Press the Button
An engaging podcast on nuclear policy and national security, Press the Button is co-hosted by defense experts Tom Collina and Michelle Dover of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. This weekly podcast features top officials and experts discussing the latest developments on Iran, North Korea, nuclear weapons, military budgets and foreign policy. Press the Button offers diverse views on one of the most important issues of our time: preventing nuclear war. A new episode of Press the Button is available every Tuesday.
Listen to our most recent episode with Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious diseases physician and Founding Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research (CEID) at Boston University:
Press the Button is presented in 2 segments:
- Early Warning — a round-up of the most pressing nuclear news in 7 minutes, roughly the same amount of time the US president has to authorize a nuclear weapons launch in the event of an incoming attack on the United States.
- The Interview — Tom and Michelle sit down with prominent thinkers, legislators, activists, and grantees working on nuclear weapons issues for a short, illuminating conversation.
We also have an occasional "In the Silo," a close-up look at key security issues and events with field recordings, music, media clips, and narration. Listen to the most recent In the Silo, featuring award-winning journalist Lesley M. M. Blume:
Listen to past episodes below:
Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico and current member of The Elders, joins Press the Button for an exclusive interview on The Elders' efforts to reduce and eliminate nuclear threats, and why the nuclear issue is so important 75 years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Early Warning features Sharon Weiner of American University on the Biden administration's decision to propose full funding for new nuclear modernization programs. Our senior program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker answers a question on fallout shelters.
Academy Award-winning director Bryan Fogel discusses his latest film The Dissident, a documentary chronicling the life and work of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, by agents of the Saudi government. Fogel speaks with Ploughshares Fund board member and actor Farshad Farahat on the making of and reaction to the film. Early Warning features Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association on the Biden administration's current plans to pursue nuclear modernization, which is estimated to cost $634 billion over the next ten years.
Alex Wellerstein, historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology, joins Press the Button for a discussion on the history of secrecy behind US development of nuclear weapons, and how that secrecy has impacted discussion on nuclear weapons today. Early Warning features Suhad Babaa of Just Vision and Mairav Zonszein of International Crisis Group on the recent ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, and what needs to happen to prevent future escalation.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) joins Press the Button for a conversation on the wasteful spending on US nuclear weapons programs, restricting first use of nuclear weapons, the legacy of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, the importance of diplomacy, and why Congress must reassert its authority to declare war. Early Warning features Laicie Heeley of Inkstick Media and our Roger L. Hale fellow Doreen Horschig on Israel's position toward the Iran deal in light of the Vienna talks and escalating violence in Gaza, as well as what the future of work looks like in the national security sector.
Joby Warrick, award-winning author and national security correspondent for the Washington Post, joins Press the Button to discuss efforts to dismantle Syrian chemical weapons and hold the Syrian government accountable for its use of chemical weapons on the battlefield. Warrick is the author of Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America's Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World. Early Warning features Jessica Lee of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft on the Biden administration's recently released review of US policy toward North Korea, and what it means for efforts to contain North Korea's nuclear program. Karim Kamel of the Carnegie Corporation of New York features as guest announcer.
Dr. David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute and Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at University of Southern California, joins Press the Button for a discussion on how the Biden administration should approach North Korea in the wake of decades of failed policy from previous administrations and how hawkish views on China in the US government have led to increased violence against Asian Americans. A special Early Warning focuses on the lack of diversity and perspectives during last week's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on nuclear weapons.
Elizabeth Becker, journalist, author and former war correspondent for the Washington Post in Cambodia, joins Press the Button to discuss how three women journalists covering the Vietnam War changed the way the news media reports on war. Becker is the author of You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War. Early Warning features Allen Hester of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Diana Ohlbaum of Friends Committee on National Legislation on the re-introduction of the No First Use bill in Congress, and the effects of the Biden administration's proposed Pentagon budget on communities of color.
Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association joins Press the Button to discuss Iran's plans to enrich uranium up to 60% following an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, and what that means for efforts to save the Iran nuclear agreement. Early Warning features Adam Weinstein of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft on the implications of President Biden's decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the initial invasion.
Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, joins Press the Button to discuss the recent talks between the United States and Iran, and what needs to happen for the Biden administration to keep diplomacy alive. Early Warning features Emma Claire Foley of Global Zero and our senior program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker on efforts to cancel funding for new nuclear weapons and what to expect from the Biden administration on North Korea.
Skye Fitzgerald, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Hunger Ward, speaks with Ploughshares Fund board member and actor Farshad Farahat on how the ongoing war in Yemen has caused a mass famine, labeled by the United Nations as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world." Early Warning features Mary Kaszynski of VoteVets and Kate Kizer of Win Without War on what to expect from the planned talks between the United States and Iran, and the Biden administration's efforts to repeal and replace the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Matt Korda, research associate at the Federation of American Scientists, joins Press the Button to examine the flawed thinking behind the proposed Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, a new nuclear missile force set to replace the United States' arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Early Warning features Donna Farvard of the National Iranian American Council discussing the lack of movement on the United States and Iran returning into compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, and what individuals can do to help get diplomacy moving again.
