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U.S.-Russian Arms Control Working Groups Meet | U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, August 5 2020

U.S.-Russian Arms Control Working Groups Meet Delegations representing the United States and Russia met in Vienna from July 27-30 for four days of talks on space security and nuclear arms control amid the Trump administration’s continued push for an unprecedented new trilateral arms control deal and uncertainty about the fate of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ). The four days of meetings marked the most sustained period of dialogue on arms control issues between professional experts from the two sides since the Trump administration took office. But few details have...

Reality Check: Video Essay on the 1945 Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Seventy-five years ago on July 16 1945, the nuclear age began with the world's first nuclear weapons test explosion in the New Mexico desert. In this annotated video essay from the Arms Control Association, we describe the events that transpired three weeks later with the atomic attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A more detailed review of the geopolitical, environmental, and humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the rise of a global disarmament movement, and the work of the hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear attacks) is available in our special July/August 2020 issue of Arms Control Today, available at ArmsControl.org/75years.


TRANSCRIPT:

On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert, the United States detonated the world’s first nuclear weapons test explosion.

Three weeks later, U.S. bombers carried out surprise atomic bomb attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At 8:15 in the morning on August 6, the uranium-based atomic bomb "Little Boy" was used on Hiroshima, home of approximately 320,000 people.

The blast packed a destructive force equivalent to about 15 kilotons of TNT.

In minutes, half of the city ... vanished.

The explosion produced a supersonic shock wave followed by extreme winds that remained above hurricane force over three kilometers from ground zero.

A secondary and equally devastating reverse wind followed, flattening and severely damaging homes and buildings several kilometers further away.

The intense heat of the Hiroshima bomb reached several million degrees Celsius and scorched flesh and other flammable materials over three kilometers away.

Flash burns from the primary heatwave caused most of the deaths at Hiroshima.

Three days later, U.S. leaders ordered “Fat Man,” a plutonium-based bomb with an explosive yield of 21 kilotons, dropped on Nagasaki, home to over 260,000 people.

The attack occurred two days earlier than planned, 10 hours after the Soviets entered the war against Japan, and as Japanese leaders were contemplating surrender.

Intense firestorms ravaged each city for hours after each attack. They leveled neighborhoods only partially damaged by the blast itself, killing more victims trapped under fallen debris.

Black rain laden with radioactive soot and dust contaminated areas far away from ground zero.

By the end of 1945, the blast, heat, and radiation of the nuclear attacks had killed an estimated 74,000 in Nagasaki and 140,000 in Hiroshima.

Many of those who survived the nuclear attacks would die from radiation-induced illnesses for years to come.

Historians now largely agree that the United States did not need to drop the bombs to avoid an invasion of Japan and bring an end to World War II.

Though aware of alternatives, President Harry Truman authorized use of the bombs in part to further the U.S. government’s postwar geostrategic aims.

Survivors of the nuclear attacks, known as hibakusha, and their descendants formed the nucleus of the Japanese and global nuclear disarmament movements.

The remaining hibakusha and organizations around the globe continue to work for a nuclear weapons-free world “so that succeeding generations of people will not see hell on earth ever again.”

Today, nine states still possess more than 13,000 nuclear weapons.

The risk of nuclear war is still with us.

To reduce this danger, we must freeze and reverse the arms race and, ultimately, eliminate nuclear weapons.

For more information:
ArmsControl.org/75years

Written by Daryl G. Kimball
Edited and Produced by Tony Fleming

Photos Credits:
Atomic Heritage Foundation ・ Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
UN/Nagasaki International Cultural Hall ・ UN/Yosuke Yamahata
Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images ・ Joyce Naltchayan/AFP via Getty Images
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images ・ Junko Kimura/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images ・ Peter Parks/Getty Images

Description: 

Seventy-five years ago, the nuclear age began with the world's first nuclear weapons test explosion in the New Mexico desert. In this annotated "silent film"-style video essay from the Arms Control Association, we learn about the events that transpired three weeks later with the atomic attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Thank you for contacting your Representative

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The last U.S. nuclear weapons test was in 1992. The last nuclear weapons test by any nation was in 2017 by North Korea.Thank you for reaching out to your Representative in support of prohibiting funding for new nuclear tests.

Please spread the word and make sure the House hears the message and acts to prohibit funding for new nuclear test explosions.

The first nuclear test explosion was detonated seventy-five years ago on July 16, 1945.

After more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions, nuclear testing is a dangerous vestige of a bygone era. We must not go back to that era. Opening the door to testing and inflaming a nuclear arms race is the last thing we need in the midst of current global security challenges.

Read more in our current issue of Arms Control Today, a special issue marking the 75th year of the nuclear age.

Thank you again for taking action! 


Email a Friend

Friend,

I have just written to my U.S. Representative calling on them to help close the door on U.S. nuclear testing.

The Trump administration is considering conducting a nuclear test as a political ploy in arms control talks with Russia and China. Worse, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee authorized $10 million specifically for a nuclear test blast if ordered by President Trump.

But several members of the House have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit funding for a demonstration nuclear test explosion in fiscal year 2021.

A U.S. nuclear test would raise tensions with Russia and China and almost certainly trigger an outbreak of nuclear testing by other counties and spur an all-out global arms race. It would unravel the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban treaty and the global taboo against nuclear testing.

