President Biden, Nuclear Weapons and US Security: The First 100 Days
As President-elected Biden prepares for the enormous responsibility of being president of the United States, there is a question I would like to ask him: Sir, are you a fan of the nuclear arms race? Because a burgeoning nuclear and technology arms race run by Russia, China and the United States is given to you.
The Trump administration embraced the race when the president’s gun control negotiator declared that the US “knows how to win these races and spend it on forgetting the enemy.” (Oblivion? Seriously?) And yet, perhaps surprisingly, it was President Barack Obama who was shaking the wheels in all of this; management plans to create new versions of each part of the large-sized US nuclear force structure – new long-range bombers, new land-based missiles, new nuclear-armed submarines, new nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and new versions of nuclear warheads they carry. Since taking office, President Trump has added a new low-yield nuclear warhead, a new submarine-launched cruise missile and a new nuclear warhead for submarine-based missiles.
How can President Biden reduce the risk of nuclear war?
President Biden must use the first hundred days to reassess US nuclear weapons policy. Indeed, looking at the real threats we face (threats such as climate change, epidemics, cyber warfare, and electoral intervention), we should rethink the entire US “national security” approach and measure them against the $ 740 billion annual defense budget and the planned $ 1.2. Trillion spending on new nuclear weapons in 30 years. These huge numbers cannot be justified when they do not make the people of the United States safer. President Biden has the opportunity to transfer money to address more important threats, reduce the importance of nuclear weapons, and short-circuit the new arms race.
We’ll likely see an indication of the new president’s approach to this, when he presents his first budget request in March. Will it use this opportunity to cancel the new land-based nuclear armed missile with a lifetime estimated cost of $ 264 billion? Should. UCS very clearly explained why land-based missiles are not only unnecessary for US security, but also increase the likelihood of accidental and disastrous nuclear war, as they are kept on high alert.
But as a centrist, President Biden might not jump to make such a significant change in US security policy, even though such a change is in the past. The more likely choice would be to delay the new ground-based missile and extend the life of the existing fleet; this estimates that the Congressional Budget Office will save $ 37 billion over the next 15 years.
If for now it is truly holding the ground-based missiles, Biden should take steps to reduce the risk posed by the current alarm stance and detection policy. Currently, the United States reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, authorizes the president to launch a nuclear attack, and keeps the US missiles ready to fire within minutes of the president’s order to launch it. These policies aimed at deterring a nuclear attack on the United States make nuclear war more likely due to the greater likelihood of erroneous or accidental launches. In fact, history is full of close talks where the US or Russia almost inadvertently launched nuclear weapons.
The good news is that Biden, elected by the President, has already noted that the United States supports a No-First-Use nuclear policy, which is a statement that the United States will never use nuclear weapons first. The 2020 Democratic Party Platform endorses a similar policy, declaring that “the only purpose of our nuclear arsenal is to deter a nuclear attack and, if necessary, to retaliate against it.” Either way, the United States never, ever start a nuclear war.
Adopting both policies will require working closely with US allies to ensure that they understand that declaring “No First Use” or “sole purpose” will not undermine US commitment to their security. These consultations will likely take more than 100 days to complete, but the Biden team should get the job done quickly.
President Biden should also prioritize ending the president’s power to launch unlimited nuclear war. The inherent danger of this policy has recently been highlighted again when President Trump caught the new coronavirus and was reportedly given a cocktail of drug therapy, including steroids, which have the potential to affect an individual’s behavior and decision-making abilities. Indeed, the New York Times wondered if “a president taking mood-altering drugs can determine whether the nuclear alarm is a false alarm.”
To solve this problem, UCS has proposed to demand the inclusion of the vice president and the Speaker of the House in the decision cycle – a policy that Biden must implement as soon as he takes office. While adding them to the decision process greatly reduces the chances of a person – the president – to launch an unnecessary nuclear war, it does not significantly increase the time such a decision will take.
Making the world safer through international arms control
Soon after President Biden takes office on January 20, he will have another golden opportunity to make the world safer: the extension of the new START arms control agreement with Russia expires on February 5, unless the two countries agree to extend the agreement for another period. will melt. up to five years. The agreement, which limits each country to more than 1,550 deployed long-range nuclear weapons, is the last bilateral arms control agreement between two countries that together hold more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Expanding the new INITIALIZATION is effortless and must happen quickly, as Russia agrees. The problem is, what will happen next? Making real progress will require fundamental reassessment of the US approach to arms control. In particular, it will require tapping into what has become the third path of US politics since 9/11 and allows limitations in long-range missile defenses. Such constraints would be the only way to get Russia into an agreement and a necessary step to persuade China to participate in such discussions. Unfortunately, despite the accumulated evidence that long-range missile defenses are expensive, ineffective, and create incentives for enemies to improve their nuclear arsenals, the program continues bipartisan support. It will take some time for President Biden to move this forward, but it could start with science showing that these missile defenses don’t work.
Two days after taking office, President Biden will have another opportunity to make forward nuclear policy changes. On that day, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, or the ban treaty, will be ratified by 50 countries and come into force. Both Obama and Trump administrations actively opposed the deal, but Biden should address the concern that the US is doing too little to meet its nuclear disarmament commitments.
There is one last area where Biden, elected president, must move quickly. Expand and extend the limited benefits to those who have been and continue to suffer from US nuclear weapons activities. Current US law – the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act – provides limited benefits to some of these affected communities, but ends in 2022. Biden must force Congress to pass laws to expand the program and to include more of those negatively affected by the US nuclear weapons program.
Besides the possible extension of the new START, none of this will be easy. And President Biden is naturally not inclined to push for big changes in US nuclear policy, even if they make us safer. Too much campaign money depends on defense contractors, and too many Democrats fear looking weak in defense. At the same time, with so much going on with the pandemic and climate change, the new president will have the necessary “rethinking” opportunity and Biden should seize this opportunity.
Moreover, since Donald Trump is not, President Biden will have the opportunity to draw a significantly new route to introduce a new vision that makes a more realistic assessment of US priorities, choosing human needs over military excess. Tired of Trump’s egocentric vision and inconsistent approach to any issue, the country will tend to support any well-thought-out policy that is highly developed and makes the country safer.
But to do this, we will have to force the president to take this bold path. UCS, with its combination of scientist experts, experienced organizers, and advocates in Washington like myself, is in a position to provide this impetus. We have a plan, we have policies that Biden must follow. But we’ll need your help to make it clear to the Biden administration that we not only expect too much from him, but will also watch his back if he surrenders it.
Let’s do this!
Featured image on this blog courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Posted in: Nuclear Weapons Tags: 2020 presidential race, arms control, prohibition deal, hair trigger warning, new beginning, nuclear disarmament, nuclear weapons budget, radiation, RECA, TPNW
The support of UCS members makes it possible to work in this way. Will you join us? Help UCS develop independent science for a healthier environment and a safer world.