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Archive for the ‘Nuclear Guardianship’ Category

Nuclear War: Donald Trump Is A Threat To The World, Noam Chomsky Says

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 8, 2016 at 11:24 pm

BY GREG PRICE @GP_IBTIMES ON 12/07/16 AT 9:02 AM

Prominent scientist and philosopher Noam Chomsky said Tuesday the world faces great difficulties and possible threats from both nuclear war and climate change under President-elect Donald Trump. Chomsky, 87, stressed young people could reignite the middle class and labor movement while praising former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders.

“The threats and dangers are very real. There are plenty of opportunities. And as we face them, again, particularly the younger people among you, we should never overlook the fact that the threats that we now face are the most severe that have ever arisen in human history,” Chomsky told a crowd at Riverside Church in New York City. “They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe. These are very urgent concerns. They cannot be delayed. They became more urgent on Nov. 8th, for the reasons you know… They have to be faced directly, and soon, if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and author also touched on issues like labor and foreign policy and how the country has been walled off by South American and Asian nations at Democracy Now!’s 20th-anniversary event in New York. Chomsky said the U.S. has been isolating itself for years. He said President Barack Obama’s economic “pivot” toward Asia, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and China’s glaring absence from it, has led to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and other trade agreements excluding the U.S. while its allies sign up. By extension, Chomsky said Trump’s threat of “tearing up” a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran could only further isolate the U.S.
“Another step toward isolation may soon take place if the president-elect carries through his promise to terminate the nuclear weapons—the nuclear deal with Iran,” he said. “Other countries who are parties to the deal might well continue. They might even—Europe, mainly. That means ignoring U.S. sanctions. That will extend U.S. isolation, even from Europe. And in fact Europe might move, under these circumstances, toward backing off from the confrontation with Russia.”

Chomsky said Sanders’ campaign offered hopes for younger people, the middle class and laborers, who he said have “suffered” due to neo-liberal policies started in 1979, according to The Independent.

“Suppose people like you, the Sanders movement, offered an authentic, constructive program for real hope and change, it would win these people back,” Chomsky said. “I think many of the Trump voters could have voted for Sanders if there had been the right kind of activism and organization. and those are possibilities. It’s been done in the past under much harsher circumstances.”

Nuclear Danger Is Not Gone

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on December 6, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Dr. Bert Crain M.D., Guest Columnist, Citizen-Tines 9:12 a.m. EST December 5, 2016

The issue of nuclear weapons is a terrible problem shared by all humanity. The dangers we are facing do not loom large in the public consciousness as they did right after World War II when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists voiced their first warnings that we should not elect to live in the dread of sudden annihilation and the publication The Nation felt strongly that it was now “one world or none”. We stumbled through the Cold War facing off the Soviet Union with a policy of mutually assured destruction. MAD worked but we were lucky. There were many close calls, the Cuban Missile Crisis being perhaps the best remembered.

Nearly 10 years ago four senior statesmen including two former secretaries of state offered a commentary in The Wall Street Journal that documented the tremendous danger, but also historic opportunity, that then existed. They emphasized the increasing hazard, the steps that should be taken, and the importance of U.S. leadership in a bold initiative consistent with our moral heritage. They emphasized that there was urgent need to amplify the gains that had been made in the Reagan-Gorbachev summits and subsequent détente of 1987. Barack Obama reinforced those leaders’ vision, calling for nuclear abolition in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

The danger now is greater than it was during the Cold War. Since the Russian Federation annexed the Crimea, invaded the Ukraine and began fighting for Bashar El Assad in Syria, the rhetoric has escalated with nuclear weapons once again being celebrated as symbols of national power. Some statesmen believe that Putin’s posture is more bravado from a fearful Russia encircled by NATO and trying to keep Ukraine in their domain.

In any case since the greatest threat we face is the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the U.S., the talk can be unnerving. In addition, all of the nuclear armed states are planning costly upgrades in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. We are threatening to start a new arms race. Many, including the late cosmologist Carl Sagan, an eloquent advocate for science and humanity, considered nuclear proliferation as collective madness.

Those who are anchored to nuclear weapons argue that nuclear deterrence has prevented a major power conflict since 1945. The price has been millions of people held hostage to the threat of extinction. It is now critical to also realize that unlike the ideological conflict of the Cold War, when everyone wanted to live, religious extremists intent on mass murder of nonbelievers and a glorious martyrdom will not be deterred by mutually assured destruction. This chilling fact alone should push the nuclear armed states toward cooperating in verifiable reductions and securing fissile material.

Many of us have been working for decades to enable public opinion through enlightened self- interest to push governments to not do insane things, but the political-military-industrial complex is a hungry beast. The newest and most potent abolitionist movement is The Humanitarian Initiative proposed by a majority of the non-nuclear states. On Oct. 27, 123 nations at the UN General Assembly, voted in favor of adopting a resolution that sets up negotiations in 2017 to establish a legally binding instrument that abolishes nuclear weapons. Physicians for Social Responsibility urges our nation’s citizens to embrace sanity, to pressure our elected officials to support this international effort and to demand a stop to a new nuclear arms race.

Bert Crain, M.D. is a member of Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility. For more see http://www.psr.org and http://www.wncpsr.org

Trump Should Halt US Missile-Defense Plans in Europe

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 29, 2016 at 11:43 pm

The new president seems determined to woo Russia. Here’s one way he can serve American and NATO security goals as well.

The one constant in Donald Trump’s foreign-policy views has been his desire to improve relations with Moscow. “There’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now,” he said in July, a theme he has since reprised in various ways.

