Press the Button

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A new episode of Press the Button is available every Tuesday.

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.

Listen to our latest episode featuring Mike Sweeney, a fellow at Defense Priorities and former think-tank analyst:

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:

Have a question about nuclear issues that you’d like to hear answered on the podcast? Email us at pressthebutton@ploughshares.org or tweet us at @PressButtonPod.

Listen to past episodes below:

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.

Steve Benen, Emmy award-winning producer for The Rachel Maddow Show, joins Press the Button to discuss his new book, The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics, in which he argues that the GOP has become a "post-policy" party. Early Warning features Matt Korda of Federation of American Scientists and Luke Schleusener of Out in National Security on the landmark Supreme Court decision regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, and an emerging congressional fight over the resumption of nuclear testing.

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, founder and president of the Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS), joins Press the Button for a discussion on her work and why the current moment of protest and awareness sweeping the country only underscores the need for systemic change. Ambassador Jenkins recently joined the Ploughshares Fund board of directors. Early Warning features Camille Stewart of New America and our senior program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker on the ongoing protests against police brutality and the deterioration of inter-Korea relations.

David Corn, chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones and MSNBC contributor, joins Press the Button for an in-depth look at the four big crises facing the United States at this time: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse, corrupt government, and police violence. Early Warning features our Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram and Neda Shaheen of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security on the nationwide protests against police brutality initiated by the killing of George Floyd, and how the militarization of US national security resulted in the militarization of US police departments.

Michelle Thaller, astronomer and research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, joins Press the Button to discuss the science behind nuclear weapons, and what exactly makes them so dangerous. Early Warning discusses recent revelations that the Trump administration considered resuming US nuclear testing, which has not occurred since 1992. In the Silo features our senior program officer Cara Wagner on the Consensual Straitjacket, New America's landmark report on the challenges faced by women in the nuclear field.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, joins Press the Button for an in-depth look at the failure of the Trump administration's Iran policy, and how progressives can organize to implement a new national security strategy. Early Warning features Moritz Kütt of the University of Hamburg and Jack Brosnan of the Nuclear Threat Initiative discussing the fate and importance of the Open Skies Treaty.

David Rothkopf, professor of international relations, political scientist and journalist, provides a sobering assessment on the decline of American power in the face of three crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse, and government corruption. Early Warning features Laicie Heeley of Inkstick Media and our senior program officer/nuclear field coordinator John Carl Baker on the urgent need to rethink US national security. Joe Cirincione answers a question on the fate of US nuclear weapons located in Germany.

Leilani Münter, former professional stock car racing driver and environmental activist, joins Press the Button to discuss the intersection of environmental and national security priorities, and how human activity has initiated a mass extinction of species. Early Warning features our deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest on US-North Korea relations in the midst of Kim Jong-un's public re-emergence and the state of the Iran nuclear agreement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Ro Khanna, US Representative for California's 17th district, returns to Press the Button for an exclusive look at his efforts to redirect Pentagon spending toward efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. High on his list of possible cuts are the massive increases for new nuclear weapons proposed by President Donald Trump, including a freeze on the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Early Warning features Alexandra Bell of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Richard Nephew of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs on a new report detailing the effects of Trump administration's nuclear policy.

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), joins Press the Button to discuss the intersection of immigration and national security, and how the work of LIRS makes us safer. Early Warning features our deputy policy director Mary Kazsynski and Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association on the veracity of reports that Russia and China have conducted nuclear tests, and the latest news on US-Iran tensions. Joe Cirincione answers a question on nuclear close calls.

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, joins Press the Button for an exclusive look at how MoveOn is organizing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how national security issues fit in with MoveOn's domestic priorities. Early Warning features our policy director Tom Collina and Catherine Killough of Women Cross DMZ to discuss the recent elections in South Korea and the latest updates on the $85 billion ICBM program. Joe answers a question from John in Delaware.

It's our birthday! For the 1-year anniversary of Press the Button, US Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joins us for a discussion on economic relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what needs to be done to repair the holes in our social contract. Early Warning features Alexandra Bell of the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation and our Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram discussing US plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, and where former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee for US president Joe Biden stands on nuclear issues.

Ariane Tabatabai, Middle East expert and adjunct senior research fellow at Columbia University, joins Press the Button for a discussion on how the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Iran hard, and growing calls for the United States to pause or ease sanctions to allow Iran to deal with the pandemic. A special Early Warning features co-hosts Joe Cirincione and Michelle Dover on how COVID-19 will permanently change the United States' approach to national security. Joe reveals his top three nuclear-themed films in the Q&A segment.

Liz Watson, executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, joins Press the Button to discuss her organization's work lobbying for key progressive measures to be included in the $2 trillion stimulus bill recently passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early Warning features our director or policy Tom Collina, senior program officer John Carl Baker, and Cecili Thompson-Williams of Beyond the Bomb discussing how COVID-19 is affecting US policy at home and abroad.