This is the last thing we need now as we face multiple security challenges.

The vote in the House will take place THIS WEEK.

Can you join me and write a letter?

Click here: https://www.armscontrol.org/take-action/tell-house-vote-against-nuclear-testing

Thank you!

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Thank you for contacting your Representative

Body: 


The last U.S. nuclear weapons test was in 1992. The last nuclear weapons test by any nation was in 2017 by North Korea.Thank you for reaching out to your Representative in support of prohibiting funding for new nuclear tests.

Please spread the word and make sure the House hears the message and acts to prohibit funding for new nuclear test explosions.

The first nuclear test explosion was detonated seventy-five years ago on July 16, 1945.

After more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions, nuclear testing is a dangerous vestige of a bygone era. We must not go back to that era. Opening the door to testing and inflaming a nuclear arms race is the last thing we need in the midst of current global security challenges.

Read more in our current issue of Arms Control Today, a special issue marking the 75th year of the nuclear age.

Thank you again for taking action! 


Email a Friend

Friend,

I have just written to my U.S. Representative calling on them to help close the door on U.S. nuclear testing.

The Trump administration is considering conducting a nuclear test as a political ploy in arms control talks with Russia and China. Worse, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee authorized $10 million specifically for a nuclear test blast if ordered by President Trump.

But several members of the House have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit funding for a demonstration nuclear test explosion in fiscal year 2021.

A U.S. nuclear test would raise tensions with Russia and China and almost certainly trigger an outbreak of nuclear testing by other counties and spur an all-out global arms race. It would unravel the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban treaty and the global taboo against nuclear testing.

This is the last thing we need now as we face multiple security challenges.

The vote in the House will take place THIS WEEK.

Can you join me and write a letter?

Click here: https://www.armscontrol.org/take-action/tell-house-vote-against-nuclear-testing

Thank you!

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

TAKE ACTION: Tell the House to Vote Against Nuclear Testing

Body: 

Your voice is needed now to call upon Congress to say “no” to renewed U.S. nuclear testing.

This week, the House will consider an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) introduced by Reps. McAdams (D-UT), Gabbard (D-HI), Titus (D-NV), McGovern (D-MA), Horsford (D-NV), and Susie Lee (D-NV) that is designed to prohibit funding for a demonstration nuclear test explosion in fiscal year 2021. 

A vote is expected Monday, July 20, and we need all Representatives urged to vote YES.

UPDATE: The amendment passed 227-179! Click here to see how your Representative voted.

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since 1992 when a bipartisan congressional majority mandated a test moratorium and talks on a global ban. The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has established a global taboo against all nuclear testing.

The Trump administration is now considering conducting a nuclear test for political signaling purposes, as a ploy in future arms control talks with Russia and China.

Worse, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee authorized $10 million specifically for a nuclear test blast if ordered by President Trump. Such a test could be conducted in a matter of a few months underground at the former Nevada Test Site outside Las Vegas.

In reality, the first U.S. nuclear test blast in 28 years would raise tensions with Russia and China and almost certainly trigger an outbreak of nuclear testing by other counties and spur an all-out global arms race.

Now is the time to contact your Representative in the House. Complete this form to urge your Representative to close the door on nuclear testing by prohibiting funding for nuclear testing for any purpose.

Description: 

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit funding for a demonstration nuclear test explosion being considered by senior Trump officials for political signaling purposes in future arms control talks with Russia and China.

UPDATE: A good win for nuclear sanity in the House! Learn what happens next...

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Nuclear Testing, Never Again


July/August 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

Seventy-five years ago, on July 16, the United States detonated the world’s first nuclear weapons test explosion in the New Mexican desert. Just three weeks later, U.S. Air Force B-29 bombers executed surprise atomic bomb attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 214,000 people by the end of 1945, and injuring untold thousands more who died in the years afterward.

“Trinity,” the first nuclear test explosion, July 16, 1945. (Photo: Science History Images/Alamy Stock Photo)Since then, the world has suffered from a costly and deadly nuclear arms race fueled by more than 2,056 nuclear test explosions by at least eight states, more than half of which (1,030) were conducted by the United States.

But now, as a result of years of sustained citizen pressure and campaigning, congressional leadership, and scientific and diplomatic breakthroughs, nuclear testing is taboo.

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992, when a bipartisan congressional majority mandated a nine-month testing moratorium. In 1996 the United States was the first to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which verifiably prohibits all nuclear test explosions of any yield. Today, the CTBT has 184 signatories and almost universal support. But it has not formally entered into force due to the failure of the United States,
China, and six other holdout states to ratify the pact.

As a result, the door to nuclear testing remains ajar, and now some White House officials and members of the Senate’s Dr. Strangelove Caucus are threatening to blow it wide open.

According to a May 22 article in The Washington Post, senior national security officials discussed the option of a demonstration nuclear blast at a May 15 interagency meeting. A senior official told the Post that a “rapid test” by the United States could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as the Trump administration tries to pressure Russia and China to engage in talks on a new arms control agreement.

Making matters worse, in a party-line vote last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to authorize $10 million specifically for a nuclear test if so ordered by President Donald Trump. Such a test could be conducted underground in just a few months at the former Nevada Test Site outside Las Vegas.