It is no secret that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump in the election. But a Putin-Trump bromance and shared business interests can only take this so far. To transform relations, Trump will have to address Russia’s deep concerns about U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Missile defenses are weapons whose purpose is to destroy enemy missiles before they reach their target. Some of the systems designed to shoot down short-range weapons, such as Scuds, work well in tests. But despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on various long-range interceptor concepts over the past 30 years, the U.S. has little to show for the effort. The existing systems are widely considered ineffective. However, future technological development might theoretically make missile interceptors more reliable. For Russia’s leaders, this is a scary prospect. They fear effective defenses could undermine their country’s nuclear deterrent, making it vulnerable to a U.S. first strike.

Russia is particularly irked by the U.S.-NATO missile defense project in Europe. Moscow has long called for legal guarantees that the system not be directed against Russia, to no avail. Its frustration has grown in recent years. As Putin said in May, “Nobody listens to us…we do not hear anything but platitudes, and those platitudes mainly boil down to the fact that this is not directed against Russia…Let me remind you that initially there was talk about thwarting a threat from Iran…Where is the Iranian nuclear program now?”

He has a point. The original rationale for NATO’s anti-missile system was defense against long-range, nuclear-armed missiles Iran might develop. As President Obama said in 2009, “If the threat from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated.” And indeed, thanks to the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran is currently unable to produce material for a nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, previous missile threat estimates have also been proven wrong: Iran’s missiles remain limited to medium-range, and there is no indication of its intention to extend their reach.

However, like Wile E. Coyote running past the end of the cliff into thin air, NATO’s missile defense project keeps going even as its grounds disappear: in May, construction of a new missile defense site began in Poland, with the purpose of extending the capacity against the nonexistent threat of intermediate-range missiles.

Although Iran could break out from the nuclear deal, it would take at least two years for it to produce one nuclear warhead, and even longer to develop long-range missiles. This would leave ample time for NATO to respond later, as the current phase in Poland is scheduled to take only two years.

NATO officials now justify the project in terms of the generic threat of missile proliferation, referring to 30 countries possessing or seeking missiles that could carry WMD. They fail to mention that the only country with intermediate-range missiles capable of reaching Europe is Israel. In short, there is no security rationale behind NATO’s current missile defense policy.

Most Europeans do not care, because it has always been the Russian bear rather than the Iran scare that drives their anti-missile enthusiasm. Countries like Poland want to host missile defense components because a U.S. military presence eases their anxieties about Russia. Unfortunately, missile defenses provide a false sense of security, as they invite more tensions with Russia – which recently placed Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to target the Polish site.

Europeans also tend to dismiss Russian concerns. Americans, who placed Soviet missile defenses on their Cold War nuclear target lists, should know better. However, particularly after the George W. Bush administration withdrew the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, the White House has downplayed this problem, viewing missile defenses as inherently benign.

Trump has a unique opportunity to start correcting past mistakes by halting the construction of the unnecessary Polish missile interceptor site. Showing long-overdue restraint on this key strategic issue would improve European security and save hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, both of which might appeal to a president-elect who believes U.S. allies are freeloaders. And there are less costly ways to reassure the Poles, such as stationing U.S. troops in Poland as a tripwire.

This could also pave the way for dramatic nuclear reductions. As Steven Pifer from the Brookings Institution recently noted, “A future U.S. administration interested in a treaty providing for further cuts in strategic nuclear forces may find that it can go no further if it is not prepared to negotiate a treaty on missile defense.” Trump might want to check in with Henry Kissinger on the interrelationship between strategic arms limitation and the ABM Treaty in the 1970s.

There are too many unknowns to predict what Trump will do in office. However, if the president-elect is serious about changing U.S. relations with Russia – and if he comes to understand the value of the Iran nuclear accord – he might be able to conclude a deal that eluded Obama and improve NATO security.

Joe Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late. FULL BIO
Tytti Erästö is a Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund with a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Tampere in Finland.

Will Donald Trump Destroy the Iran Deal?

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 29, 2016 at 1:33 am

By Ellie Geranmmayeh. New York Times, November 25, 2016

LONDON — There are not many issues on which Europe, Russia and China all agree, but there is one: ensuring that President-elect Donald J. Trump does not undermine the Iran nuclear deal.

There are legitimate grounds for concern that the incoming administration or Congress will sabotage the deal, which Mr. Trump has referred to as a “disaster” and vowed to “dismantle.” The president-elect has also surrounded himself with people like Rudolph W. Giuliani and John R. Bolton, both mentioned as potential secretary of state picks, who have said they want an immediate end to the deal and called for regime change in Iran. Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the C.I.A., Mike Pompeo, recently wrote on Twitter, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

As Mr. Trump decides in what direction he will take his Iran policy, countries that have until now partnered with the United States on Iran must draw a line. They should firmly tell the president-elect that as long as Iran continues to meet its obligations under the deal, they will do so as well. They should also make clear that if either Congress or the American president unravels the deal, other world powers will go their own way with Iran.

It is no surprise that most countries overwhelmingly support the nuclear deal and that President Obama pledged to veto Republican attempts to undo the monumental diplomatic achievement. Iran has dismantled and limited key aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Not only has it advanced the West’s nonproliferation agenda, it has also prevented the United States from resorting to military responses.

There is a good chance that after intelligence briefings show him how United States security interests have benefited from it, Mr. Trump will come to realize the importance of keeping the nuclear deal intact. He may even be persuaded by corporate lobbying and commercial interests to preserve it, given the potential for American companies to gain access to Iran’s markets.

This would earn the support of American businesses as well as European allies, Russia and China. It would also strengthen the international credibility of the United States and its new president and open greater diplomatic space for his administration to carry out his stated goal of cooperating with Russia to counter the Islamic State.

But Mr. Trump may also be persuaded by the hawks he has surrounded himself with. He can swiftly deliver a death blow to the deal by withholding, neglecting or seeking to renegotiate American commitments on easing sanctions. This could result in the reintroduction of secondary American sanctions against international companies doing business with Iran.

