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US Nuclear Posture Review ignores consequences, lowers threshold for use of nuclear weapons

03/15/2018 The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, marks a continuation of the nuclear weapons programs, priorities, and budgets from the past decade or so. The main additions to an already enormous and expensive arsenal — at a cost of $1.2 trillion over the next three decades — are a “low-yield” submarine-launched  ballistic missile and a sub-launched cruise missile.

What’s different – and most dangerous – about the Trump NPR is its unrestrained enthusiasm for US nuclear weapons, which are presented as the gold standard for national security. The role of deterrence, the decades-long rationale for maintaining a nuclear arsenal, has been expanded to address an unprecedented range of threats not only from nuclear weapons, but also from chemical or biological weapons, conventional attacks...even cyber attacks.

The NPR singles out a number of US adversaries – Russia, China, North Korea, Iran – as examples of a need for “tailored, flexible options” that dangerously lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.

While the document contains not a single reference to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war that have driven the argument for the Ban Treaty, the Treaty itself is dismissed as “unrealistic and polarizing.”

We have a different, more hopeful, and evidence-based set of beliefs. No state has a right to possess, let alone use, nuclear weapons; no state can place the entire world at risk in pursuit of its own security interests, however legitimate those might be; nuclear weapons are inherently illegitimate because of the existential threat they pose to humanity and,therefore, belong in no one’s hands.

French affiliate joins Red Cross in Paris Ban Treaty symposium
This January, the French Red Cross organized its first panel discussion on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its headquarters in Paris.

Kathleen Lawand, the legal advisor and head of the arms unit at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), joined Patrice Richard and Abraham Behar of IPPNW’s French affiliate, and Jean Marie Collin of Initiatives for Nuclear Disarmament. Ms. Lawand recalled the ICRC’s constant struggle for the abolition of nuclear weapons since 1945. She explained that the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and nuclear war, and the disproportionate nature of the nuclear threat were her reasons for supporting the Ban Treaty.

Drs. Richard and Behar told participating representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they “lamented the relentlessness of [the French] government against the Treaty and the obsolete attachment to nuclear deterrence.”

The meeting was a prelude to a campaign in favor of the Treaty that the French Red Cross will implement throughout the country, with the support of IPPNW France.

“We have proposed a day of action in Paris, which will involve all health organizations, in order to explain how the Ban Treaty is a vital step towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, and to lay out the humanitarian and public health consequences of an atomic attack or accident,” Dr. Behar said.


Learn about Nuclear Weapons

Learn About Nuclear Weapons is a web-based educational material from the Swedish Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons for those who want to learn more about nuclear weapons: