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New US Nuclear Posture enhances safety and security…only a world without nuclear weapons can ensure human survival

April 7, 2010

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The long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review released yesterday by President Obama is the most important and thorough re-evaluation of US nuclear policy since the Cold War. While it is not a blueprint for rapid nuclear disarmament, it marks the first time the US has made the elimination of nuclear weapons a guiding principle, focusing more on reducing the dangers of nuclear weapons than on finding roles and rationales for them. This is a very welcome and long overdue course correction.

Like the New START agreement with Russia, the NPR begins to anticipate a world in which nuclear weapons no longer exist. Nevertheless, the pace for disarmament set by this review, which is intended to establish the framework for US nuclear policy for 10 years or more, is still too slow.

For more than 45 years, physicians have documented and described the horrifying medical and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons explosions. We have warned that the unique nature of nuclear weapons—their unprecedented destructive power and the radiation they release, causing cancers, birth defects, and genetic disorders across generations—removes any justification for their use and requires their abolition.

While IPPNW welcomes many of the changes embodied in the new US policy framework, more is needed—and more is possible—to make the abolition of nuclear weapons a realizable goal, not just a declaratory vision postponed until some distant future. We are opposed to an enduring role for nuclear weapons and the doctrine of deterrence. We concur wholeheartedly with the assertion in this Nuclear Posture Review that

“It is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.”

One of the most positive and welcome changes is the unprecedented assurance from the US that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states as long as they are NPT members in good standing. That assurance is phrased carefully to carve out potential exceptions for Iran and North Korea, but it is a much needed and responsible policy shift that enhances US and global security. The US has also promised, for the first time, that it will not use nuclear weapons in response to a threat from chemical or biological weapons.

A more important change — a declaration that the US would not be the first to use nuclear weapons — was rejected, as was a call for limiting the doctrine of deterrence to the sole purpose of preventing the use of nuclear weapons by others. Instead, the NPR defines this as the “fundamental” purpose, leaving other options open. A no-first-use pledge would have been far more constructive.

We are also disappointed that the thousand or more strategic weapons that can now be launched on short notice will remain on alert. Taking these weapons off high alert and increasing the decision time available to the President in the event of a nuclear strike or a suspected missile launch would all but eliminate the possibility of an accidental nuclear exchange killing millions of innocent people.

We enthusiastically welcome the US pledge to keep its moratorium on nuclear testing, the assurances that it will not develop new warhead designs or produce warheads with new capabilities and will propose no new missions for nuclear weapons. But we continue to question the major new investments in nuclear infrastructure requested by the administration. To the extent that up-to-date facilities and well-trained personnel are needed to keep existing nuclear weapons safe and secure until they can be dismantled and destroyed, we have no quarrel with these plans. But infrastructure modernization also serves the purpose of ensuring that nuclear weapons will be around for decades to come, and that the production of new weapons can easily be resumed. We urge the administration to hold a firm line against modernization of nuclear forces.

IPPNW is convinced that nuclear weapons serve no legitimate security purpose, and that basing national security on threats to kill hundreds of millions of people and to cause irreparable environmental damage is fundamentally immoral and irresponsible. Therefore, we are disappointed at the extent to which deterrence — including extended deterrence — remains the basis of US nuclear policy under this review. Seeking a world without nuclear weapons on the one hand, while insisting upon the necessity for a deterrent posture and the nuclear forces to back it up on the other, is a fundamental contradiction that has to be resolved if we are ever to rid the world of these instruments of mass murder. The only nuclear policy that should be promulgated by the United States, Russia, and the other nuclear-weapon states, is one that recognizes the moral and political imperative of eradicating nuclear weapons as soon as possible, and that charts a clear and irreversible course toward that goal.

While the NPR foresees even deeper reductions in US and Russian nuclear forces after the ratification of the New START agreement, it also emphasizes the US commitment to missile defenses, a program that Russia considers a threat to its security. IPPNW has argued that reductions to as few as 500 warheads in each country would leave the other nuclear weapon states with no further excuse from joining negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention. The pursuit of missile defenses as a key objective of the new NPR needlessly undermines the urgent goal of dramatic deep reductions.