The idea of such a demonstration nuclear test blast is beyond reckless. In reality, the first U.S. nuclear test explosion in 28 years would do nothing to rein in Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals or improve the environment for negotiations. Rather, it would raise tensions and probably trigger an outbreak of nuclear testing by other nuclear actors, leading to an all-out global arms race in which everyone would come out a loser.

Other nuclear-armed countries, such as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea would have far more to gain from nuclear testing than would the United States. Over the course of the past 25 years, the U.S. nuclear weapons labs have spent billions to maintain the U.S. arsenal without nuclear explosive testing. Other nuclear powers would undoubtedly seize the opportunity provided by a U.S. nuclear blast to engage in multiple explosive tests of their own, which could help them perfect new and more dangerous types of warheads.

Moves by the United States to prepare for or to resume nuclear testing would shred its already tattered reputation as a leader on nonproliferation and make a mockery of the State Department’s initiative for a multilateral dialogue to create a better environment for progress on nuclear disarmament. The United States would join North Korea, which is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in this century, as a nuclear rogue state.

As Dr. Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, said on May 28, “[A]ctions or activities by any country that violate the international norm against nuclear testing, as underpinned by the CTBT, would constitute a grave challenge to the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime, as well as to global peace and security more broadly.”

Talk of renewing U.S. nuclear testing would dishonor the victims of the nuclear age. These include the millions of people who have died and suffered from illnesses directly related to the radioactive fallout from tests conducted in the United States, the islands of the Pacific, Australia, China, North Africa, Russia, and Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union conducted 468 of its 715 nuclear tests. Tragically, the downwinders affected by the first U.S. nuclear test, code-named “Trinity,” are still not even included in the U.S. Radiation Effects Compensation Act program, which is due to expire in 2022.

Congress must step in and slam the door shut on the idea of resuming nuclear testing, especially if its purpose is to threaten other countries. As Congress finalizes the annual defense authorization and energy appropriations bills, it can and must enact a prohibition on the use of funds for nuclear testing and enact safeguards that require affirmative House and Senate votes on any proposal for testing in the future. Eventually, the Senate can and must also reconsider and ratify the CTBT itself. As a signatory, the United States is legally bound to comply with CTBT’s prohibition on testing, but has denied itself the benefits that will come with ratification and entry into force of the treaty.

Nuclear weapons test explosions are a dangerous vestige of a bygone era. We must not go back.

Seventy-five years ago, on July 16, the United States detonated the world’s first nuclear weapons test explosion in the New Mexican desert. Just three weeks later, U.S. Air Force B-29 bombers executed surprise atomic bomb attacks on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 214,000 people by the end of 1945, and injuring untold thousands more who died in the years afterward.

Reflections on Injustice, Racism, and the Bomb


July/August 2020
By Vincent Intondi

The moment in August 2005 is seared into my memory. The train pulled up to the Hiroshima station from Kyoto. I stepped out with my mind full of images from 60 years ago, when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on this pristine city of 340,000 people. (Hiroshima had been one of the few cities that escaped the fire-bombing campaign of Japan’s major cities led by U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay.) Initially, I was taken aback by what I saw: a modern city, filled with restaurants, hotels, shops, and lots of people, much like any other in the industrialized world.

About one million people attended the historic rally to “Halt the Arms Race and Fund Human Needs," in New York on June 12, 1982. (Photo: Andy Levin/Science Source)

Suddenly, everything changed. Clearly, I was not ready; and before I could prepare myself, I was standing in front of the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome—one of the few structures still standing in its original form near the hypocenter. Throughout my life, I had seen photos of the dome standing alone amid the total destruction wrought by the 15-kiloton atomic blast. But it was different being there in person. I could feel myself starting to change.

The next two days were filled with conversations with atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha), museum visits, and retracing the places about which John Hersey wrote in his historic work, Hiroshima. On the night of August 6, I saw thousands of Japanese citizens gathered at the Motoyasu River. People reflected on those who lost their lives, making paper floating lanterns and putting them in the water.

That night, with a few of my new Japanese friends (I was a student at the time at American University, which partnered with Ritsumeikan University), I put our lantern into the water. I still remember what I wrote on our lantern: “I will dedicate my life to making sure this never happens again.” As it floated away, I began to look around and think that 60 years ago, everyone here was dead. I thought of the human suffering that had taken place, and all of my anger, guilt, and sorrow boiled over as tears rolled down my face. At that moment, Koko Tanimoto Kondo, a hibakusha with whom I had grown close, immediately came over to console me.

When I returned to the United States, friends, family, and colleagues began hearing me talk about abolishing nuclear weapons. Many were perplexed. I had been known as an activist who fought for civil rights. I had become conscious when the phrase “Free Mumia” was dominant. I had spent my time protesting the murder of Amadou Diallo and the police assault on Abner Louima. “Who cares about nuclear weapons?” I heard. “Nukes will always be there…no one is crazy enough to use them,” and “That’s an issue for old, white dudes.”

But I could not forget what I learned, who I met, or how I felt in Hiroshima. Regardless if I was fighting for civil rights; against the inequities perpetuated by the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund; for justice for the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico; or to stop the U.S. war in Iraq, I kept coming back to one thought: What does any of this matter if we were all dead from nuclear war?

