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Tue, Jan

Nuclear-Armed Nations—Including the US—Must End Their Hypocrisy

NUCLEAR POLITICS - Some countries claim that nuclear weapons exist to deter aggression—when in fact they are the most egregious aggressive threat to all of humanity. 

In an open letter to President Biden over 1,000 physicians, health professionals and concerned citizens have called on the president to take bold action toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in anticipation of his administration's Nuclear Posture Review expected to be released in the next month.

The only way to prevent catastrophic consequences is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. 

As first responders dealing with the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic—and recognizing that there is no adequate medical or humanitarian response to nuclear war—they understand the only way to prevent catastrophic consequences is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. 

Their call joins recent initiatives for sensible nuclear policy called for by defense and disarmament experts, U.S. local and state elected officials, and scientists asking the U.S. to take a leadership role in the abolition of nuclear weapons, with immediate steps to defuse the global nuclear tensions that have moved humanity to 100 seconds until midnight, the graphic representation of nuclear Armageddon determined by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

These immediate steps outlined in the Back from the Brink Coalition include:

  • Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals
  • Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first
  • Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack
  • Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
  • Canceling the plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

Knowing the science of the climate devastation that would follow even a limited, regional nuclear war, it must be asked under what circumstances any nation is willing to commit collective suicide by launching a nuclear attack? The country, and indeed the world, awaits President Biden's Nuclear Posture Review, at which point the president will take ownership of U.S. nuclear policy and our future.

Thus far, little change is noted from the Trump-era nuclear and defense policy. The current fiscal year has seen the United States spend over $74 billion on nuclear weapons programs alone. Initial indications are that the Biden defense budget will see this amount increase—at a time when the world struggles to get the entire planet vaccinated against Covid-19 with an estimated global cost of $50 billion according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This recent joint statement by the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states on the eve of the Covid-postponed NPT Review Conference on "Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races" acknowledged avoidance of war between nuclear-weapon states and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities, while affirming the "Reagan/Gorbachev" principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. They stated that nuclear weapons exist to deter aggression—when in fact they are the most egregious aggressive threat to all of humanity.

The joint statement expresses the importance of arms control and nonproliferation treaties, including compliance with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) while—in fact— each nation is aggressively modernizing and growing their nuclear arsenals, spending billions of dollars in the process.

Simple logic decries the hypocrisy that acknowledges the apocalyptic risk of the very existence of these weapons yet fails to acknowledge the continued pursuit of new and enhanced weapons.

What will it take to deter these leaders in their false narrative of why these weapons continue to exist? We must demand bold and immediate action to make their closing statement credible: "We are resolved to pursue constructive dialogue with mutual respect and acknowledgment of each other’s security interests and concerns."

Their actions alone will demonstrate their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons. 

(Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.)