Gretchen Hund, former Director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Center for Global Security and current Ploughshares Fund board member, joins Press the Button to discuss the environmental impact of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund's deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Wendy Jordan of Taxpayers for Common Sense discussing Congress's failure to agree to a stimulus package for Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of US sanctions on Iran during this critical time.

Caroline Dorminey and Corey Greer from Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) join Press the Button for a discussion on the political and financial context of the Pentagon's latest budget, as well as how WAND's grassroots efforts are sparking a new wave of public interest in nuclear issues. A special In the Silo segment looks into the grassroots movement behind No First Use policy, featuring Women Legislators' Lobby director Jennifer Blemur and Nuclear Security Working Group congressional fellow Abigail Stowe-Thurston. Early Warning features co-host Michelle Dover, Ploughshares Fund's deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Dr. Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Pam Hamamoto, former ambassador to the UN in Geneva under President Barack Obama, joins Press the Button for an exclusive interview on her experiences leading the US’s largest overseas multilateral diplomatic post, and her current leadership of the Women's Initiative $1 Million Campaign at Ploughshares Fund. Hamamoto co-founded International Gender Champions, a global network of leaders committed to promoting gender equality through specific actions and policy changes. Early Warning features Tom Collina and Akshai Vikram comparing the Democratic presidential candidates' positions on nuclear policy with that of the Trump administration's approach, the IAEA's latest report on Iran's uranium enrichment, and what to do about Coronavirus.

Jessica Mathews, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, joins co-host Joe Cirincione for a wide-ranging conversation on how bipartisan consensus enabled an out-of-control US military spending spree that continues to this day. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund Board Member Philip Taubman discussing the Open Skies Treaty and the state of arms control in the face of renewed nuclear modernization programs.

Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, joins co-host Joe Cirincione for a sobering assessment of the current moment in our nuclear history, and how to prevent the worst from happening during the Trump administration and beyond. Early Warning features our Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram and Catherine Killough of Women Cross DMZ assessing nuclear policy in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, the impact of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and recent parliamentary elections in Iran.

The Trump administration's budget request for 2021 is out, and it calls for an eye-popping $75 billion in nuclear weapons spending. William Hartung of the Center for International Policy returns to Press the Button to discuss the exploding nuclear budget: why it's happening, what it means for spending on other things, and why it's so dangerous. Early Warning features our policy director Tom Collina and Erica Fein of Win Without War discussing the winners and losers of the budget request, and recent legislation introduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar that aims to outline a progressive foreign policy vision for the United States.

What does a feminist foreign policy look like, and what would it mean for nuclear policy? Joe Cirincione and Michelle Dover sit down for an in-depth interview with Lyric Thompson, the director of policy and advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women, to answer these questions. Thompson’s organization is in the middle of a big project: providing the intellectual framework for a feminist foreign policy. Early Warning features our policy director Tom Collina and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists discussing the impending collapse of New START, the exploding nuclear weapons budget, the deployment of new weapons on US submarines, and the risks of keeping American nuclear weapons in Europe.

In a special episode of Press The Button, we announce the planned retirement of Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione. Joe Cirincione became only the second president of Ploughshares Fund following the passing of its founding president, Sally Lilienthal. Cirincione's career spans over four decades as a foreign policy analyst, national security staffer in Congress, and a frequent expert commentator in print and on air. He looks back at his time leading Ploughshares Fund and analyzes what lies ahead in a short interview with co-host Michelle Dover.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations, join Press the Button for a wide-ranging conversation on nuclear weapons and climate change, the twin existential threats facing the world today. Robinson is Chair and Ban is Deputy Chair of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights. Early Warning features our Senior Program Officer/Nuclear Field Coordinator John Carl Baker and Mana Mostatabi of the National Iranian American Council analyzing the political and cultural ramifications of US policy toward Iran, and how the anti-war movement has responded to the threat of war.

How close is Iran to obtaining a nuclear weapon? Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, joins Joe Cirincione and Michelle Dover to debunk a few myths surrounding Iran and the bomb, and what 'breakout time' really means. Early Warning features our Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram and Andrey Baklitskiy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies discussing the future of US-Russia arms control and the role of nuclear weapons policy in the upcoming US presidential elections. Joe answers a question from Ariel in Maryland.

Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former ambassador to NATO, joins co-host Joe Cirincione for a discussion on how the next US president should think about nuclear weapons policy, and how the US can begin working toward a nuclear-free world. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund policy director Tom Collina and Kate Kizer of Win Without War on escalating tensions between US and Iran, and how last week's events have made us less safe.

Joe Cirincione hosts a special crossover episode with The Bill Press Pod, a long-running program hosted by political commentator Bill Press. They take a deep dive into the national security crisis with Iran, and what lies ahead in the wake of Qasem Soleimani's killing.