To me, it was simple. These were not separate issues. Jobs, racial equality, climate change, war, class, gender, and nuclear weapons were all connected and part of the same fight: universal human rights, with the most important human right being the freedom to live…live free from the fear of nuclear war.

Of course, this thinking is not new. Contrary to the narrative that nuclear disarmament has been and remains a “white” issue, since 1945, the anti-nuclear movement has included diverse voices who saw the value in connecting all of these issues. Moreover, the nuclear disarmament movement has been most successful when it left room for diverse voices and combined the nuclear issue with social justice.

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons began even before the first bomb was dropped. Among the earliest critics of nuclear weapons were the atomic scientists, members of the Roman Catholic Church, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and many in the Black community. Specifically, regarding African Americans, for some, nuclear weapons were directly linked to racism.

Many African Americans agreed with Langston Hughes’ assertion that racism was at the heart of President Harry Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons in Japan. Why did the United States not drop atomic bombs on Italy or Germany, Hughes asked. The Black community’s fear that race played a role in the decision to use nuclear weapons only increased when the U.S. leaders threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea in the 1950s1 and Vietnam a decade later. For others, the nuclear issue was connected to colonialism. From the United States obtaining uranium from Belgian-controlled Congo to the French testing a nuclear weapon in the Sahara, activists saw a direct link between those who possessed nuclear weapons and those who colonized the nonwhite world. For many ordinary citizens, Black and white, however, fighting for nuclear disarmament simply meant escaping the fear of mutually assured nuclear destruction and moving toward a more peaceful world.

Today, many people love to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially his “I Have a Dream” speech, while also ignoring the full title and focus of the march: “Jobs and Freedom.” Throughout his life, King made the connections of what he called the “triple evils” of capitalism, racism, and militarism.

Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, shown here in 1964, combined domestic activism with international, including a trip to protest French nuclear testing in Africa.  (Photo: Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)King was not alone among civil rights activists in making these connections. To put it in today’s context, to singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson, “Black Lives Matter” meant not only speaking out about racism in the United States but also highlighting where the United States obtained its material to build nuclear weapons. To W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Lives Matter meant not only forming the NAACP or writing Souls of Black Folk, but also getting millions to sign the “Ban the Bomb” pledge to stop another Hiroshima in Korea. To civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, Black Lives Matter meant not only organizing the March on Washington but also traveling to Ghana to stop France from testing its first nuclear weapon in Africa. To Lorraine Hansberry, Black Lives Matter meant not only A Raisin in the Sun, but Les Blancs, her last play, about nuclear abolition. To Representative Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), Black Lives Matter meant not only bringing jobs and education to Oakland, California, but also making sure President Ronald Reagan did not build the MX missile.

The prominent Black writer James Baldwin put it best on April 1, 1961, when he addressed a large group of peace activists at Judiciary Square in Washington. Baldwin was one of the headlining speakers for the rally, titled “Security Through World Disarmament.”

When asked why he chose to speak at such an event, Baldwin responded, “What am I doing here? Only those who would fail to see the relationship between the fight for civil rights and the struggle for world peace would be surprised to see me. Both fights are the same. It is just as difficult for the white American to think of peace as it is of no color.… Confrontation of both dilemmas demands inner courage.” Baldwin considered both problems in the same breath because “racial hatred and the atom bomb both threaten the destruction of man as created free by God.”

The power of diversity in the nuclear disarmament movement was perhaps most evident in the 1980s. With Reagan’s rhetoric of a “winnable nuclear war” and massive budget increases for nuclear weapons while cutting social programs that hurt the most vulnerable, the anti-nuclear movement grew exponentially. The nuclear freeze movement emerged.

New groups such as the Women’s Actions for Nuclear Disarmament, Feminists Insist on a Safe Tomorrow, Performers and Artists for Nuclear Disarmament, Dancers for Disarmament, and Athletes United for Peace formed. Established organizations such as Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the Union for Concerned Scientists, and Physicians for Social Responsibility all saw their membership skyrocket.2

For some, ending the nuclear arms race was and still is linked to their religious faith. Others saw a direct link between the amount of money being spent on nuclear weapons and eliminating badly needed social programs that benefited the poor. Many viewed and still view nuclear weapons as part of the overall military industrial complex, which included U.S. intervention in Central America and the Middle East, while for others, there was a genuine fear that the United States and Soviet Union would start a nuclear war.

This new sense of awareness, fear, and action culminated in the June 12, 1982, demonstration in New York’s Central Park, in which 1 million people of different races, genders, class, and religions marched and rallied for nuclear disarmament. As Randall Forsberg, one of the principal authors of the proposal for a nuclear weapons freeze, said in her speech to the throngs that day, “Until the arms race stops, until we have a world with peace and justice, we will not go home and be quiet. We will go home and organize.”

The rally, combined with other actions of the 1980s, contributed to the Reagan administration changing course on nuclear weapons, effectively showed the power of grassroots organizing, challenged the idea that the movement was not diverse, and paved the way for a new generation of activists committed to saving the world from nuclear annihilation.