Mana Kharrazi, rapid response campaign director for MoveOn, joins Press the Button to discuss her work leading Iranian Alliances Across Borders during its legal battle against the Muslim Ban, the recent attacks against Asian Americans, and how organizing young people will play a role in efforts to restore diplomacy with Iran. Early Warning features Sebastian Brixey-Williams of British American Security Information Council (BASIC) on the UK's plans to increase their nuclear arsenal.
Cynthia Lazaroff, award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of NuclearWakeUpCall.Earth, joins Press the Button to discuss her experiences in Hawaii during the 2018 Hawaii false missile alert, and how the incident underscores the need to ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons. Early Warning features Mary Kaszynski of VoteVets and Gayatri Patel of CARE on the lack of progress made toward reentering the Iran nuclear agreement, and Vice President Kamala Harris's upcoming speech at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
The 100th episode of Press the Button features a special interview with Ploughshares Fund president Emma Belcher and Joe Cirincione, distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and former Ploughshares Fund president. They discuss the history behind the podcast and the challenges ahead for the nuclear field. Early Warning features Dr. Alex Stark of New America and Aria Grabowski of the International Center for Research on Women on the Biden administration's efforts to advance women's leadership, and what a feminist foreign policy looks like.
Michael Brenes, Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and Lecturer in History at Yale University, joins Press the Button for a look at why the United States has such a large military budget compared to other countries, why there is overwhelming bipartisan support for massive military spending, and why the US relies on defense spending for jobs and growth. Early Warning features Leimamo Wase and Lilly Adams discussing the impact of the Castle Bravo nuclear test, which took place at the Marshall Islands 67 years ago.
Philip Taubman, consulting professor at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation and Ploughshares Fund board member, joins Press the Button to remember the late George Shultz, former Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and a prominent advocate for nuclear arms control. Early Warning features Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association on a temporary agreement reached between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency that ensures the continuation of some nuclear verification and monitoring activities.
Lisbeth Gronlund, research affiliate at MIT in the department of nuclear science and engineering, joins Press the Button to discuss why it's so dangerous that the US president has the sole authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, and how to avoid future situations where unhinged presidents have their finger on the button. Early Warning features our program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker and Catherine Killough of Women Cross DMZ on a new report outlining how a formal end to the Korean War could lower tensions and make room for progress on the North Korea nuclear issue, and what to expect from the Biden administration on North Korea.
Dr. Vincent Intondi, professor of history at Montgomery College and author of the book African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement, joins Press the Button to discuss how the nuclear issue intersects with the fight for racial equality. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund's deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists discussing recent developments on the Iran nuclear agreement and new polling indicating low public support for plans to build a new nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.
Bob Rosner and Sharon Squassoni of the Science and Security Board at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists join Press the Button to discuss why the Doomsday Clock is still at 100 seconds to midnight, and what must happen before the time is moved backwards. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund's deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski on the appointment of Rob Malley as special US envoy for Iran, and the complexities behind US and Iran efforts to re-enter the Iran nuclear agreement.
Drs. Katlyn Turner, Denia Djokic, and Aditi Verma are back on Press the Button to further explore systemic racism in the nuclear field, and how to begin rooting it out. They also discuss the production of their recently co-authored an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled "A Call for Anti-Racist Action and Accountability in the US Nuclear Community." Early Warning features Shannon Bugos of the Arms Control Association and Alicia Sanders-Zakre of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on the Nuclear Ban Treaty's entry into force and the Biden administration's plans to formally extend the New START Treaty with Russia.
Terrell Jermaine Starr, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center, senior reporter at The Root, and host of the podcast Black Diplomats, joins Press the Button for an in-depth discussion on how violence and racism's influence on US domestic policy also influences its foreign policy. Early Warning features Yasmeen Silva and Colleen Moore of Beyond the Bomb on efforts to enact No First Use nuclear policy, and how to keep the issue in the news after President Trump leaves office.
Dr. Herbert Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, joins Press the Button for a discussion on cyberattacks and their potential effects on nuclear weapons in the wake of the SolarWinds hack that targeted at least 18,000 government and private networks. Early Warning features Derek Johnson of Global Zero and Patrick Hiller of the Jubitz Family Foundation analyzing last week's attack on the US Capitol and how the nuclear chain of command really works.
