Akshai Vikram

Letter from Akshai Vikram, Roger L. Hale Fellow

A Critical Year for Nuclear Security

Coming to Ploughshares Fund last September, I underestimated just how tumultuous the ensuing months would be. Surely, nothing could be more raucous than my time at the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election cycle. Yet I quickly realized that was not to be the case. My first week at Ploughshares Fund coincided with Iran’s missile strikes against Saudi Arabian oil facilities; my first week back after the winter holiday coincided with the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani.

In this challenging environment, 2020 will clearly be a critical year for nuclear security. North Korea says it has abandoned its commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing. The Iran nuclear deal is displaying remarkable resilience but remains endangered. The New START agreement with Russia is soon set to expire and the Trump administration seems more interested in building trillions of dollars worth of new nuclear weapons rather than extending it. And of course, there’s a presidential election looming.

Amid this maelstrom, Ploughshares Fund has not lost focus on the vast opportunity the election presents for the United States to chart a new direction on nuclear policy. To that end, Ploughshares Fund has worked hard to further an emerging consensus within the Democratic Party on  nuclear weapons issues. We have made important strides: almost all of the leading presidential contenders support a No First Use policy, the extension of New START, the Iran nuclear deal, and a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Korea.

Nevertheless, work remains to be done. Candidates occasionally trip up on policy specifics, press attention to our issues remains inconsistent, and Beltway thinking continues to impede sanity when it comes to nuclear policy.

That's why Ploughshares Fund is teaming up with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and others to develop and promote a set of nuclear policy recommendations for the next president. Throughout this presidential primary season, I will be working with both Ploughshares Fund grantees and new partners to build broad support of this new policy agenda. The decision to pursue this project arose out of a meeting of Ploughshares Fund grantees and partners in Washington, DC, shortly after the New Year. We recognized a need for additional voices and renewed attention to nuclear issues in the presidential campaign.

Our goal is to use the new nuclear policy plan to solidify the emerging consensus around a new direction for US nuclear policy. That is why in the months ahead we will be working to ensure our policy priorities are breaking through—in the media, with the presidential campaigns, and to the major parties’ platform drafting committees.

With tensions as high as they are across the world, our work is definitely cut out for us. But no matter the turbulence ahead, Ploughshares Fund will be hard at work to ensure 2021 begins on a more hopeful note than 2020.

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Akshai Vikram


A Letter from @Akshai_Vik, Roger L. Hale Fellow.

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