The questions that we must ask ourselves today are how have we avoided nuclear war for the last 75 years and how can we sustain the popular support and awareness that is necessary to move policymakers to take the steps necessary to reduce and eliminate nuclear dangers. The answers: good luck and good organizing. There is nothing we can do about luck, except hope it is on our side. But by learning from the past, it is clear that there is much we can do as organizers, advocates, lobbyists, artists, writers, teachers, and just concerned citizens.

We need to make connections. Our power is in our diversity. The anti-nuclear movement needs to continue to reach out to marginalized communities and show the links between that amount of money spent on nuclear weapons and how those funds could be used for food, health care, jobs, housing, and education. Whether it is connecting with the religious, immigrant, LGBTQ, or Black communities, half the battle is showing up.

We need education. Far too many students go through their entire education, including college, without ever learning about the history of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the greater nuclear threat that has persisted since 1945. We must demand that curriculums across the country dedicate more time to the nuclear arms race and the movement to stop nuclear war. This means being involved on school boards and curriculum committees and creating the materials that we can distribute and incorporate into the various school systems.

We need artists. Part of the reason the nuclear issue resonated in the 1980s was because performers such as Jackson Browne, Rita Marley, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Gil Scott-Heron, Harry Belafonte, and Linda Ronstadt, as well as various Hollywood and Broadway stars, performed, raised money, and lent their voices to the cause. We saw the power of this action when President Barack Obama was pushing the Iran nuclear deal.

We need filmmakers. One of the most successful strategies of the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s was to create “The Day After.” Viewed by millions, this film, along with Helen Caldicott’s relentless pursuit of making sure the world knew the human effects of nuclear weapons, shook ordinary citizens to their core. We can and must replicate these actions to drive home the uncomfortable fact that nuclear weapons are a threat to everyone, everywhere.

We need to hold politicians accountable. Currently, we have a president who has threatened repeatedly to use nuclear weapons, has no problem spending billions on the nuclear arsenal, and may even want to resume nuclear testing. Moreover, we have local, state, and federal politicians who support the president’s decisions and are complicit in the march to nuclear competition and the perpetuation of the oppression imposed by the threat of nuclear weapons use. Whenever we have an opportunity to back a politician who fights for nuclear disarmament, we need to do so. We need to demand from our elected officials that they work toward the goal of nuclear abolition and indeed have some of our organizers within the movement run for office themselves. Of course, we need to vote.

We need to support the anti-nuclear movement and help it evolve. Much like new organizations that emerged in the 1980s, over the last decade we have seen groups such as Global Zero, Beyond the Bomb, and Don’t Bank on the Bomb and global disarmament networks such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons emerge. From the start, these groups have promoted intersectionality and made the connections among race, climate, feminism, and poverty in the fight to abolish nuclear weapons, not just in the United States but worldwide. In many cases, dynamic women have led this new movement. They are younger, with fresh ideas; savvy; and motivated. Whether one is in favor of working toward a no-first-use policy or a formal ban on nuclear weapons through negotiations at the United Nations, these organizers need our support, money, time, and respect.

With all this said, I cannot lie. I am saddened as I write this. Every five years on the anniversary of the first atomic bombings, the demand for my work seems to increase. Although I am thankful that I have the opportunity to write and speak about racism and nuclear weapons, this also means both are still with us.

Part of the problem is that we cannot wait until an anniversary of the atomic bombing or the release of another video of an unarmed person of color being murdered by police forces to talk about these issues.

Yet, I also remain hopeful. I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association, Ploughshares Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others. I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb. I find hope in seeing so many in the streets demanding racial justice and refusing to remain silent in the face of hate, racism, and bigotry. But mostly, I remain hopeful that there will come a time, perhaps on another anniversary of Hiroshima, when I will be asked to write about the past when nuclear weapons and institutional racism once existed and were finally dismantled. Until that day, the fight continues, and we march on.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Vincent J. Intondi, African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), pp. 29–31.

2. Paul Rubinson, Rethinking the American Antinuclear Movement (New York: Routledge, 2018), pp. 121–124.

 


Vincent Intondi is a professor of history and director of the Institute for Race, Justice, and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland. His research focuses on the intersection of race and nuclear weapons. He is the author of African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement (2015).

Social movements to improve civil rights, fight climate change, and seek nuclear disarmament have been entwined since the start of the nuclear age.

No Progress Toward Extending New START


July/August 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The United States and Russia concluded the latest round of their strategic security dialogue on June 22 without agreeing to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining arms control agreement limiting their nuclear arsenals.

U.S. arms control envoy Marshall Billingslea speaks to the media in Vienna on June 23 after holding talks the day before with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)The United States is “leaving all options available” on the future of the treaty, said Marshall Billingslea, U.S. special envoy for arms control, who led the U.S. delegation at the talks in Vienna, during a June 24 briefing in Brussels.

“We are willing to contemplate an extension of that agreement but only under select circumstances,” he said. Those circumstances include making progress toward a new trilateral arms control agreement that has strong verification measures, covers all nuclear warheads, and involves China, according to Billingslea.

New START will expire in February 2021 unless U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agree to extend it by up to five years. Russia has repeatedly stated that it is ready to extend the treaty without any preconditions and warned that there is not enough time to negotiate a new agreement to replace it before next February. U.S. allies have also urged the Trump administration to extend the treaty.