This week's episode is dedicated to the spiraling national security crisis with Iran following the US killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Stephen Miles, the executive director of Win Without War, sits down with co-hosts Michelle Dover and Joe Cirincione to discuss how the Trump administration's policy toward Iran has brought the US to the brink of a new war in the Middle East, and what can be done to prevent further escalation. Early Warning features our Nuclear Field Coordinator/Senior Program Officer John Carl Baker and Ariane Tabatabai of RAND Corporation analyzing the abysmal results of President Trump's 'maximum pressure' campaign that began with US abrogation of the Iran nuclear agreement, and how this may affect nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

A special year-end episode of Press the Button features co-hosts Joe Cirincione and Michelle Dover looking back at major nuclear policy and national security events during the 2010s, and what we can look forward to in the new decade.

Ambassador Susan Burk joins co-host Joe Cirincione for a discussion on the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Opened for signature in 1968, the treaty commits states to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to negotiate general and complete disarmament. Serving under President Barack Obama, Ambassador Burk was responsible for working with other states to strengthen the NPT and the international nonproliferation regime. Early Warning features Akshai Vikram and Allegra Harpootlian discussing the financial and environmental costs of US foreign policy, and how India is being transformed under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Joe and co-host Michelle Dover answer a question from Orion.

Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, joins co-host Joe Cirincione for an exclusive interview on global security, and how globalization and technological advancement exacerbate already serious dangers from nuclear weapons, cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and automated weapons. Early Warning features Erica Fein of Win Without War, and Geoffrey Wilson of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation discussing what went wrong for House Democrats during negotiations for the final National Defense Authorization Act, and the bombshell Washington Post report on the Afghanistan War.

Kate Folb, director of Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), joins co-host Joe Cirincione to discuss HH&S's work linking screenwriters with the top experts on health, safety, and national security. Last year, Kate helped connect Joe with the producers of “Madam Secretary,” the hit CBS political drama, to walk the showrunners through what would happen if the White House believed the United States was under nuclear attack. Hollywood, Health & Society is a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund's Senior Program Officer/Nuclear Field Coordinator John Carl Baker and Gabrielle Tarini of RAND Corporation. Joe answers a question from Sean.

Jeffrey Lewis, expert in nuclear nonproliferation and geopolitics, joins co-host Joe Cirincione for a wide-ranging discussion on national security, presidential authority, and how the next occupant of the White House should tackle nuclear policy issues. Early Warning features our director of policy Tom Collina and Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram discussing the ongoing protests in Iran and US nuclear policy, which currently allows the president absolute authority to launch nuclear weapons whenever they want, for whatever reason.

John Glaser and Chris Preble of the Cato Institute join co-host Joe Cirincione for a discussion on the Trump Administration's effect on US foreign policy, and what it means for the theory of American primacy that Glaser and Preble argue has guided US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Glaser and Preble are co-authors of Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America’s Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (and How We Can Recover). Early Warning features our director of policy Tom Collina, Roger L. Hale Fellow Akshai Vikram, and Catherine Killough of Women Cross DMZ analyzing exchanges on North Korea and Iran during last week's Democratic presidential debate.

Ambassador Laura Holgate joins co-host Michelle Dover to reflect on the one-year anniversary of Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, a leadership network co-founded by Holgate and Dover that aims to break down gender barriers and promote gender equality in the nuclear field. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Nuclear Field Coordinator/Senior Program Officer John Carl Baker discussing the Trump administration's attempts to drive out long-time US State Department officials, Iran's latest breaches of the Iran nuclear agreement, and a recent report revealing that nearly 50 universities are involved in the research and design of US nuclear weapons. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Nick in Vancouver.

Tristan Guyette and Colleen Moore of Beyond the Bomb discuss their experiences organizing a nationwide mass movement to prevent nuclear war in an exclusive interview with Joe Cirincione. Early Warning features Press the Button co-host Michelle Dover, Ploughshares Fund Director of Policy Tom Collina, and Ariane Tabatabai of Columbia University on recent news that Iran has restarted uranium enrichment at its Fordow facility and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Kayvon in California.

Dr. Zia Mian joins co-host Michelle Dover for an in-depth discussion on the crisis in India and Pakistan, and whether or not the current nuclear order is worth saving. Dr. Mian is a physicist and co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Early Warning features our Roger L. Hale fellow Akshai Vikram and Esther Im of the National Committee on North Korea discussing recent developments on North Korea and Iran.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, presents an exclusive look at the future of US nuclear policy. He outlines the challenges that lie ahead for efforts to restart dialogue between the world's nuclear powers, stop the production of new nuclear weapons, and re-think the US nuclear posture review. Smith's remarks were taken from a special briefing on US nuclear policy hosted by Ploughshares Fund on October 23. Early Warning features Ploughshares Fund deputy director of policy Mary Kaszynski and Geoff Wilson of Council for a Livable World on the partisan fight behind the drafting and passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. Joe Cirincione answers a question from Mark in Massachusetts.

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