The 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race

2021-06-11, 10:03am Op-Ed

Mushroom cloud of nuclear explosion-13309e0d82aeafd80451b0509a778c8f1623384218.jpg

Mushroom cloud of nuclear explosion. Credit - US Government

By Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Jun 9 2021 (IPS) - A new report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—focusing on nuclear weapons spending– following on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recent decision that their Doomsday Clock, should be set as close as it has ever been to nuclear catastrophe. should serve as a wake-up calls for humanity.
Preparations for genocidal or omnicidal nuclear war are undeniably suicidal madness. Worse, with provocative military actions by the U.S., Russia, and China in the Baltic, Black, South and East China Seas, and in relation to Ukraine and Taiwan, an accident or miscalculation could all too easily trigger a life ending nuclear cataclysm.
At a time when scientific, financial, and diplomatic cooperation are desperately needed to stanch and reverse the climate emergency and to overcome and prevent the current and future pandemics, 21st century nuclear arms races are already claiming lives and threatening our future with national treasures being wasted in preparations to end all life as we know it.
There had been hope that US President Joe Biden would apply the brakes to the massive $1.7 trillion U.S. upgrade of its nuclear arsenal and its triad of delivery systems.
Instead, the Biden budget released last week reflects no change from the Trump era nuclear weapons buildup, including funding for the first strike “money pit” ICBM replacement missiles, “more usable” battlefield weapons to be deployed in Europe, and SLBM’s and so-called missile defences to the Asia-Pacific.
Those, in turn, are leading China to increase the size of its deterrent nuclear forces and to reconsider its no first use doctrine.
How to remove the existential nuclear threat?
Disarmament! popular movements, like those which brought the Treaty for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) into being, and which in the United States, are pressing to halt spending for new nuclear weapons and for the Biden Administration to adopt a no first use doctrine, are essential.
In the very near -term political leaders and civil society must press Presidents Biden and Putin not to waste the opportunity inherent in their forthcoming summit. They should rise to their historic and existential responsibilities and emulate the 1989 Malta Summit in which Presidents Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev jointly declared an end to the Cold War.
Among the actions that the two presidents should take are:
• Declare that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
• Commit to adopting no first use nuclear doctrines and near-term negotiation of verifiable agreements to eliminate the danger of first strike nuclear war fighting.
• Restore the INF Treaty limitations and prohibit deployment of “more usable” battlefield nuclear weapons.
• Renew their commitments to Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and publish a timeline for the fulfilment of commitments made during previous NPT Review Conferences.
• Announce commencement of negotiations to eliminate the danger of cyber hacking of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and their infrastructures essential for human security.
• Halt provocative military U.S., NATO, and Russian military exercises in the Baltic and Black Seas and the Arctic Ocean and along the NATO/Russian border.
• Halt shipment of arms supplies to the warring parties in Ukraine and renew their commitments to fulfilling the Minsk agreements.
• Commit to jointly provide vaccines and necessary materials for more than a billion Covid-19 shots via COVAX, and to future joint research for pandemic prevention.
• Commit to joint initiatives to reverse climate change.
More than five decades ago, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, two moral and intellectual paragons of the 20th century, Lord Russell and Albert Einstein warned that “We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?”
Their answer: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”
The writer is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau.