In April 2009 in Prague, President Obama highlighted the continuing risks posed by nuclear weapons. He promised to “take concrete steps” to reduce those risks and “put an end to Cold War thinking.”
Since then, the administration has in fact taken some positive steps, including concluding the Iran nuclear deal, and the New START treaty that reduces U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear forces.
But it has also taken some negative steps, such as planning for a $1 trillion program to completely rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next three decades and to build new types of nuclear warheads. This is classic Cold War thinking, and is the kind of step that fuels an arms race.
Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry recently warned, “The danger of a nuclear catastrophe today, I believe, is greater than it was during the Cold War.” Things are moving in the wrong direction, and the administration needs to take some positive steps—and soon.
In response to this situation, UCS joined with several faith groups to call for something we all agree on: President Obama should take new steps to reduce the danger posed by nuclear weapons and a new arms race. In particular, we jointly call for:
- Scaling back the administration’s plan to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and cancelling the new long-range nuclear cruise missile;
- Cutting the U.S. deployed strategic arsenal by a third, which is a level the Pentagon says is adequate to maintain security independent of what other countries do; and
- Taking U.S. land-based nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert, to reduce the risk of accidental, mistaken or unauthorized nuclear launches.
The president is reportedly considering a visit to Hiroshima when he is in Japan for the G7 meeting at the end of May, to highlight the humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons.
But giving another speech is not enough. The president should announce concrete steps, picking up the work he started in Prague.
The science-faith statement was signed by
- Ken Kimmell, UCS president
- Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals
- Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
Front page featured photo: Steve Jurvestson/Flickr