The United States, like other signatories to the nuclear agreement, can also undo it by claiming that Iran has breached its terms. In this case, United Nations Security Council sanctions would “snap back.” But in reality, the rest of the world is unlikely to enforce these sanctions as they did before the deal if they believe that the United States is violating the spirit of the agreement.

Alternatively, Mr. Trump may avoid overt responsibility and allow the deal to die by signing legislation that imposes fresh sanctions on Iran or introduces oversight measures on Iran’s nuclear program beyond the terms of the deal.
In all these scenarios, the United States will be seen as undermining the deal and provoking Iran to walk away from its obligations. The sympathy of the rest of the world in this case will be with the Iranians.

It will be Mr. Trump, as president, who will have to deal with these repercussions. Because the international coalition that previously supported sanctions on Iran will not be put back together, America’s economic leverage on Iran will be much weaker, increasing the likelihood that Iran will ramp up its nuclear program, and in turn, increasing the risk of American military action.

On Nov. 14, 28 European leaders unanimously reiterated their “resolute commitment” to the deal regardless of the outcome of the American election. Heads of state from the other five countries that negotiated the agreement with Iran would undoubtedly feel personally betrayed by the American president’s withdrawal. This is likely to put the United States in a confrontation with Russia, China and Europe not just on Iran but on other issues where Mr. Trump will need their cooperation, like the Syrian war.

If the United States president or Congress is viewed as sabotaging the deal, the European Union, together with Russia and China, must attempt to salvage its key nuclear restrictions by offering meaningful sanctions relief to Iran. This will need to include the continued lifting of European banking sanctions and the oil embargo that was once imposed because of Iran’s nuclear program. It will also require bold, but not unprecedented actions to protect European companies against the enforcement of American sanctions by the Treasury Department aimed at prohibiting business with Iran.

There are steps that can be taken now to avoid the need to resort to such measures. International leaders should immediately convey to the incoming administration the importance of preserving the deal.

There is also a window before Mr. Trump’s inauguration during which world powers can cement the gains made under the agreement by resolving banking and regulatory hurdles now faced by companies seeking to execute major deals already made with Iran.

European countries, in particular, should work with Iran and the Obama administration to develop channels of communication between Tehran and Washington that will outlive President Obama’s tenure, and to send firm signals of their continued political commitment to the deal. Business leaders, too, must make clear that the nuclear deal serves both American and global security interests.

Mr. Trump’s immediate position on the Iran deal will be one of the first critical tests for his presidency. It will also test the legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council. The American public, like international leaders, should make clear to the president-elect that they do not want to become entangled in yet another military crisis in the Middle East, especially one that the world has already worked so hard to avoid.

Ellie Geranmayeh is a policy fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

 

 

Seeking Nuclear Disarmament in Dangerous Times

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 27, 2016 at 4:38 am

http://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/nuclear-abolition/801-seeking-nuclear-disarmament-in-dangerous-times#.WDRIDF81xYs.mailto
By Alice Slater, 22 November 2016, InDepthNews.

Alice Slater is the UN NGO Representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

NEW YORK (IDN) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has championed efforts for nations to make good on their pledges to abolish nuclear weapons. In 2009 he published a five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, urging nuclear weapons states in particular to fulfill their promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as other complementary steps to that end such as banning missiles and space weapons.

At the end of his term this year, there have been some stunning new developments after years of global gridlock and blocked efforts. At the UN General Assembly First Committee for Disarmament, 123 nations voted this October to support negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and ban nuclear weapons, just as the world has already done for biological and chemical weapons.

The most remarkable upset in the vote was a breach in what had always been a solid single-minded phalanx of 5 nuclear weapons states recognized in the NPT, signed 46 years ago in 1970 – the US, Russia, UK, France, and China. For the first time, China broke ranks by voting with a group of 16 nations to abstain, along with India and Pakistan, non-NPT nuclear weapons states. And to the great surprise of all, North Korea actually voted YES in support of negotiations going forward to outlaw nuclear weapons.

The ninth nuclear weapons state, Israel, voted against the resolution with 38 other countries including those in nuclear alliances with the United States such as the NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and, most surprisingly, Japan, the only country ever attacked with nuclear bombs. Only the Netherlands broke ranks with NATO’s unified opposition to ban treaty talks, as the sole NATO member to abstain on the vote, after grassroots pressure on its Parliament.

All nine nuclear-weapon states had boycotted a special UN Open Ended Working Group for Nuclear Disarmament last summer, which followed three conferences in Norway, Mexico, and Austria with civil-society and governments to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, thus opening a new pathway for how we think and speak about the bomb.

This new “humanitarian initiative” has shifted the conversation from the military’s traditional examination and explanations of deterrence, policy, and strategic security to an understanding of the overwhelming deaths and devastation people would suffer from the use of nuclear weapons.

Today there are still almost 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, with nearly 15,000 of them in the United States and Russia, now in an increasingly hostile relationship, with NATO troops patrolling on Russia’s borders, and the Russian Emergencies Ministry actually launching a sweeping nationwide civil-defense drill involving 40 million people. The US, under President Obama, has proposed a $1 trillion program for new nuclear-bomb factories, warheads, and delivery systems, and Russia and other nuclear-weapon states are engaged in modernizing their nuclear arsenals as well.

Perhaps one additional way to break the log jam for nuclear disarmament and find a silver lining in the crumbling neo-liberal agenda for globalization evidenced by the Brexit event and the shocking and unanticipated election of Donald Trump in the US, is to encourage Trump’s repeated statements that the US should make “a deal” with Putin and join with Russia to fight terrorists.

Trump has criticized the NATO alliance, the expansion of which has been very provocative to Russia and was the reason Russia gave, together with the US walking out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and installing a new missile base in Romania, for putting a halt to further US-Russian agreements for nuclear disarmament.

