Part I of two posts on the Global Zero Movement
The congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which outlines U.S. nuclear strategy, forces, and readiness, has been delayed until, at the earliest, the second half of this month. According to a senior administration official, the review will call for “dramatic reductions in the stockpile,” a “greater role for conventional weapons in deterrence” and ruling out the need for low-yield, bunker-busting nuclear weapons capable of penetrating underground targets.
While this is very encouraging news, there is still some concern that the new NPR will not go far enough towards achieving President Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Reports have indicated that early drafts of the Nuclear Posture Review fell short of the transformational vision put forth by the President in Prague. Here’s to hoping that when he makes his final decisions on the review, President Obama will take his cues from the rapidly growing Global Zero movement rather than those who may be urging him not to stray too far from the status quo…
Global Zero was launched in Paris in December of 2008. Its declaration states “that to protect our children, our grandchildren and our civilization from the threat of nuclear catastrophe, we must eliminate all nuclear weapons globally.” The initial movement gathered 100 global leaders to establish a phased, verifiable plan to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide.
Both President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have committed themselves to the movement. President Medvedev made headlines last week when he announced that “Global zero is a beautiful idea but, as you’ll understand, this idea can only be reached as a result of concerted work by all nuclear states.”
In addition to Obama and Medvedev, Queen Noor of Jordan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Ambassador Richard Burt have emerged as leading advocates of the Global Zero movement. Queen Noor was bold enough to make an appearance on the “Colbert Report” in support of Global Zero.
At Global Zero’s February 2010 Paris Summit, participants ranged from Michael Douglas to Hans Blix. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher delivered remarks. Opening day statements were made by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Ban Ki-moon.
While the Global Zero declaration boasts a score of high profile signatories from all corners of the globe and all ranges of the political spectrum, their philosophy also depends on strong grassroots support. A recent poll of 21 countries found that global public opinion strongly favors the elimination of all nuclear weapons according to a timetable: 76 percent of respondents across all countries polled favor such an agreement. In an effort to capitalize on this support, Global Zero is seeking to open chapters at universities across the planet and is actively trying to reach out to new supporters via new media mediums such as Twitter and Facebook.
Despite the broad base of support for a world without nuclear weapons, recent leaks of the potential contents of the new NPR suggest that a meaningful shift from Cold War thinking could be unlikely in some areas. Jeffrey Lewis blogged on Arms Control Wonk that the review will likely “fall far short of the President’s rhetoric in Prague,” resulting in a “very conventional document.” Several leading Democrats fear the review could retain ambiguous wording regarding the purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Global Security Newswire recently published an article under the headline “U.S. Seen Ruling Out ‘No First Use’ Nuke Policy,” citing internal divisions within the administration.
President Obama should not be timid in crafting a meaningful overhaul of nuclear thinking, especially given the support from and strength of the Global Zero movement. 77 percent of Americans have voiced their support for the phased, verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, and our country’s nuclear posture should establish a platform upon which this vision can begin to be realized.