More than a dozen years after the end of the Cold War, the frozen nuclear strategies of that conflict have begun to thaw. Russia is itching to make further cuts in its strategic forces. Several European countries have opened a debate on whether tactical nuclear weapons are still needed on that continent, and the U.S. Congress may appoint a civilian commission to look at nuclear policy, force structure, weapons readiness, and estimates of likely threats. “I think the time is now for a thoughtful and open debate on the role of nuclear weapons in our country’s national security strategy,” Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio) said earlier this year.
We agree. Rather than the product of a well-thought-out but grave security logic, today’s nuclear weapons arsenals often seem the product of inertia and inattention on the part of policymakers. Few leaders in the United States or elsewhere have stepped back from today’s altered security landscape to ask what purpose, if any, these weapons serve now. Arms Control Today asked six global leaders and policy practitioners to respond to the question, “Do nuclear weapons serve a purpose today, and if so, what is it?” Their answers follow.
- President Mikhail Gorbachev
- John P. Holdren
- Ambassador Henrik Salander
- Frank Miller
- Judge C. G. Weeramantry
- Major General William F. Burns (Ret.)