Trump, who promotes himself as a “deal maker” has also suggested that he would have no difficulty in sitting down and talking with North Korea. These efforts should be encouraged, as North Korea has actually shown it is willing to enter into negotiations to ban the bomb, which is more than the other eight nuclear weapons states have been willing to support.

Furthermore, North Korea has been seeking an official end to the Korean War of 1953, during which time the US continues to station about 28,000 troops on its borders while trying to starve North Korea out with drastic sanctions all these many years.

Perhaps Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can leave his office with an important victory at the end of his term by seizing this opportunity and encouraging the “deal maker” in Trump to move forward with a US-Russia rapprochement, clearing a pathway for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as putting an end to the hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

Work on a solution to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons

In Cost, Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

By William D. Hartung, Commentary, Monday, November 21, 2016

This year’s presidential election raised an issue that we don’t talk about much these days: the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The issue has come up in a number of contexts.
There was a debate about Donald Trump’s fitness to be in charge of the nuclear arsenal at all. Hillary Clinton was said to have serious questions about the Pentagon’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles and submarines, at an eye-popping price tag of $1 trillion over the next three decades.
Trump has made a wide range of assertions on the nuclear issue, from claiming that he would nuke ISIS to arguing that he either would or wouldn’t be the first to use these devastating weapons in a crisis.
More Information

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Hopefully this focus on the issue will spark a national conversation about whether we need nuclear weapons at all.
Why has the nuclear issue faded from public consciousness in recent years?
Denial is no doubt one part of the problem. Why think about the existence of weapons that can end life as we know it, especially if many people feel there is nothing we can do about the problem?
There are additional factors that play into the lack of focus on the nuclear issue. Other urgent issues vie for our attention, from climate change to income inequality to police violence. And many people have more than enough on their plate just dealing with the problems of everyday life, from putting food on the table to trying to improve local schools.
While all of these reasons make a certain kind of sense, they don’t justify putting the nuclear issue on the back burner. Nuclear weapons are costly, dangerous and unnecessary. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has warned that we are on the verge of a new global nuclear arms race, and is particularly concerned with the destabilizing potential posed by the Pentagon’s plans to build a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.
The new documentary “Command and Control” discusses how frighteningly close we have come to an accidental detonation of a nuclear warhead on a number of occasions. This threat remains, albeit with a lower probability than was the case at the height of the Cold War.
The risk of a regional nuclear war may have actually increased since the end of the Cold War, with ongoing disputes between rivals like India and Pakistan increasing the prospect of a nuclear exchange.
A recent study by Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan could put up to 1 billion people at risk from the initial blast itself, the impacts of radiation and the likelihood that such a conflict would provoke widespread famine.
All of these reasons combined make a compelling case for directing our attention toward the consequences of the possession of large numbers of nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama has made important progress in his two terms in office. He negotiated a treaty with Russia that will reduce each side’s deployed nuclear weapons by one-third; helped seal a historic deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a welcome alternative to calls in some quarters to go to war over the issue; and brought international attention to the need to secure nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. But far more needs to be done.
A good start would be to reduce our own bloated nuclear arsenal. A study co-authored by an analyst at the Air War College has determined that 311 nuclear warheads would be enough to deter any nation from attacking the United States with weapons of mass destruction. We currently have nearly 5,000. Cuts by the United States could provide leverage to press other nuclear powers to follow suit.
Citizens seeking to take action on the nuclear issue need not reinvent the wheel. National organizations like Women’s Action for New Directions, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Peace Action, which has a chapter in the Upper Hudson Valley, have long worked to reduce the nuclear danger.
It’s time that we start listening to and supporting them.

Seeking Nuclear Disarmament in Dangerous Times

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 23, 2016 at 12:10 am

By Alice Slater

Alice Slater is the UN NGO Representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

NEW YORK (IDN) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has championed efforts for nations to make good on their pledges to abolish nuclear weapons. In 2009 he published a five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, urging nuclear weapons states in particular to fulfill their promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as other complementary steps to that end such as banning missiles and space weapons.

At the end of his term this year, there have been some stunning new developments after years of global gridlock and blocked efforts. At the UN General Assembly First Committee for Disarmament, 123 nations voted this October to support negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and ban nuclear weapons, just as the world has already done for biological and chemical weapons.

The most remarkable upset in the vote was a breach in what had always been a solid single-minded phalanx of 5 nuclear weapons states recognized in the NPT, signed 46 years ago in 1970 – the US, Russia, UK, France, and China. For the first time, China broke ranks by voting with a group of 16 nations to abstain, along with India and Pakistan, non-NPT nuclear weapons states. And to the great surprise of all, North Korea actually voted YES in support of negotiations going forward to outlaw nuclear weapons.

The ninth nuclear weapons state, Israel, voted against the resolution with 38 other countries including those in nuclear alliances with the United States such as the NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and, most surprisingly, Japan, the only country ever attacked with nuclear bombs. Only the Netherlands broke ranks with NATO’s unified opposition to ban treaty talks, as the sole NATO member to abstain on the vote, after grassroots pressure on its Parliament.

All nine nuclear-weapon states had boycotted a special UN Open Ended Working Group for Nuclear Disarmament last summer, which followed three conferences in Norway, Mexico, and Austria with civil-society and governments to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, thus opening a new pathway for how we think and speak about the bomb.

This new “humanitarian initiative” has shifted the conversation from the military’s traditional examination and explanations of deterrence, policy, and strategic security to an understanding of the overwhelming deaths and devastation people would suffer from the use of nuclear weapons.

Today there are still almost 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, with nearly 15,000 of them in the United States and Russia, now in an increasingly hostile relationship, with NATO troops patrolling on Russia’s borders, and the Russian Emergencies Ministry actually launching a sweeping nationwide civil-defense drill involving 40 million people. The US, under President Obama, has proposed a $1 trillion program for new nuclear-bomb factories, warheads, and delivery systems, and Russia and other nuclear-weapon states are engaged in modernizing their nuclear arsenals as well.