Trump administration officials, however, have argued that New START is outdated and are instead prioritizing the pursuit of a broader agreement. (See ACT, May 2019.)

Billingslea characterized the talks with Russia in Vienna as “positive” and said the two sides had agreed to form technical working groups to discuss key issues.

The special envoy said he was hopeful that the working groups would make “sufficient progress” to allow for a second round of talks “at the end of July or maybe beginning of August,” when “China again will be called upon to attend.”

The Wall Street Journal on June 23 quoted an unnamed U.S. official who said that the topics for the working groups would be nuclear warheads, especially Russia’s unconstrained stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, and doctrine; verification; and space systems. But a June 24 report in Kommersant cited Russian officials saying Moscow did not necessarily agree to discuss nuclear warheads.

Asked about the discrepancy, Billingslea replied that he would have “to circle back” on this issue with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who had led the Russia delegation in Vienna.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said at the conclusion of the talks that “the delegations continued discussing the future of arms control, including extending [New START] and maintaining stability and predictability in the context of the termination of the [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, as well as a comprehensive dialogue on resolving international security problems.”

Prior to the start of the June 22 talks, Billingslea tweeted a picture of the table, with some empty seats reserved with Chinese flags. “Vienna talks about to start,” Billingslea said. “China is a no-show…We will proceed with Russia, notwithstanding.”

Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, replied, “What an odd scene… Good luck on the extension of the New START! Wonder how LOW you can go?” The United States and Russia are currently believed to possess about 6,000 total nuclear weapons apiece, while China has roughly 300.

Following the Vienna talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on June 23 that the U.S. placement of Chinese flags at empty seats “is unserious, unprofessional, and unappealing for the U.S. to try getting people’s eyes in this way.”

Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea tweeted this photo of empty seats designated for China at nuclear talks on June 22 in Vienna. Earlier in the month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “China has repeatedly reiterated that it has no intention of participating in the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia.” (Photo: @USArmsControl/Twitter)He also noted the incorrect design of the flags that the United States set on the table. “We hope certain people in the U.S. can do their homework and improve their general knowledge to avoid becoming a laughing stock,” he said.

The Trump administration claims that China is engaged in a secret, crash program to build up its nuclear forces and that future arms control efforts must include Beijing.

China has repeatedly refused to join trilateral talks with the United States and Russia and bilateral talks with the United States. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

Billingslea on June 8 invited Beijing to join the talks in Vienna, but the following day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying declined the invitation. “China has repeatedly reiterated that it has no intention of participating in the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia,” she said. “This position is very clear.”

Billingslea urged China to reconsider. “Achieving Great Power status requires behaving with Great Power responsibility,” he tweeted on June 9. “No more Great Wall of Secrecy on its nuclear build-up.”

Russia has refused to pressure China to change its position and join the talks. “China should itself decide whether these talks are beneficial for the country,” said Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, on June 20. “We will not force our Chinese friends.”

Antonov also repeated a longtime Russian stance that if China joins arms control talks, then U.S. allies France and the United Kingdom should as well.

Billingslea acknowledged that the U.S. “definition of multilateral might be different, but the principle remains the same.” He claimed that China’s nuclear buildup poses a much greater threat than the French and UK nuclear arsenals.

The Trump administration has yet to put forward a concrete proposal for what it wants arms control with China to achieve or detail what the United States would be willing to put forward as concessions in trilateral talks with Russia and China.

Prior to and following the talks in Vienna, Billingslea touted the support of U.S. allies for the Trump administration’s approach to arms control.

Allies have praised the administration for resuming talks with Russia and seeking to bring China into the arms control process, but they also continue to urge the Trump administration to extend New START by five years.

During the Brussels Forum on June 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that he welcomes “Russia and the United States sitting down and talking to each other on arms control” and agrees “that China should be involved.”

Still, he added, “in the absence of any agreement that includes China, I think the right thing will be to extend the existing New START agreement.”

“We should not end up in a situation where we have no agreement whatsoever regulating the number of nuclear weapons in the world,” he said.

New START caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers each.

Under its monitoring and verification regime, the treaty allows for short notice, on-site inspections.

As the Trump administration continues to assess whether to extend New START, inspections under the accord have been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is not clear when such inspections might resume.

 

Prospects remain dim for extending New START or engaging China in nuclear arms control efforts.

U.S. Testing Interest Triggers Backlash


July/August 2020
By Shannon Bugos

The Trump administration faces widespread opposition, including from members of Congress and nuclear weapons scientists, to the potential restarting of U.S. nuclear weapons testing.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, visited the Nevada Test Site in 2015, where structures remain from a planned, but never conducted nuclear test, in 1992. In May, Zerbo urged all countries to refrain from restarting any nuclear testing. (Photo: Lassina Zerbo Twitter)The Washington Post reported on May 22 that the Trump administration weighed whether to conduct a nuclear test explosion during a May 15 meeting with national security agencies. (See ACT, May 2020.) The administration reportedly believes that a nuclear test would help prod Russia and China into negotiating a new trilateral arms control deal.

During a June 24 press briefing in Brussels, Marshall Billingslea, U.S. special envoy for arms control, said, “[W]e maintain and will maintain the ability to conduct nuclear tests if we see reason to do so,” but that he is “not aware of any reason to test at this stage.” Nevertheless, “I won’t shut the door on it because why would we?”

