global issues

Nuclear and Other Weapons Issues

Recent U.S. History and Current Policies

Over 95 percent of the world's more than 30,000 nuclear weapons exist in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. Of those, close to 5,000 weapons are poised for immediate launch. This situation led the U.S. Congress of the early 1990s – specifically Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA, retired) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) – to take steps toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation by adopting the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Program in 1991. The program was renamed the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in 1993. CTR, also known as the Nunn-Lugar Program, was designed to help the countries of the former Soviet Union destroy nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction as well as related infrastructure. The program has helped to secure nuclear facilities through better accountability of weapons and fissile materials; it has prevented diversion of weapons-related expertise by ensuring stable incomes for Russian nuclear experts; and it has established safeguards against proliferation. Since its inception, the CTR program has significantly contributed to reducing the threat facing the U.S.

Nuclear Posture Review
Early in 2002, the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) – a study of the role, size and structure of U.S. nuclear forces – was announced. Mandated by law and the first since 1994, the Secretary of Defense completed the NPR in consultation with the Secretary of Energy. The NPR confirmed the reductions in long-range nuclear weapons that President George W. Bush pledged the U.S. would make over ten years. Those cuts would have reduced the deployed U.S. strategic arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200, from the START I Treaty level of 6,000. Overall, the U.S. has more than 10,000 nuclear weapons on active and reserve status. It was this NPR that led to the adoption of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), signed by the U.S. and Russia in May of 2002, and ratified by the U.S. Senate in March 2003. In June 2004, President Bush ordered the nation's nuclear arsenal cut nearly in half by 2012, with few details about how these reductions would be achieved.

Our Position
While we are in favor of deep reductions in nuclear weapons as a necessary first step, the Kirsch Foundation continues to be concerned about the actions and recommendations of the Bush Administration. Mirroring the convictions of many members of Congress as well as arms control advocates, it is our belief that current U.S. proposals could translate into global nuclear proliferation rather than disarmament. The American public also shows high levels of concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. A large majority of Americans believes that:

  • Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should be an important U.S. foreign policy goal;
  • The U.S. should operate in a multilateral – not unilateral – fashion to address the nuclear threat; and
  • The U.S. should participate in the treaty banning all nuclear explosions (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty).

With concerns about the ability of terrorists to create and use a "dirty bomb" or to secure sufficient materials for a more sophisticated nuclear weapon and the political instability of certain countries that have or are developing nuclear capabilities, it is clear that aggressive action to reduce nuclear warheads, to secure fissile materials, and to support treaties that assure peace and security for all countries is necessary.

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