Perhaps one additional way to break the log jam for nuclear disarmament and find a silver lining in the crumbling neo-liberal agenda for globalization evidenced by the Brexit event and the shocking and unanticipated election of Donald Trump in the US, is to encourage Trump’s repeated statements that the US should make “a deal” with Putin and join with Russia to fight terrorists.

Trump has criticized the NATO alliance, the expansion of which has been very provocative to Russia and was the reason Russia gave, together with the US walking out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and installing a new missile base in Romania, for putting a halt to further US-Russian agreements for nuclear disarmament.

Trump, who promotes himself as a “deal maker” has also suggested that he would have no difficulty in sitting down and talking with North Korea. These efforts should be encouraged, as North Korea has actually shown it is willing to enter into negotiations to ban the bomb, which is more than the other eight nuclear weapons states have been willing to support.

Furthermore, North Korea has been seeking an official end to the Korean War of 1953, during which time the US continues to station about 28,000 troops on its borders while trying to starve North Korea out with drastic sanctions all these many years.

Perhaps Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can leave his office with an important victory at the end of his term by seizing this opportunity and encouraging the “deal maker” in Trump to move forward with a US-Russia rapprochement, clearing a pathway for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as putting an end to the hostilities on the Korean peninsula. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 November 2016]

World leaders anxious for Trump’s nuclear policy

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Uncategorized, War on November 21, 2016 at 11:01 pm

By Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, 11/20/16

Questions are swirling about whether President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on suggestions during the campaign that he might allow other countries to develop nuclear weapons.

His comments on the nuclear issue have created unease among world leaders, many of whom fear a new global arms race could be triggered by a change in U.S. policy.

“Nobody likes uncertainty, and the U.S. has been a champion of nonproliferation for decades,” said James Goldgeier, dean of the School of International Service at American University. “To have a candidate during the campaign suggest that it’s fine — and also suggesting with more than a hint that the U.S. didn’t necessarily view traditional alliance obligations the same way — is unprecedented. So it creates uncertainty.”

At various points during the campaign, Trump said that if Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia had nuclear weapons, he’s “not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” He said that those countries might be better off with nuclear weapons, adding that he’s “prepared to” let them become nuclear powers if they don’t pay more for U.S. protection.

But in sometimes the same breath, Trump has said he “hate[s] nuclear more than any” and that the “biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.”

The seemingly conflicting remarks have created uncertainty about where he stands on the issue.

Allowing other countries to develop nuclear weapons would reverse decades of U.S. nonproliferation policy, which has focused on providing a so-called “nuclear umbrella” to non-nuclear allied countries.

Trump took an apparent step Thursday to reassure foreign leaders rattled by his comments with his first in-person meeting with a world leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Speaking after the meeting, Abe would not disclose specific subjects addressed. But he appeared reassured by what he heard.

“The talks made me feel sure that we can build a relationship of trust,” Abe said.

In general, world leaders have been calling on Trump to clarify his campaign remarks on a host of foreign policy matters, from nonproliferation to Russian aggression to the fight against terrorism to climate change agreements.

“This American election opens a period of uncertainty,” French President Francois Hollande said last week.

In South Korea, Trump’s surprise win prompted emergency meetings of the country’s National Security Council and Defense Ministry to discuss the future of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she received assurances from Trump that he would maintain existing alliance agreements in a phone call after the election, according to a statement from Park’s office last week.

Trump could go a long way to alleviating global anxiety if he publicly and clearly stated he does not support other countries developing nuclear weapons, Goldgeier said.

“He needs to start saying it,” Goldgeier said. “It’d be nice if he could start reassuring, but that hasn’t really been the theme since last Tuesday.”

South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia are all parties to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and they would have to withdraw from it or violate their treaty commitments to develop nuclear weapons.

Experts say Japan is unlikely to pursue a nuclear weapon because of its history as the only country to have ever been attacked with a nuclear bomb.

But hawks in South Korea who want their country to have its own nuclear weapons have been empowered by Trump’s win.

“If such visions of Trump are actually made true, South Korea will face major changes in the security environment that cannot be ignored,” Won Yoo-chul, a senior South Korean parliamentarian, said last week, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Won previously said in February that his country “cannot borrow an umbrella from a neighbor whenever it rains.”

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has reportedly sought to buy nuclear weapons in the past to counter Iran, though Saudi officials have denied those reports.

Nonproliferation advocates are hopeful Trump’s campaign talk was just talk.

Tom Collina, director of policy at nonproliferation group Ploughshare Fund, said the foundation’s recently released recommendations for Trump didn’t bother mentioning his campaign comments because the group doesn’t think he was sincere.

“We didn’t even address it because we don’t take it seriously,” he said. “We don’t think he’s going to go there.”

Trump’s Cabinet appointments could go a long way toward shaping his nuclear policy, Collina added. Until then, he said, people are in wait-and-see mode and “reading tea leaves.”

Trump has made two national security appointments so far: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as CIA director.

Pompeo made a name for himself in part as a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal. Flynn also opposes that deal.

When asked in July if Trump was encouraging a nuclear arms race by saying Japan and Saudi Arabia can become nuclear powers, Flynn said he was educating Trump on world history.

“The threat of nuclear warfare is very, very low,” Flynn said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. “Trump is no fool, and he sees the world as a globalized world. In the conversation we’re having right now, we’re talking about historical aspects of regions of the world, so sort of world history.”

