REPORTS: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DISCUSSED CONDUCTING EXPLOSIVE NUCLEAR TESTS
News broke Friday night in The Washington Post that in a meeting last week, senior national security officials discussed conducting an explosive nuclear test for the first time since 1992. The test would reportedly be a political move to persuade China to join arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia. In a statement, Executive Director John Tierney said the reports are “nothing short of appalling.”
“It is beyond reckless to provoke a possible widespread return to explosive testing simply to make a political point. No one doubts the nuclear supremacy of the United States — least of all China, whose nuclear arsenal remains roughly 1/20 the size of the U.S. arsenal. The United States is the most powerful country in the world and it does not need to bluff or bully countries to the negotiating table. Nuclear brinkmanship is not a game; nuclear weapons are not toys; and the Americans who live near or downwind of the Nevada National Security Site are not pawns to be blasted across a radioactive chess board.”
Our experts warned two years ago that this might happen, writing in War on the Rocks that two Trump administration documents suggest it is “laying the groundwork to resume explosive nuclear testing at its discretion.” The consequences would be vast, including environmental and health risks, the abdication of an international norm, and likely a new international testing race. The test would also provide no benefits to the United States — as Senior Policy Director Alexandra Bell explained to AM 740 KTRH in Houston, simulated explosions provide data that render explosive tests unnecessary.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PULLING OUT OF OPEN SKIES TREATY
On Thursday, the Trump administration announced it would withdraw from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, which allows the 34 participating countries, including the United States and Russia, to conduct mutually agreed-upon military surveillance flights over other participating countries. Bell explained to The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC, Newsweek and others, that while the treaty had certain compliance issues, it has helped prevent miscalculations and misunderstandings that could have otherwise led to conflict, and withdrawing simply has no benefits to the United States.
Executive Director Tierney called the move reckless and said the president should reverse the decision. That is likely the only way to save U.S. participation in the treaty — a potential future president who wishes to re-enter the treaty would need 67 votes in the Senate, which, unfortunately, is unlikely.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DELAYS DECISION ON NEW START EXTENSION
The Trump administration said Thursday that it has begun talks with Russia about a trilateral nuclear arms control treaty to include China. Ostensibly, this would replace the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which has successfully limited the number of deployed and strategic nuclear warheads in the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals for a decade. If not extended, the treaty expires February 5, 2021. As Bell told U.S. News & World Report, New START is “a life preserver, allowing us to have real-time insights into each other’s strategic arsenals. It’s an absolutely reckless thing to gamble away in the hopes of creating something larger.”
WHAT THE CORONAVIRUS CAN TEACH US ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the ways the United States has mismanaged its national security priorities, Bell told Responsible Statecraft. “The real problems we’ve faced over the last decade have been natural disaster related to climate change and economic upheaval. It’s been attacks on democracy and the rise of populism, it’s been pandemics. Nothing in the nuclear budget is helping any of those problems…I hope that people see a $750 billion defense budget did nothing to stop the spread of this deadly virus across the country.”
A WORTHLESS WITHDRAWAL: TWO YEARS POST-IRAN DEAL ABANDONMENT, WHERE ARE WE?
May 8 marked two years since the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Research Analyst Samuel Hickey writes that since then, the Trump administration has re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, bullied our allies, and wasted valuable time trying to further destroy the Iran deal instead of trying to address its concerns. Now, the United States is frantically trying to stop a United Nations arms embargo linked to the deal from being lifted.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE 75TH YEAR OF THE NUCLEAR AGE
The Catholic church has long spoken out against the existence and use of nuclear weapons, but recently has become more active, including by creating an office to address the intersections between nuclear weapons, poverty, the environment and migration, writes Policy Intern Isabel Martinez.