The United States conducted a total of 1,030 nuclear tests, with more than 900 of them performed at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, now known as the Nevada National Security Site, until President George H.W. Bush declared a moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing in 1992. According to U.S. nuclear test readiness guidelines, a “simple test” with limited instrumentation could be conducted at the former site within six to 10 months if the president decides to resume nuclear testing.

“With no stated justification to resume testing, we unequivocally oppose any administration’s efforts to resume explosive nuclear testing in Nevada,” said Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen on June 12. They were joined by the state’s Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford, and Susie Lee.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calling for $10 million for the administration to execute a nuclear weapons test “if necessary.” The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the amendment June 10 along a party-line vote, but whether it will be included in the final bill remains unclear.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined the Nevada delegation in criticizing any resumption of nuclear testing and introduced legislation that would deny the administration any funds to conduct a nuclear test.

“A return to U.S. nuclear testing would dishonor the lessons from the Cold War and expose a whole new generation of Americans to the horrors of radiation sickness,” said Markey when introducing the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act on June 4. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and 13 other senators co-sponsored the legislation.

Titus and Horsford introduced a companion bill to the PLANET Act in the House on June 8.

“Resuming nuclear testing would open a door to allow other nations to openly conduct nuclear test explosions while imposing immense financial and health costs on the American people,” said Horsford.

On July 1, Cortez Masto introduced legislation and an NDAA amendment, along with five other senators, to require a joint resolution of approval for the United States to conduct an explosive nuclear weapons test. The passage of the joint resolution would need a two-thirds affirmative vote in the Senate. “The decision to conduct an explosive nuclear test should not be made without congressional approval, and should never be made by a president hoping to gain political points,” said Cortez Masto.

Condemnations also came from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). “It is unfathomable that the administration is considering something so short-sighted and dangerous,” they wrote in a June 8 letter to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) spearheaded a bicameral letter of 80 members of Congress to President Donald Trump warning against the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons testing.

“A return to nuclear testing is not only scientifically and technically unnecessary but also dangerously provocative.... It would needlessly antagonize important allies, cause other countries to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and prompt adversaries to respond in kind—risking a new nuclear arms race and further undermining the global nonproliferation regime,” they wrote on June 8.

Meanwhile, a group of 12 former scientists with nuclear weapons expertise signed a June 16 letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying, “We strongly oppose the resumption of explosive testing of U.S. nuclear weapons. There is no technical need for a nuclear test.”

The Trump administration has faced international condemnation as well, with Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo saying on May 28 that “any actions or activities by any country that violate the international norm against nuclear testing would constitute a grave challenge to the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime, as well as to global peace and security more broadly.”

The Russian and Chinese foreign ministries also condemned the Trump administration for contemplating a resumption of nuclear testing.

“This bombshell,” said a Russian statement, demonstrates “a U.S. campaign against international law.” Russia ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 2000.

 

U.S. lawmakers and international officials have criticized the Trump administration’s consideration of restarting nuclear testing.

Critics Question U.S. Open Skies Complaints


July/August 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

In the wake of the Trump administration’s decision in May to abandon the Open Skies Treaty, and amid uncertainty about the future of the 34-nation accord, critics are disputing the administration’s rationale for withdrawal.

Swedish soldiers guard a Russian aircraft preparing to conduct an Open Skies Treaty observation flight over Sweden in 2000. (Photo: OSCE)U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a May 21 statement that “Russia’s implementation and violation of Open Skies” has negated the “central confidence-building function of the treaty—and has, in fact, fueled distrust and threats to our national security—making continued U.S. participation untenable.”

Specifically, Pompeo cited Russian restrictions on observation flights over Russian territory and alleged that Moscow “appears” to use treaty flights “in support of an aggressive new Russian doctrine of targeting critical infrastructure in the United States and Europe with precision-guided conventional munitions.”

Members of Congress, former government officials, U.S. allies, and Russia have said that these arguments are based on tendentious reasoning, beset by contradictions, and ignore positive benefits the treaty continues to provide. (See ACT, May 2020.)

Meanwhile, the fate of the treaty is in limbo. Several European treaty parties have said they plan to continue implementing the agreement, while Russia has not specified how it plans to proceed.

To further complicate matters, flights under the treaty have been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is unclear when they will resume.

Signed in 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

The Trump administration alleges that Russian limitations on flights over the Kaliningrad enclave and territory bordering Abkhazia and South Ossetia violate the treaty. Critics argue that the breaches do not defeat the object and purpose of the agreement and are resolvable through diplomacy.

The Kaliningrad issue focuses on Moscow’s demand to limit Open Skies missions over the enclave to less than 500 kilometers in total flight distance. The requirement followed a 2014 overflight by Poland that, according to a May 26 Russian Foreign Ministry paper, crossed “back and forth, thereby creating problems for the use of the region’s limited airspace and for the operation of the region’s only international airport” and “entailed serious financial costs.” Russia maintains that the 500-kilometer limit was “established in line with [Open Skies Treaty] provisions.”

In 2016, the United States responded to the sublimit by restricting flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claims that whereas Western countries can still capture “from 77 to 98 percent of the territory” of Kaliningrad in an observation flight, Russia can observe “just 2.7 percent in Alaska.”