News from the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Noverber 2016

In Climate change, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Terra Incognita

Who knows what a Donald Trump administration will bring? Perhaps efforts to implement the darkest elements of Trump’s campaign pronouncements. Any such moves must be resolutely resisted. We must insist on respect for the Constitution, the UN Charter, human rights and international humanitarian law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And we must do our utmost to prevent backsliding on climate protection. In the nuclear sphere, we should be alert to any opportunities for halting and reversing nuclear arms racing presented by Trump’s stated desire to improve relations with Russia. (See June LCNP memo to presidential campaigns.) The multilateral agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program, joined with a Security Council resolution, must be preserved.

The incoming UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, as LCNP consultant Alyn Ware writes, has no record on nuclear disarmament, but will have plenty of opportunities to facilitate dispute resolution among the nuclear powers and to carry forward Ban Ki-moon’s emphasis on the historic UN mission of accomplishing elimination of weapons of mass destruction. We recommend to Mr. Guterres, and eNews readers as well, the recent publication of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs – Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the 21st Century, which is available online. LCNP Executive Director John Burroughs has a chapter on legal aspects; LCNP Consultative Council member Jackie Cabasso and Andrew Lichterman have a chapter on broad-spectrum arms racing and nuclear disarmament; and Consultative Council member Randy Rydell has a chapter on creating disarmament synergies.
Negotiations in 2017 on a Ban Treaty

The UN General Assembly will soon adopt a resolution recommended by its First Committee deciding to commence negotiations in 2017 at the UN in New York on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their elimination. The resolution builds on the work of 2016 UN Open-ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament. The governments leading the initiative on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, especially Austria and Mexico, and also Thailand, the chair of the working group, have done a marvelous job in getting this far, as have our colleagues at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

While nothing is set in stone, the current direction is toward a treaty that will prohibit the development, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons but not contain detailed provisions relating to the verified elimination of existing nuclear arsenals. That is in large part because as things now stand, the nuclear-armed states will not participate in the negotiations. The result would be a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons applying to states that do not have such weapons and are furthermore barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and regional nuclear weapons free zones from acquiring them. Nonetheless, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have been vociferous (Russia especially so) in opposing the initiative.

Why? The answer must be that they fear its effects in delegitimizing reliance on nuclear weapons, aka ‘nuclear deterrence’, in entrenching the norm of non-use, and in catalyzing nuclear disarmament. This in itself is a good reason to support the ban treaty initiative. In this connection, LCNP emphasizes that a ban treaty by its terms must acknowledge and confirm the existing illegality of use of nuclear weapons under international law protecting civilians and the environment from the effects of warfare. See this paper by LCNP’s international body, IALANA, for more, as well as this paper by Burroughs for The Simons Foundation.
Dismissal of the Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Zero Cases

On October 5, by narrow margins, the International Court of Justice dismissed the three nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall Islands against India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The Court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because no legal dispute existed when the Marshall Islands filed applications initiating the cases in April 2014. In the UK case, the judges were divided eight to eight, with the vote of the Court’s president breaking the tie; in the India and Pakistan cases, the vote was nine to seven.

As the dissenting judges observed, the ruling ignores the fact that the Marshall Islands’ claims were rooted in longstanding opposing views of the large majority of the world’s states, on the one side, and the states possessing nuclear arsenals, on the other, regarding whether the latter states are complying with the Court’s unanimous conclusion in its 1996 Advisory Opinion that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. (See John Burroughs’ assessment of the opinion in Arms Control Today on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its release.) The ruling also gave insufficient weight to the Marshall Islands’ articulation of claims in multilateral forums prior to bringing the cases and to the opposing positions taken by the Marshall Islands and the respondent states in the proceedings after the cases began.

LCNP salutes the courage and determination, rooted in tragic experience, and the good faith as well, of the Marshall Islands and its then Foreign Minister Tony deBrum in bringing the cases. Simply doing so raised to world attention the failure of the nuclear powers to fulfill the obligation to negotiate the global elimination of nuclear weapons. LCNP also commends the hard work of the Marshall Islands’ international legal team. The Marshall Islands’ pleadings are a rich resource for the development of political and legal arguments for disarmament.

For more on the outcome, see this Arms Control Today story, this Nuclear Age Peace Foundation press release, and the case pages at http://www.icj-cij.org. See also Burroughs’ appreciation of the Marshall Islands and deBrum in remarks at an August rally at the Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory in California.

William Perry at All Souls Church

With the All Souls Nuclear Disarmament Task Force and Peace Action of New York State, LCNP organized a well-attended event featuring Bill Perry, former US Secretary of Defense, speaking on “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” the title of his recent book, at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan on October 24. See this video for his riveting talk and Q&A, in which Perry discusses the risk of nuclear catastrophe (higher than during the Cold War), the necessity of repairing relations with Russia and halting the emerging nuclear arms race, dangerous tensions in South Asia, the proposed ban treaty (he supports it), the imperative of education (esp. of millennials) to lay the basis for action to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, and much more. There is also an excellent introduction of Perry by Peter Weiss with reflections on use of language – thus the only true ‘nuclear security’ is the global elimination of nuclear arsenals. The event was endorsed by Global Security Institute; NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security; Brooklyn For Peace; Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives; and United Religions Initiative.

Trump Could Face a Nuclear Decision Soon

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on November 18, 2016 at 2:28 am

I was the former nuclear missile launch officer who in October appeared in a TV advertisement for Hillary Clinton, saying: “The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death. It should scare everyone.” The ad featured various quotes from Trump’s campaign rallies and interviews, in which he says, among other things: “I would bomb the shit out of ’em,” “I wanna be unpredictable,” and “I love war.” As I walked through a nuclear missile launch center in the ad, I explained that “self-control may be all that keeps these missiles from firing.”

