FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nuclear Terrorism and US Nuclear Policy

by David Krieger

As bad as September 11th may have been, it could have been far worse. Had terrorists attacked with nuclear weapons, the death toll could have risen into the millions. It is likely that even one crude nuclear weapon would have left Manhattan utterly destroyed, and with it the financial and communications center of the country. Were terrorists to obtain one or more nuclear weapons and use them on New York, Washington or other cities, the United States could cease to exist as a functioning country. The stakes are very high, and yet the US is creating new nuclear policies that increase the likelihood that terrorists will ultimately obtain nuclear weapons.

A bipartisan commission, headed by Howard Baker and Lloyd Cutler, concluded that the United States should be spending some $3 billion per year over the next ten years to help Russia control its nuclear weapons and weapon-grade nuclear materials. Rather than spend less than one percent of the current defense budget on dramatically curtailing the potential spread of nuclear weapons and materials to terrorists or unfriendly regimes, the Bush administration is trying to save money in this area. It is spending only one-third of the proposed amount to help Russia safeguard its nuclear weapons and materials and find alternative work for nuclear physicists a woefully inadequate amount if we are truly attempting to quell nuclear proliferation.

The administration’s frugality with regard to protecting potential “loose nukes” in Russia should be compared with its generosity for defense spending in general and for missile defenses in particular. The president has recently asked for another $48 billion for defense for fiscal 2003, following an increase of $33.5 billion this year. The annual budget for ballistic missile defense exceeds $8.5 billion. Since the likelihood of a terrorist using a missile to launch a nuclear attack against the United States or any other country is virtually zero, it would appear that the administration’s budget priorities are way out of line in terms of offering real security and protecting the US and other countries from the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The administration’s approach to nuclear disarmament with the Russians is to place warheads taken off active deployment onto the shelf so that they can later be reactivated should our current president or a future president decide to do so. While the Russians have made it clear that they would prefer to destroy the weapons and make nuclear disarmament irreversible, they will certainly follow the US lead in also shelving their deactivated weapons. This will, of course, create even greater security concerns in Russia and make it more likely that these weapons will find their way into terrorist hands.

So what is to be done? The United States must change its nuclear policies and make good on its promise to the other 186 parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons in the world. This goal can only be achieved with US leadership, and it is a goal that is absolutely in the interests of the people of the United States. When the parties to the NPT meet again this April, the US is sure to come under heavy criticism for its notice of withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, its failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, its new strategy to make nuclear disarmament reversible, and its recent announcement that it is rescinding its security assurances to non-nuclear weapons states.

In the end, the country that faces the greatest threat from nuclear terrorism is the United States, and it is a threat that cannot be counteracted by missile defenses or threats of retaliation. Terrorists, who cannot be easily located and who may be suicidal anyway, will simply not be deterred by nuclear threat.

If the Bush administration truly wants to reduce the possibility of nuclear terrorism against US cities and abroad, it must reverse its current policy of systematically dismantling the arms control agreements established over the past four decades. It must instead become a leader in the global effort to urgently and dramatically reduce the level of nuclear weapons throughout the world and bring the remaining small arsenals of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials under effective international controls.

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (). He can be contacted at <dkrieger@napf.org>

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). 

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail