Dear moderators of the US Presidential debates: How about raising the issue of how to avert nuclear war? | IPPNW peace and health blog
In May 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the laboriously-constructed Iran nuclear agreement that had closed off the possibility of that nation developing nuclear weapons. This U.S. treaty pullout was followed by the imposition of heavy US economic sanctions on Iran, as well as by thinly-veiled threats by Trump to use nuclear weapons to destroy that country. Irate at these moves, the Iranian government recently retaliated by exceeding the limits set by the shattered agreement on its uranium stockpile and uranium enrichment.
At the beginning of February 2019, the Trump administration announced that, in August, the US government will withdraw from the Reagan era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty―the historic agreement that had banned US and Russian ground-launched cruise missiles―and would proceed to develop such weapons. On the following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that, in response, his government was suspending its observance of the treaty and would build the kinds of nuclear missiles that the INF treaty had outlawed.
The next nuclear disarmament agreement on the chopping block appears to be the 2010 New START Treaty, which reduces US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 each, limits U.S. and Russian nuclear delivery vehicles, and provides for extensive inspection. According to John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, this fundamentally flawed treaty, scheduled to expire in February 2021, is “unlikely” to be extended. To preserve such an agreement, he argued, would amount to “malpractice.” If the treaty is allowed to expire, it would be the first time since 1972 that there would be no nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.
One other key international agreement, which President Clinton signed―but, thanks to Republican opposition, the US Senate has never ratified―is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Adopted with great fanfare in 1996 and backed by nearly all the world’s nations, the CTBT bans nuclear weapons testing, a practice which has long served as a prerequisite for developing or upgrading nuclear arsenals. Today, Bolton is reportedly pressing for the treaty to be removed from Senate consideration and “unsigned,” as a possible prelude to US resumption of nuclear testing.