We will see all of our fears—and the new president-elect’s self-control—put to the test over the next four years. When Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, there will be no shortage of combustible tensions around the globe. And Trump will need to make some critical decisions quickly—including whether he truly wants, as he suggested during the campaign, a world in which there are even more nuclear powers than we have today.
These tensions are present even now and show no signs of easing. For starters, U.S.-led NATO and Russian military forces are shadow boxing with increasing intensity. The mutual intimidation is steadily escalating, and Trump’s soft commitment to NATO’s defense has not helped. Rather than assuaging the Russians, it has only stoked insecurity in Europe and perhaps tempted Russia to intervene in the Baltic states. In other words, appeasement only makes matters more unstable.

In East Asia, meanwhile, a mercurial and belligerent leader of North Korea will soon be able to brandish nuclear-armed missiles to credibly threaten South Korea, Japan and the U.S. homeland with nuclear devastation. The timeline for this threat to materialize is very short—months or a low number of years. (Trump himself mentioned the threat in his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday.) Kim Jong Un’s provocations combined with Trump’s soft-pedaling of the U.S. defense commitment in Asia have put the entire region on edge and provoked South Korea to consider acquiring a nuclear arsenal in self defense.

There are other crises brewing as well, including in the South China Sea and the Middle East. As China lays claim to nearly all of this sea in part to create safe bastions for its new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, the U.S. has intensified its air, sea, and undersea surveillance and anti-submarine warfare operations, increasing the chances of hostile encounters. In the Middle East, U.S. and Russian forces are operating in very close and not-so-friendly quarters in the Syrian theater, and the specter of a region going nuclear looms larger than ever as Trump warns he will tear up and re-negotiate the hard-won Iranian nuclear deal. This ill-advised move would set Iran free to resume its nuclear program, while spurring Iran’s enemies to follow suit, as well as re-opening the debate over U.S.-Israeli pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

***

All of these crises are percolating at once. They threaten to overwhelm even the savviest of presidents and advisers. Can we rely on Trump to act with diligence, competence, diplomatic skill, reason and restraint? The verdict of a plurality of the electorate who voted for Clinton and of the vast majority of foreign policy experts is one of profound doubt that he can handle the pressure. He has proved himself over and over again to be quick-tempered, defensive, prone to lash out, adamant in dividing the world into winners and losers, and quick to invoke either the use of force or the backing away from U.S. defense commitments. He is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and the policies that govern their role and use. He offhandedly entertains their use, raising doubts whether he can be trusted with the nuclear codes. The danger exists that the Trump national security team headed by an inexperienced and hot-headed commander in chief will prove too inept to defuse a crisis, and that it will escalate to nuclear conflict with devastating consequences for the country, our allies and the world.

Given that unpredictability appears to be the crux of his national security game plan, predicting his behavior is perhaps a fool’s errand. But let’s consider the two most immediate and fraught crises that he will inherit—the U.S.-Russian stand-off and the imminent nuclear threat from North Korea.

There are grounds for some optimism that the former can be defused. In past, confrontations with the Soviets, such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, presidents sometimes rattled the nuclear saber but rejected using it. Trump has been much more open to the first use of nukes than any of his predecessors since Eisenhower. The better news is that he seems determined to improve relations with Russia. Many of the leading candidates for appointment to his national security team are ideologues who are very likely to advise against extending an olive branch to the Russian bear. They harbor deep-seated suspicions of Russia and will attempt to smother any pragmatic moves toward rapprochement. But if Trump’s pragmatism prevails without eroding NATO solidarity and weakening its security, then he might succeed not only in de-escalating the situation but also in paving the way for security cooperation on many fronts.

One intriguing possibility is that he would pursue détente with Russia through nuclear arms control. A breakthrough in the relationship might even yield a grand bargain that, say, reduces nuclear arms by one-third to 1,000 on each side, pledges both sides not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, stands down their nuclear missiles on hair-trigger launch readiness, establishes a joint center to process early warning data in order to prevent false alarms from inducing an inadvertent launch, reaffirms their obligations to existing treaties and scraps the missile defense systems in Europe that Russia so vehemently opposes.

Trump’s deal-making talent may prove wanting, however as congressional Republicans adamantly support missile defenses and comprehensive modernization of U.S. nuclear strike forces. Other factors could also thwart an overture to Russia, including intentional acts or accidents between rival fighter aircraft that result in loss of life, triggering further escalation of tensions that could ultimately spin out of control. A conventional conflict could ensue and precipitate a nuclear response, probably by Russia, which relies much more on nuclear weapons than does the United States, but who knows how an unpredictable commander in chief who consults mainly with himself might behave.

This raises the perennial question of Trump’s reaction to indications of a Russian nuclear missile attack received in the wee hours of the night in the midst of an escalating crisis. Would he have a steady hand, or lose his composure and convulse with a knee-jerk reaction?

Nobody knows the answer, but we do know two things. First, such a challenge plays to Trump’s cognitive and emotional weaknesses. An imminent threat to the White House from incoming nuclear warheads flying at four miles per second would surely cause intense emotion and unsettle the steadiest of leaders. With only three to seven minutes allowed to assess whether the indications are true or false and decide whether and how to retaliate, any leader could make a bad call. (This system clearly needs to be reformed to greatly increase warning and decision time.) But Trump’s erratic and volatile personality makes for low confidence in his ability to reach the right decision. Second, a mistake would be irrevocable. If the president gives the order, which takes seconds to convey to his military, missiles would fire from their underground silos within five minutes and from their submarine tubes within 15 minutes. The missiles cannot be recalled or destroyed in flight once they are launched. They would reach their targets on the other side of the planet in 15 to 30 minutes.

Game over.