In February 2020, Russia allowed a flight over Kaliningrad by the United States, Estonia, and Lithuania that exceeded the 500-kilometer limit. On March 2, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe James Gilmore described the flight as “very cooperative.”

Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, acknowledged in a May 21 briefing that Russia permitted “a very slightly longer flight” over Kaliningrad but argued that the flight “doesn’t undermine the basic point that Russia clearly regards its Open Skies legal obligations as something akin more to guidelines or options for them.”

United States additionally asserts that Moscow not only violates a crucial clause of the treaty but also uses the clause to make a political claim with respect to Georgia.

Under the Open Skies Treaty, states-parties must open all of their territory to overflights, although Article VI prohibits flights within 10 kilometers of borders with countries that are not states-parties.

Russia is one of only a handful of countries that recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent from Georgia. As a result, Moscow has prohibited treaty flights within 10-kilometers of its border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as they are not states-parties to the Open Skies Treaty.

The Russian Foreign Ministry argues that “it is possible to reliably obtain images of these zones without flying over them” and that Georgia, a treaty party, is in violation of the accord by prohibiting Russian flights over Georgia.

In a June 22 letter to Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the treaty, Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) write that “instead of withdrawing from the treaty, the United States should diplomatically engage Russia to resolve these issues as it has done successfully in the past, for example when Russian imposed limitations on flights over Chechnya.”

As for the allegation that Russia is misusing treaty flights over the United States to collect military-relevant intelligence, Ford said that he was “not at liberty to go into some of the details of why we think that this is a concern.”

“[W]hile not a violation per se,” he added, “it’s clearly something that is deeply corrosive to the cause of building confidence and trust.”

There appears to be disagreement among military officials about how useful Russian flights are for intelligence gathering.

Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, the former head of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Program, told a Congressional hearing in 2016 that “the information Russia gleans from Open Skies is of only incremental value in addition to Russia’s other means of intelligence gathering.”

The treaty includes provisions that dictate the standards for equipment, including cameras and planes, used during a flight. No equipment is used that is not previously authorized by the states-parties.

Under the treaty, states-parties seeking to conduct an overflight must supply their flight plan at least 24 hours in advance to the host country. The host country then reviews the plan and can raise any concerns about safety or weather. When the flight does take off, there are also representatives of the host country on the plane alongside the observing states-parties to ensure all goes according to plan. All images taken on the flight must then be shared with the other parties to the agreement.

In addition to arguing that Russia is using the treaty to gather intelligence, the Trump administration and other opponents of the agreement also maintain that the treaty has outlived its usefulness and is based on outdated technology.

“[T]echnology has passed by the world of wet film and antiquated aircraft,” Marshall Billingslea, the president’s special envoy for arms control said on May 21. “You can download commercial imagery today in a matter of seconds that really meets the original intent of confidence-building measures in Europe.”

Critics argue that the administration cannot have it both ways. If the treaty is antiquated and replaceable by higher-resolution commercial satellite images, how is Russia using it to capture irreplaceable images of critical U.S. infrastructure?

Russia has responded to the U.S. allegation that it is misusing the treaty by stating that the United States, when flying over Russia, “film[s] not only parks and beaches.” Since the treaty entered into force, the United States has flown over Russia about three times more frequently than Russia has flown over the United States.

A former senior official told Arms Control Today that the United States and its allies have made use of treaty flights “to track infrastructure that it’s otherwise hard to photograph in a single satellite pass.” This includes imagery of Russian rail lines, “which has helped us to understand more about military transport potential, including for nuclear warheads.” The official said the United States has also used the treaty “to help preview inspection sites for…nuclear treaties,” such as the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and to photograph Russia’s nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya.

The Trump administration has told allies that it is exploring options to provide more imagery products to them to address any gaps that might result from the U.S. withdrawal. Many treaty members, including the Baltic states, do not have their own aircraft with which to conduct flights.

But sharing such sensitive imagery may be easier said than done.

Pranay Vaddi, a fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department official, tweeted on May 28 that it takes time to downgrade sensitive images and then coordinate with allies that might have different domestic procedures for handling such information.

He added that “commercial imagery will be contested as if it's [intelligence] information” and “be called unofficial, doctored, biased, etc.”

Pompeo noted in his May 21 statement that the administration might reconsider the treaty withdrawal decision “if Russia demonstrates a return to full compliance with this confidence-building treaty.” Most observers believe, however, that there is little hope the United States will return to the treaty given the wide-ranging reasons the administration has given for its decision to leave.

According to Article XV of the treaty, no more than two months after a state-party decides to withdraw, a conference of the states-parties must take place so as “to consider the effect of the withdrawal on this Treaty.” Canada and Hungary, the depositaries of the treaty, have scheduled this meeting, to be conducted by remote communication, for July 6.

Many allies have expressed regret about the U.S. decision and indicated that they will continue to implement the accord as they still view it as “functioning and useful.” (See ACT, May 2020.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on June 23 that “we will see the reaction of our Western colleagues during this conference, what Europe thinks about it.”

“We don’t rule out any options of our actions,” he added.

Trump administration justifications for withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty are being challenged from many sides.

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