With a United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons now in effect, Illinois advocates for peace are renewing conversations about U.S. disarmament policy, through a panel discussion with experts last week and a car caravan for peace over the weekend. Not a single nation with nuclear weapons ratified the international agreement, although more than 50 non-nuclear states did. Laura Grego, senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said non-governmental organizations and non-nuclear states have been frustrated with the lack of progress toward disarmament. She argued many U.S. nuclear policies are artifacts of the Cold War, and could be changed to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorized launches.
“The U.S. might not be ready to sign the ban treaty,” Grego acknowledged. “It’s really an effort to be creative about moving toward disarmament goals.”
Grego pointed to a bill that would require a declaration of war by Congress before the president can order a nuclear-weapons launch, and added the U.S. should consider taking missiles off high-alert status and reserving their use exclusively for deterrence or response to a nuclear attack, in consultation with allies. Tara Drozdenko, acting executive director of the Outrider Foundation, said there are many ways nuclear weapons and the military intersect with injustice. She asserted weapons programs disproportionately impact marginalized communities, for example, uranium mining on the Navajo reservation has contaminated land and groundwater there, which has affected health outcomes.
“I think it’s important for us to start reckoning with that, and re-articulating what it means to be secure,” Drozdenko contended. “And also thinking about whose security we prioritize, and how we spend our money to make all Americans secure, not just some of us secure.”
One of the first foreign-policy actions of the Biden administration is seeking to extend the New START treaty for five years, the last remaining nuclear-weapons treaty between the U.S. and Russia.