As the Biden administration considers changes to Trump-era nuclear policy, 60 national and regional organizations released a statement this week calling for the elimination of 400 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are “now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.”
“Intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war,” the statement reads. “There is no more important step the United States could take to reduce the chances of a global nuclear holocaust than to eliminate its ICBMs.”
Progressives, scientistsSome Democrats in Congress are also pushing for President Joe Biden, who has been pledged to reduceTo put it another way, the U.S. relies on nuclear weapons as part of its defense strategy. adopt a “no first use” policyDeclare that the U.S. will not be the first to launch an attack nuclear. Advocates claim that taking such a position would strengthen America’s position at the international nonproliferation conference.
The White House is slowly engaging in such talks with other nuke-armed governments, including Russia and the United Kingdom. joint statement declaring that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Pakistan and India, two regional rivals armed with nuclear weapons, issued statementsThe joint statement can be viewed as a positive development in international arms controls.
A “no first use” or “sole purpose” policy, advocates say, would also be consistent with the Democratic Party platform and Biden himself, who has said that nuclear weaponsshould only be used for the purpose of deterring nuclear attack. Trump’s administration took the opposite approach with its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which says that deterring a nuclear attack is not the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons and nuclear war could be used to deter “non-nuclear” attacks and achieve “U.S. objectives” is deterrence fails.
The Biden administration is currently working on a new Nuclear Posture Review. This review could be completed in the early part of this year. accordingTo Politico. The administration declined to comment on internal review deliberations, but unnamed officials reported Politico As the U.S. continues to modernize and upgrade its vast nuclear arsenal, it is unlikely that this budget will contain significant cuts in nuclear weapons spending.
Federal spending on nuclear forces is expected at $634 billion over 10 years, which is a 28 percent increase from 2019 projections. accordingto the Congressional Budget Office. Biden is a supporter of arms control. should have — and still could — put the most controversial nuclear weapons projects approved under former President Donald Trump on pause until the new posture review is completed.
Writing for Defense OneTom Collins, the Ploughshares policy director, argues that Biden is not a good choice. must act fast to rein in a Pentagon bureaucracy intent on keeping money flowing to the nuclear war machine, or his own policy will end up looking a lot like Trump’s:
The good news is that President Biden has more knowledge about nuclear policy than any commander in chief in recent history. If this is Biden’s priority, there is every reason for us to believe that he will approve new policies to reduce nuclear war risk and make the world and nation safer.
Unfortunately, the president has not made these important issues clear to officials who are not aligned with his vision. A key strategy document — called the Nuclear Posture Review — has been drafted by an entrenched Pentagon bureaucracy that apparently wants to keep core elements of the Trump agenda intact, including new nuclear weapons and more ways to use them.
Biden is under pressure fTo avoid cuts to new nuke weapons programs approved by Trump, conservative war hawks in Congress & the Pentagon will not allow for this. Russia and China are likely to be increasing their own arsenals. These weapons systems are not the same as the existing ICBMs that cost billions of dollars to maintain and can be launched in silos in the U.S.
The U.S. has a huge nuclear arsenal that can strike from land, sea, and air. The statement issued this week reports that 400 ICBM missile silos — relics of the arms race with the Soviet Union that first raised fears that global nuclear war that would lay waste of all of human civilization — are scattered across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.
Citing a former Defense Secretary William Perry, the 60 peace and civil society groups issued the “call to eliminate ICBMs” on Wednesday. Perry explained that the ICBMs have the highest potential to cause a nuclear war. If enemy missiles were launched at the U.S., the president would only have about 30 minutes to decide whether to retaliate before the ICBMs are destroyed, a terrible decision that could result in “nuclear winter,” according to the statement.
“Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite — a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack. ICBMs certainly waste billions of dollars, but what makes them unique is the threat that they pose to all of humanity,” the statement reads.
Even if the ICBMs facilities were shut down, the U.S. would still have a devastating nuclear arsenal that could be used to respond to any attack anywhere in the world. Millions of people could be killed by missiles carried on aircraft and submarines. However, they are not subject to the same “use them or lose them” dilemma as the ICBMs.
“Until now, the public discussion has been almost entirely limited to the narrow question of whether to build a new ICBM system or stick with the existing Minuteman III missiles for decades longer,” said Norman Solomon, national director of RootsAction, one of the groups that signed the statement. “That’s like arguing over whether to refurbish the deck chairs on the nuclear Titanic. Both options retain the same unique dangers of nuclear war that ICBMs involve.”