Since taking office in 2016, President Trump has dismantled many of the security guardrails that restrained nuclear dangers for decades. He walked away from a successful Iran deal, killed Reagan’s treaty on intermediate-range nuclear weapons and may yet destroy New START – the only remaining limit on American and Russian arsenals.
Meanwhile, Putin has stirred up Russian nationalism, cheated on nuclear agreements and rattled the atomic saber at neighbors. Like Washington, Moscow is embarked on a full-scale modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and some of its projects – like the nuclear-powered cruise missile or the long-range nuclear torpedo – are terror weapons that harken back to the darkest days of the Cold War.
But the Trump-Putin arms race isn’t your grandfather’s variety. New technologies mean that maneuverable hypersonic missiles and precise, low-yield munitions will take the place of the lumbering bombers and heavy ICBMs of the past, while information warfare and the emergence of AI will place a premium on speed and automation. If we continue down this road, we may be caught in a competitive dynamic we do not fully understand armed with weapons we do not fully control.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Already, the next generation of national leaders are speaking out against the Trump-Putin arms race and for nuclear reform. In the House, Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has said he wants to “totally re-do the nuclear posture review.” Momentum is gaining in the Senate, too. Just this August eighteen Senators – including six presidential candidates – came out against the Trump administration’s new nuclear weapons and his destruction of the nuclear security regime that has lasted since Reagan.
Nuclear strategy has also made it into the brief discussion of foreign policy in the presidential debates. During the July CNN debate Elizabeth Warren said she wants to make it official policy that the United States will never start a nuclear war. Why? “Because it makes the world safer,” she said. Other candidates like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg agree.
This is our moment. If we can capitalize on the momentum generated by the presidential campaign and couple it with the ongoing fight against Trump’s nuclear priorities in Congress, we can forge a new nuclear strategy for the 21st century over the next eighteen months and ready a plan to implement it in the first year of a new presidency.
That is precisely what we are doing. We are targeting our grants to develop and then implement a transformed US nuclear policy. We are cooperating with dozens of foundations, experts and advocates to forge a strategy that will ensure all of us have a safer and more secure future.
But we cannot do it alone. With your support, we can stop the Trump-Putin arms race before it leaves the ground and realize a world where our security needs are met without nuclear weapons.
Photo: A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 12, 2019. Credit: Nichelle Anderson /US Air Force