For Immediate Release: February 26, 2008
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107 or Miles Pomper, (202) 463-8270 x108
(Washington, D.C.): Today, the Norwegian government is hosting a conference to build upon the effort by four U.S. statesmen to promote global progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons. One of those statesmen, former Senator Sam Nunn, recently sat for a wide-ranging interview with Arms Control Today, the monthly journal of the independent Arms Control Association (ACA).
In the interview, which is now available on the ACA website, Nunn warned that the world is currently headed toward a “nuclear nightmare.” He attributed his bleak assessment to the potentially cataclysmic mixture of a world with spreading nuclear technologies and terrorists aspiring to acquire and use them.
Averting the “nightmare,” according to Nunn, will require the United States, Russia, and other nuclear-armed powers to start taking greater steps to reduce the relevance of nuclear weapons with the aim of eliminating them. Without such moves, Nunn contends the United States will not “get the cooperation we need around the globe” to curb the spread of nuclear technologies and capabilities.
Nunn recommends that one of the first steps that the United States should pursue with Russia is extending the amount of time needed to launch each country’s nuclear weapons. He described the current posture of both sides being able to fire some of their missiles within minutes as “insane.” Alternatively, Nunn suggested the two countries should seek to create barriers that would extend launching times to at least a week. “If everyone had the posture where they could not shoot for a week…that would make nuclear weapons less relevant, and the discussion about how many you need takes on a different flavor,” Nunn said.
But Nunn warned that making progress on nuclear issues will be complicated if the United States does not reach some accommodation on missile defense with Russia. “I think working with the Russians on missile defense is enormously important because if that does not happen, we are going to make all these other [nuclear] steps…much less likely and much more difficult,” Nunn stated. The Bush administration is currently working to base strategic anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic and have reiterated its intention to move ahead despite stiff Russian opposition. Russia perceives the systems as directed against it rather than Iran as the administration claims.
Nunn says approaches to dealing with nuclear threats cannot be based on dividing the world into good and bad actors or the haves and have nots. He urged universal policies and rules as the correct course. For instance, he suggested that “all enrichment, including U.S. enrichment” should be under international safeguards. Uranium enrichment can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. “I don’t think we can simply divide the world up,” Nunn concluded.
All told, Nunn said there must be more high level attention to nuclear threats and solutions. Noting that Bush and Putin have talked about nuclear dangers, he noted “It’s the gap between words and deeds that is the frustration because all the words are there.”An edited copy of the interview, which will appear in the forthcoming March 2008 issue of Arms Control Today, is available on the ACA website at http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/Nunn_Preview.asp. For more information on the Oslo meeting, please visit: http://disarmament.nrpa.no/index.php.