Strategic Posture Commission fails to support a nuclear weapons free world
Congress established the 12 member, bipartisan Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States in 2008 to “examine and make recommendations with respect to the long-term strategic posture of the United States.” Today, the Commission issued its findings in a report that failed to embrace the opportunity to help chart a path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
President Obama has repeatedly stated his firm commitment to work toward a nuclear weapons free world. In his speech from Prague in early April, he said,
Now, understand, this matters to people everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city — be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague — could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be — for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival….
And as nuclear power — as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.
So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
However, the Commission’s report seems to reject the possibility of achieving this goal, stating:
President Obama has pledged to work for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, but until that happens, to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable deterrent force. The conditions that might make possible the global elimination of nuclear weapons are not present today and their creation would require a fundamental transformation of the world political order. But this report spells out many steps that can significantly reduce nuclear dangers and that are available now.
With an underlying premise of continuing a world in which there are many nuclear weapons, many of the Commission’s recommendations amount to maintaining the status quo rather than providing a vision for achieving a shift in strategy.
Despite the fact that the American public will not support a return to nuclear weapons testing and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would significantly enhance US and global security, the Commission could come to no agreement on it.
The Commission has no agreed position on whether ratification of the CTBT should proceed. But recognizing that the President has called for the Senate to reconsider U.S. ratification, the Commission recommends a number of steps to enable Senate deliberation, including preparation of a comprehensive net assessment of benefits, costs, and risks that updates arguments from a decade ago.
The Commission’s lack of consensus puts them out of step with President Obama, who stated in his speech from Prague that he would work to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”
President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have already agreed to work together to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles and negotiate a new agreement to replace the expiring START treaty. The report is overly cautious in its recommendations for reductions, stating:
The United States and Russia should pursue a step-by-step approach and take a modest first step to ensure that there is a successor to START I when it expires at the end of 2009. Beyond a modest incremental reduction in operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons, the arms control process becomes much more complex as new factors are introduced.
The public’s support for a change in US nuclear weapons policy to embrace achieving a nuclear weapons free world is important. Through contacting Congress and the White House, we can demonstrate the political will exists for a fundamental shift in thinking about nuclear weapons, and push for an end to the continuation of outdated Cold War policies.