where 67 votes are needed to pass a resolution of ratification and provide "advice and consent" to the President. Some Republicans have stated that they do not intend to agree to a treaty that would restrict the planned missile defense shield for Europe. President Obama has already initiated discussions regarding ratification with Senate Committe on Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the committee's ranking minority member Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).