Senior Policy Director John Erath spoke with Truthout about the dangers of nuclear weapons and arms racing in 2024.
Despite this, John Erath, senior policy director for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, says “the possibility of nuclear war is very small,” but hastened to add that the catastrophic dangers and potential consequences of even “limited use” of nuclear weapons cannot be ignored.
In an interview with Truthout, Erath said that Russia is wielding its nuclear weapons in a “very deliberate and controlled manner” as a political tool to dissuade countries from aiding Ukraine. If the war ended in a way in which Russia could claim some measure of victory, that would normalize nuclear blackmail as an instrument of statecraft, providing a powerful incentive to acquire nuclear weapons, Erath said. The Ukraine war’s outcome, he added, could set a pattern for international security dynamics for the rest of the 21st century.
Erath argues, however, that nuclear weapons have limited military value. He says that if Russia — which has shown no reluctance to kill civilians or destroy infrastructure — had a use for a nuclear weapon, it would have used it already. “Ultimately, nuclear weapons are not that useful to achieve military objectives,” said Erath. “Especially if you’re trying to take over somebody else’s territory, or in the case of Gaza, eliminate Hamas and their military facilities. You don’t do that by destroying and irradiating a densely populated area.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal, he noted, did nothing to prevent the October 7 Hamas attack.
Erath encourages more dialogue between nuclear adversaries because “talking is better than simply building more weapons all the time.” Regarding what he called “runaway spending habits of the U.S. government,” Erath said that no matter one’s political orientation, “everybody should agree that we don’t need to be throwing billions more into nuclear weapons.” Read more