***

Perhaps the biggest unknown is how Trump will handle North Korea. He suggested that we outsource the problem of disarming this pariah state to China, which could bring it to heel under U.S. pressure. What else might he attempt to do to defang North Korea of its ability to lob nukes at its neighbors and the United States? Sanctions have proved toothless. High-tailing it out of the region would be counterproductive. He needs to do just the opposite of retreat, in fact, and reassure our Asian allies while engaging more deeply than ever with China and North Korea. If Trump can resist his instinct to bail and instead pursue an out-of-the box solution that allays the insecurity of the North Korean regime and China’s fear of a reunited Korean peninsula allied with the U.S.—then his penchant for defying long-held premises and shibboleths may be the ticket that’s needed to dismantle the Dear Leader’s arsenal.

But the trajectory of this crisis is ominous, and it could easily escalate to the brink of nuclear use. Again, this would test the mettle of any national security apparatus. Managing a complex crisis is hard enough for the most talented security officials, diplomats and military commanders. History shows that in the heat of crisis, the national security apparatus of the belligerent states often verge on collapse from situational confusion, miscalculation, breakdown of communications, fatigue, failure of imagination and lack of empathy. Exasperated leaders tend to get caught up in strong escalatory updrafts. In this case, escalation could all too easily culminate in the outbreak of military conflict and lead to nuclear war.

Nobody knows what could happen inside Trump’s head if Kim Jong Un begins deploying nuclear missiles into battle positions and prepares for all-out war while threatening to turn his enemies’ countries into radiating rubble. But here is a hypothetical scenario that at least plausibly aligns with the evident temperament and judgment of Donald Trump.

Imagine the following:

—Trump receives urgent intelligence of North Korea’s prepping for nuclear attack and calls an emergency session of his National Security Council in the Situation Room. All his key military commanders around the world are patched into the call. The secretary of state reports that his counterparts in Japan and South Korea are appealing urgently for action to protect their nations from the erratic, volatile, and maniacal commander of the North’s nuclear forces. The CIA reports that communications intercepts and space reconnaissance reveal the Dear Leader’s forces are at maximum readiness poised for immediate launch and that he has instructed his military to prepare for nuclear conflict. And then Dear Leader slings vitriol at Trump himself, and demands an immediate cessation of joint U.S.-South Korean-Japanese military exercises in the region or else suffer the consequences of thermonuclear strikes.

—An irked Trump decides to teach the Dear Leader a lesson and returns the insults and the ultimatum: Stand down your nuclear missiles within 24 hours or else they will be taken out. The secretary of state delivers the demarche. Trump orders his military commanders to prepare their forces for a quick surgical strike on the North’s nuclear bases. He is told that a strike with U.S. and allied precision-guided conventional weapons delivered by aircraft and cruise missile stands a 95 percent chance of wiping out the nuclear threat. Trump says he believes that winning requires the destruction of 100 percent, and orders the Strategic Command to prepare to use nuclear weapons in order to ensure that none of the North’s nuclear weapons would survive and that the Kim dynasty is finally ended.

—During the next 24 hours, senior officials and military commanders discuss and debate the pros and cons of attacking the North, let alone employing nuclear weapons, and speculate on the president’s true intentions. Is it all a bluff, or does he in fact intend to strike and bring down the regime along with its nuclear forces. Might he actually order the use of nuclear weapons?

—North Korea, as is its wont, will not stand down—indeed becomes only more belligerent and defiant. A consensus then jells among most U.S. officials that the North’s outrageous behavior and rhetoric are par for the course and that the hot air does not warrant a pre-emptive military strike by U.S. coalition forces, much less a nuclear strike. But the situation on the ground has dramatically changed since the North’s nuclear missile forces became capable of destroying the major cities of its enemies. And when the 24-hour deadline arrives, and the CIA reports that nothing has changed except that intercepts reveal peak readiness to fire the missiles, the denizens of the Situation Room have internalized the distinct possibility that the president will in fact order a nuclear strike. They have prepared for it, and thus tacitly accommodated the decision.

Again, nobody knows how Trump and his senior advisers would behave. It is quite possible that serious objections would be voiced, perhaps with great vehemence. Would Trump listen to them and revise his thinking? Perhaps not. He brags (vacuously) that he has a big brain and primarily consults with himself. Surrounded by many hard-liners, it is also possible that a kind of group-think prevails bearing great deference to the commander in chief’s decision, however convoluted and emotion-racked his thinking seems to be. His team has come to regard the nuclear option as legitimate and perhaps even necessary.

One thing is certain: Trump will have the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons whenever he chooses with a single phone call. This (oversimplified) scenario suggests that even if Trump, consulting nobody, lashes out because of pique over Kim’s disrespect, his advisers might well simply demur, but if they do object and refuse they have no recourse but to excuse themselves from the proceedings and take what comes. That’s because there simply are no checks and balances on his authority, which is derived from the Constitution. There is no congressional or Supreme Court veto. And there would be no veto by anyone in the president’s circle of advisers or the military.

Finally, there is the question of whether Trump would reverse decades of firm policy against nuclear proliferation and allow more countries into the nuclear club. Today, there are nine leaders with their fingers on the button. The four nuclear weapons countries in Asia are building up their arsenals and moving them toward hair-trigger status. India’s Nahrendra Modi has been equipped with a nuclear suitcase linked by dedicated communications channels to his nuclear forces in order to expedite his authorization for their use. The others are following in his footsteps. Meanwhile, some 50 nations around the world have nuclear programs intended for civilian purposes that could be switched to weapons purposes, and at least 10 of them have national security grounds to consider doing so, especially in light of doubts about the reliability of Trump’s commitment to their defense and his irresponsible promise to trash the Iran deal.

Trump’s seeming indifference to these trends is baffling and disconcerting. If they continue, nuclear proliferation will reach the point of no return and nuclear weapons will inevitably be used. Trump’s rhetoric only encourages the world to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward nuclear acquisition and use.

So, yes, I am still scared. We can only hope that the new president learns quickly that nuclear weapons are not to be trifled with.


Bruce G. Blair is a nuclear security expert and a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton and the co-founder of Global Zero.