IPPNW and other NGOs committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons will continue to challenge some of the elements of nuclear policy embodied in this NPR and we will offer alternatives. But we take great hope and encouragement from the fact that the elimination of nuclear weapons is presented here as the overriding goal of US policy. We urge President Obama, President Medvedev, and the leaders of the other nuclear-weapon states to move even more decisively and more quickly in the most positive directions opened up by this course shift in US policy and to make the abolition of nuclear weapons the focal point of all efforts from this point forward.

9 Comments
  1. May 1, 2010 2:43 am

    So, everyone is chanting like small kids and shouting “Hooray!”

    The reality is grey.

    The U.S. are going to discard B-52 and B-2 bombers – when? No one knows.
    The U.S. are going to discard atomic Tomahawk missles – when? No one knows.

    That’s it.

    At the same time, the U.S. is going to quadruple it’s Plutonium production.
    Source: Le Monde diplomatique / April 2010.

    And: The U.S. is going to upgrade, modernize it’s atomic B-61 bombs.
    And the IPPNW knows what B-61s are:
    http://www.ippnw.org/ResourceLibrary/NPRBrief.pdf

    They are the prefered weapoms of the HPAC simulation attack against Iran.

    And: Northkorea became atomic, Iran, and many more countries, because the IAEA sells the ideology of atomic power all aroung the globe.
    Reactors and bombs are siamese twins.

    IPPNW, don’t be so naive and decay into romantic harmony need.
    regards,
    T.

  2. April 24, 2010 2:47 am

    Wonderful job. Hope to continue to reach our acheivments.
    Very encouraging too.

  3. Kamilla Gerhard Nielsen permalink
    April 9, 2010 8:16 am

    Wonderful! Good work!

  4. michele di paolantonio permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:20 pm

    I am convinced that the IPPNW’s Appeal to Obama soon after his election contributed directly to his Praha’s Declaration (and so, indirectly, to the Praha’s today Agreement for USA-Russia Nuclear Disarmament), and to the New US Nuclear Posture, as well as the IV IPPNW Helsinki Congress (june, 4-8, 1984), workshop on “Strategies for the Prevention of Nuclear War”, with Pavel Palathenko (unique interpeter in the Reagan-Gorbaciov’s Talks on Nuclear Disarmament) contributed not only to receive our 1985 Peace Prize Nobel but mostly to allow to Reagan and Gorbaciov to reach the INF Treaty that dismantelled the american and sovietic nuclear euromissiles from Europe. I was there as italian member of IPPNW and now I can remember and testify!

  5. April 8, 2010 5:57 am

    Most of the articles I have read on the NPR seem to focus as much or more on what it doesn’t do than what it does do. That concerns me because negativity, or perhaps dissention, has the potential to blunt our message–nuclear disarmament is a reasonable, rational, and ultimately achievable goal.

    Everyone who reads this blog and others like it knows that the NPR does not go far enough towards the goal of total elimination, but they must admit that it is an important reversal of US policy. We activists may never be able to reach the hardliners, but we can appeal to their constituents, peeople who do not make a steady diet of arms control news, whose top priority is probably not total elimination, and indeed may even believe in nuclear deterrence.

    The NPR brings this issue into the mainstream of public consciousness. For me, that is one of the real merits of the NPR. It opens up the minds of the people the hardliners appeal to by creating an atmosphere in which disarmament is polite dinner conversation in mixed company.

  6. Pohlmeier, Lars permalink
    April 8, 2010 4:07 am

    The NPR is one step further in the right direction. Our work has contributed to this success. Nuclear disarmament will not be possible without participaton of civil society. Abolition of nuclear wepaons – let’s go for it now.

    Lars Pohlmeier

    P.S. To share this: we have had talks with VERY high ranking conservative politicians in Germany who felt that our proposals were very sensible concerning nuclear arms (they do not want to be named in public – yet). This is very encouraging. Plus there is more media interest too in our work as experts in this field.

  7. Ferruh Yavuz permalink
    April 8, 2010 12:38 am

    That’s great ! It might be the end of IPPNW !

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  2. Physicians for Global Survival

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