A decade after the end of the Cold War, more than 30,000 nuclear weapons remain deployed around the world. India and Pakistan have declared their nuclear capacity, and the risk of nuclear weapons being used by accident or design is on the rise. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the promise of nuclear arms reduction has stalled.
Most observers during the past decade believed the value of arms reduction was self-evident until the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in October 1999. The treaty would have prevented the testing of nuclear weapons around the world, worked to stop the spread of nuclear proliferation, and provided for monitoring facilities and on-site inspections. The U.S. Senate decision shocked the world and showed the need to remake the case for international agreements to stem the spread of nuclear weapons.
The defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty also showed a fundamental flaw in our democratic system - the failure to keep issues vital to our nation in the public consciousness. The blame rests with all of us.
In March 2000, the Department of Energy disclosed plans to renovate more than 6,000 aging nuclear warheads in the next 15 years, almost double the number the United States is allowed to deploy under the START II arms-reduction treaty.
The recent ratification of START II and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by the Russian parliament lacks significance without real commitment to nuclear arms reduction in the United States. The U.S. should immediately move to implement START III.
The U.S. Senate has persuaded the Clinton administration to renew development of a national missile-defense program, violating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Russia has threatened to withdraw from all nuclear weapons treaties if the United States does not honor the ABM agreement.
The U.S. refusal to give unequivocal assurance it will never use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty serves as an incentive for nations to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States has developed an attitude in international affairs that, as the world's strongest military and economic power, it can have its way. We are moving away from treaty commitments and the rule of law to that of nuclear chaos.
No single weapon system better shows our nation's dependence on nuclear weapons than the Trident submarine system. As nuclear weapons are the foundation of our nation's military power, the Trident system is the foundation of our nuclear arsenal.
There are 18 Trident submarines presently in service. The missiles they carry have a range of over 4,500 miles and are so accurate they are considered first-strike weapons, capable of a preemptive strike against opposing missiles before they can be launched in a full-scale war.
In 1990, Naval Submarine Base Bangor had planned to upgrade its older Trident I (C-4) missiles with the Trident II (D-5). It was postponed, however, at the end of the Cold War until this year. The U.S.S. Alaska arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on April 28 for a two-year overhaul to the D-5 missile. The cost of backfitting four Trident submarines to the D-5 missile is over $6 billion.
With the ratification of the START II treaty, the total number of warheads allowed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles will be cut in half, making the D-5 backfit at Bangor unnecessary. U.S. strategic forces should instead cut back to 9 Trident submarines.
In further defiance to commitments to disarm, the U.S. is in the process of redesigning nuclear warheads for the Trident missiles to give them a near-ground-burst capability. Warheads could be exploded within several meters of the ground for a higher kill ratio of opposing missile-launch sites. New warhead designs are slated to begin entering the stockpile in late fiscal year 2004.
Fundamental questions about our nation's nuclear program need to be addressed.
Who in our nation is outlining policy regarding new weapons and compliance to arms-reduction treaties?
Is it a good idea to threaten Russia with even more hard-target weapons at a time when Russian conventional forces are weakened, putting a greater dependence on nuclear forces for defense?
Will the United States comply with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitment to successfully negotiate nuclear disarmament?
The Non-Proliferation Treaty 2000 Review Conference is meeting at the United Nations in New York now through May 19 to evaluate whether objectives for disarmament are being followed.
The United States should show leadership by canceling the Trident D-5 missile backfit and renewing its commitments made at the end of the Cold War - to work for nuclear disarmament and a safer world.
Glen Milner lives in Seattle and is a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo. The organization's Web address is
Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company