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Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairs Proffer ‘Rules of the Road’ To Avoid Nuclear War

June 20, 2021 (EIRNS)—The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a strategic think-tank based in Washington, D.C., founded by former Sen. Sam Nunn and media philanthropist Ted Turner some 20 years ago, on June 16 released “Statement of Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn, Co-Chairs of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, on the Biden-Putin Summit,” in which former U.S. Secretary of Energy Prof. Ernest J. Moniz and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn heartily endorse the “U.S.-Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability”: “We strongly support President Biden and President Putin’s decision to meet today in Geneva,” Nunn and Moniz say.

“We endorse their decision to begin a new bilateral dialogue on arms control and risk reduction measures. ... The clear statement by the two presidents that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought is an important foundation for reducing nuclear risks. This builds on their earlier decision to extend the New START Treaty. Together, these two actions can lead to other practical steps to reduce the risk of nuclear use and avoid an arms race.”

On June 10, NTI released a series of papers under the collective title, “U.S. Nuclear Policies for a Safer World,” with the Introduction authored by NTI Co-Chairs Ernest Moniz and Sam Nunn, “Strengthening the Foundation for Nuclear Stability,” calling on the United States “to resume a position of global leadership to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons. Their recommendations—which are further elaborated and reinforced in seven related policy papers by NTI experts and former officials—include proposals for changes to U.S. nuclear policy and posture, reengagement with Russia on a range of strategic stability and arms control issues, sustained dialogue and nuclear risk reduction measures with China, and recommitment to multilateral efforts to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime,” states the NTI Summary.

In their Introduction they urge:

“It is crucial to build and sustain domestic support for nuclear security policies that will keep Americans safe. Congress should establish a new bipartisan liaison group, comprising House and Senate leaders and senior administration officials—focused on Russia policy, nuclear risks, and NATO. Such a group would facilitate regular communication and greater coherence between the executive and legislative branches and help rebuild consensus in support of engagement and arms control as essential tools in advancing U.S. national security.

“The Biden administration should also work to establish policies and processes to put guardrails around the president’s ‘sole authority’ to order the use of nuclear weapons to ensure that any such decision would be deliberative and based on appropriate planning and consultation, including with leaders in Congress. Implementation would be dependent on the particular circumstances that are causing consideration of nuclear use....”

The essays in the 56-page document include recommending additional steps “to adapt U.S. nuclear policy and posture to reduce the risk of use of nuclear weapons.” These include:

“Undertaking an internal ‘failsafe review’ to ensure that U.S. nuclear weapons and command-and-control and warning systems are hardened against cyberattacks and to identify other steps that could increase decision time for leaders in a crisis and reduce the risk that a terrible miscalculation could lead to inadvertent nuclear conflict. This review should reexamine post-launch destruct devices on U.S. nuclear weapons and other measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war....

“As part of a new nuclear posture review, adopting a new declaratory policy that narrows the range of scenarios in which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons, including by declaring that deterring a nuclear attack against the United States and its allies and partners is the ‘sole purpose’ of U.S. nuclear weapons....”

With respect to U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China nuclear dialogues, their Introduction recommends:

“In the near term, the United States and Russia should signal a new direction through unilateral, reciprocal commitments to modest nuclear warhead reductions below the level required by New START....

“The two sides should immediately begin a strategic stability dialogue and initiate negotiations on a more ambitious follow-on set of agreements....

“Negotiations should take place in the context of ... the wide range of factors that affect strategic stability, including ... missile defense and new concerns like cyber. New ideas and flexible forms of agreement are needed to address such issues productively....

“[T]the Biden administration must simultaneously engage China on strategic issues, taking into account the broader regional context. Growing tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, particularly against a backdrop of China’s continued expansion and modernization of its nuclear capabilities, are increasing the risk of conflict and possible escalation to the use of nuclear weapons in the Asia-Pacific....”

The NTI Co-Chairs conclude: “Lastly, the Biden administration should restore U.S. leadership of multilateral efforts to reduce nuclear risks. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, and the United States should work with all parties—and in particular through the P5 process—to strengthen the treaty and advance multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. The United States should work with the rest of the P5 to affirm their commitment to preventing the use of nuclear weapons....” (Inasmuch as the “P5” would seem to be the UN Security Council permanent members, the NTI document means the major nuclear weapons powers, which they identify as China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States, and just happen to be the same as the UN Security Council Permanent Five.)

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