Drs. Katlyn Turner, Denia Djokic, and Aditi Verma join Press the Button for an in-depth discussion on how systemic racism in the nuclear field is produced and sustained, and what needs to happen in order to begin combating it. Drs. Turner, Djokic, and Verma recently co-authored an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled "A Call for Anti-Racist Action and Accountability in the US Nuclear Community." Early Warning features co-host Tom Collina and our deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski on incoming National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's recent comments regarding the extension of New START and support for the Iran nuclear agreement.
A special episode of Press the Button features co-hosts Michelle Dover and Tom Collina looking back at the highlights (and lowlights) of national security and nuclear policy in 2020, and what we can look forward to in the new year.
Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, joins Press the Button for an in-depth discussion on the intersection of the movement for saner nuclear policy and movements for achieving racial justice, protecting the environment and establishing a fairer economy. Early Warning features Liza Arias of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security and Kaleigh Thomas of Center for a New American Security on the recent SolarWinds hack, which targeted the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and various other US government organizations.
David Vine, professor of political anthropology at American University, talks to Ploughshares Fund board member Farshad Farahat for a special discussion on the historical consequences of the United States' foreign policy, and its effect on millions of lives across the world. Vine is the author of the new book, The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State. Early Warning features Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight on President-elect Joe Biden's nomination of Gen. Lloyd Austin to be US Secretary of Defense.
Dr. Ariane Tabatabai, Middle East Fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, is back on Press the Button to discuss the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and how this could affect US-Iran relations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take power. Early Warning features Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzing the recent US missile defense test that successfully intercepted an intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) target, and what it means for future arms control efforts and US relationships with other countries that possess ICBMs.
Neuroscientist Moran Cerf and PopTech president Leetha Filderman, join Press the Button for an illuminating discussion on how behavioral science can be applied to nuclear deterrence theory. Early Warning features our deputy policy director Mary Kaszynski and Andrew Albertson of Foreign Policy for American on President-elect Joe Biden's recent appointments for top national security roles, and the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Jon Wolfsthal of Global Zero and Alexandra Bell of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation discuss what to expect from President-elect Joe Biden on nuclear policy issues, and what work needs to be done to reduce current nuclear threats. Early Warning features our deputy policy director Mary Kaszynski discussing revelations that President Donald Trump sought options to attack Iran in response to a recent increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material.
Michael Krepon and Lovely Umayam of the Stimson Center join Press the Button for a unique look at what is possible for future nuclear policy, and how the nuclear policy field should respond in the face of weakened arms control agreements, increased nuclear arsenal modernization, and a new presidential administration in the United States. Early Warning features Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution on what the incoming Joe Biden administration can do to reduce nuclear threats when in office.
Heather Hurlburt, director of the New Models of Policy Change project at New America's Political Reform program, is back on Press the Button to discuss the domestic and international challenges that await US President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office in January 2021. Early Warning features our deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Marissa Conway of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy on the Trump administration's last push for 'maximum pressure' on Iran, and what a feminist approach toward foreign policy and nuclear policy might look like.
Alexandra I. Toma, executive director of the Peace and Security Funders Group, joins Press the Button for a discussion on how the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession has changed philanthropy, and what the foundations and wealthy individuals that want to create a more peaceful, secure world must do to achieve their goals in a changed world. Early Warning features Alicia Sanders-Zakre of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on the success of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and what its entry into force in January will mean for the global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Stephen Wertheim, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, joins Press the Button for an in-depth analysis of the decades-long consensus around US global military dominance, and how views on American primacy are changing among the public and politicians. Early Warning features Jessica Lee of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and Shannon Bugos of the Arms Control Association discussing the Trump's administration handling of North Korea and updates on US-Russia negotiations to extend the New START Treaty.
David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times, joins Press the Button for an exclusive interview on the emergence of cyber conflict between countries, and how the rise of cyberweapons like the Stuxnet virus transformed geopolitics. His book The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age, is the basis of a new HBO Original Documentary. Early Warning features Alexandra Bell of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Melissa Hanham of the Open Nuclear Network on the status of New START negotiations and North Korean missiles.
William J. Perry, 19th US Secretary of Defense, is back on Press the Button with our policy director Tom Collina on their recent Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, which answered questions posted by hundreds of internet users on presidential authority to start a nuclear war and whether the military would refuse a legal order to launch nuclear weapons. Tom and Secretary Perry authored the new book The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump. Early Warning features Twela Abrahamson-Swan, director of the SHAWL Society, discussing the impact of nuclear weapons production on the lives of Native Americans.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, comes back to Press the Button to discuss the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a UN resolution that was passed in 2017 and is now just five ratifications shy of the 50 needed to enter into force. Early Warning features our senior program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker and Pranay Vaddi, a fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace discussing prospects of US-Russia arms control and DPRK/ROK relations.
Mike Sweeney, a fellow at Defense Priorities and former think tank analyst focused on US foreign policy and defense planning, joins Press the Button for a discussion on why the United States should take its nuclear weapons out Europe. Early Warning features Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies and Ploughshares Fund deputy policy director Mary Kaszynski discussing US plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran, citing a provision in the Iran nuclear agreement, which the Trump administration withdrew from in 2018. Co-host and Ploughshares Fund policy director Tom Collina answers a question regarding nuclear myths.
Laicie Heeley, CEO of Inkstick Media and the host/executive producer of the PRX podcast Things That Go Boom, joins Press the Button for a discussion on the lack of inclusive domestic and foreign policymaking in the United States, and how our national security priorities must change in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early Warning features co-host Tom Collina and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists discussing how the Pentagon is playing up the threat from China to justify excessive spending on nuclear weapons.
Dr. James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace joins Press the Button for an in-depth discussion on what secret nuclear weapons program President Donald Trump was referring to in his recent interview with journalist Bob Woodward, and what could happen if nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities continue to become increasingly entangled. Early Warning features William Hartung of the Center for International Policy on the Pentagon's $13.3 billion contract award to Northrop Grumman for a new nuclear weapon.
Dr. Emma Belcher, president of Ploughshares Fund, joins a special episode of Press the Button for an in-depth discussion on what needs to be done to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and build a safe, secure world.
Lynn Fahselt, co-founder and executive director of ReThink Media, joins Press the Button for a discussion on how to reshape the public conversation on nuclear weapons in order to successfully enact better, safer nuclear policy. Early Warning features Dr. Lauren Borja and Dr. Katlyn Turner discussing their recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists calling for anti-racist action and accountability in the nuclear field.
Lora Lumpe, CEO of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, discusses how to move US foreign policy priorities away from a new Cold War with China and reduce spending on unnecessary weapons of war. Early Warning features Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum of ReThink Media and Suzanne Claeys of the Center for Strategic and international Studies on recent US-Russia arms control talks, and the gender disparity in news reporting about nuclear policy.
Rose Gottemoeller, former Deputy Secretary General of NATO, joins Press the Button for a discussion on the fate of the New START Treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the US and Russia which is set to expire in February 2021. Early Warning features Bunmi Akinnusotu, deputy director of the Rangel Fellowship at Howard University and Ploughshares Fund deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski discussing what Senator Kamala Harris could bring to US foreign policy as vice president under a potential Joe Biden administration.
Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) joins Press the Button for an exclusive interview on what drives the opposition to modest reduction of the United States' bloated defense budget as the country reels from COVID-19 and economic catastrophe. Early Warning features Akshai Vikram discussing his report on the new nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia, and what needs to be done to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
A special episode of Press the Button features Sunny Dooley, a Najavo storyteller who collects, learns and retells the oral tradition of the Diné Hozhojii Hané (Navajo Blessingway stories). She discusses the impact of nuclear weapons on her community and the world at large, 75 years after the Trinity test and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Carol Giacomo, former member of the New York Times Editorial Board and former Reuters diplomatic correspondent, joins Press the Button to discuss how an editorial board operates, and her own journey from reporting on foreign and defense issues to writing policy proposals in favor of better national security and nuclear policy. Early Warning features a discussion on nuclear details in the recently released Democratic Party platform and ongoing battles over what the US government budget should prioritize with our former Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram and Lisa Perry, digital communications director for the William J. Perry Project and host of the AT THE BRINK podcast.
Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, joins Press the Button to discuss prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula 70 years after the start of the Korean War, and why a policy rooted in smart, credible diplomacy with North Korea is critical in efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear war. Early Warning features co-host Tom Collina and Ariane Tabatabai of German Marshall Fund discussing the state of the Iran nuclear agreement five years after its implementation and recent attacks on Iran's nuclear program. Press the Button remembers Bruce Blair, who unexpectedly passed away today.
Alex Wellerstein, historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology and creator of NUKEMAP, returns to Press the Button for a discussion on the history and myths about nuclear weapons on the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test, the world's first nuclear explosion. Early Warning features Tom Collina and progressive foreign policy strategist Elizabeth Beavers discussing the long-overdue national debate over federal budget priorities, and congressional efforts to reduce Pentagon spending.
Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and Ploughshares Fund policy director Tom Collina join Press the Button to discuss how US nuclear policy, largely set during the Cold War, is outdated, obsolete, and dangerous. Perry and Collina cover this topic in their new book "The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power From Truman to Trump." Early Warning features Erica Fein of Win Without War and Anthony Wier of Friends Committee on National Legislation discussing efforts to reduce the bloated US defense budget and re-orient the funds toward fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing racial injustice.
A special episode of Press the Button features outgoing co-host and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione's final appearance on the podcast (for now). He talks with co-host Michelle Dover on the state of the national security and nuclear policy field, and why he feels optimistic about the prospect of a safer, more secure world.
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