Reductions. A decade after the end of the Cold War, the threat of global nuclear war is more remote than at any time since the advent of the nuclear age, yet we live in a still dangerous time of nuclear proliferation and a continuing risk of nuclear use. Since the end of the Cold War, deployed strategic nuclear weapons have been cut by 40% and intermediate-range nuclear weapons have been eliminated. Decrying the slow pace of areas negotiations and seeking greater flexibility of action, in November 2001, the Bush administration announced unilateral cuts in deployed strategic nuclear weapons. In May 2002, the U. S. and Russia agreed to a treaty that codifies these unilateral cuts by reducing deployed strategic warheads to 1700-2200 on each side by 2012. This is a significant reduction from the 6000 warheads permitted under START I and the 3-3,500 permitted under START II. As with previous reductions, an undetermined number of the 4,000 weapons "cut" from the U. S. arsenal would be stored, not dismantled, as a hedge against future threats. Unlike other treaties, this is a "good faith" treaty in that it does not contain verification measures. Moreover, the treaty expires on the same date that its reductions become mandatory. There are no current plans to further reduce these weapons. Thousands of tactical (short-range) nuclear weapons are not covered by the treaty.
Nuclear Use. Three documents issued in 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, National Security Strategy and National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction make clear that the United States continues to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in response to the use of chemical or biological weapons by non-nuclear states.
New Nuclear Weapons. In FY 2004, Congress repealed a ban on research and development of new nuclear weapons and appropriated $7.5 M for research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (bunker buster) and $6 M for research on low-yield nuclear weapons (mini-nukes). Development of these weapons would require separate Congressional approval. In FY2005, the Administration has requested $27.6M and 9 M, respectively, for on-going research on these weapons.
Missile Defense. Further cuts in nuclear weapons and the arms control process, in general, could be greatly complicated by the Bush administration's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and its plans to begin deploying a rudimentary and untested national missile defense system designed to defend against accidental launches or limited nuclear attacks by rogue states. The Russians have threatened to halt some nuclear cuts if the U. S. deploys defenses, while China is expected to increase its small arsenal.
Testing. In October, 1999, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear testing. The Bush administration opposes ratification of this treaty but has committed to maintaining the current U. S. moratorium on testing. At the same time, it is requesting $30 M in FY2005 to ready the Nevada test site for a possible resumption of testing.
USCCB Position: The end of the Cold War has led to some progress in reducing nuclear weapons, but these efforts have not been commensurate with the dramatic changes in world politics. The U.S. and other nuclear powers must move away from reliance on nuclear weapons for their security. A global ban is more than a moral ideal; it should be a policy goal.
- Arms Reductions. The 2002 Moscow Treaty is a welcome indication of how progress in political relationships and progress in arms control can be mutually reinforcing. The USCCB has urged the Administration and Congress to view the treaty not as an end but as one of many steps that must be taken to achieve the goal of a mutual, verifiable global ban on nuclear weapons. Much deeper, more irreversible cuts, in both strategic and tactical weapons, are both possible and necessary. In June 2000, the USCCB joined 18 retired military leaders and 20 other religious leaders in calling for deeper cuts and ultimately a global ban.
- Development of New, Usable Weapons. The continued readiness of the United States to use nuclear weapons, especially against non-nuclear threats, and the potential development of new weapons, notably the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and low-yield nuclear weapons, for this purpose should be opposed. A minimal nuclear deterrent may be justified only to deter the use of nuclear weapons. It is long past time for the United States to commit itself never to use nuclear weapons first, to reject unequivocally proposals to use nuclear weapons to deter non-nuclear threats, and to reinforce the fragile barrier against the use of these weapons. We abhor any use of nuclear weapons.
- Testing. The U.S. should ratify the Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT will thwart the development of new nuclear weapons, and will impede efforts of other nations to obtain them. U. S. ratification would buttress the moral credibility of nonproliferation efforts.
- Missile Defense. In evaluating the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1988, the more ambitious forerunner of the current proposals for missile defense, the USCCB supported the objective of protecting populations without relying on nuclear deterrence but cautioned that pursuing this objective must not erode arms control efforts, stimulate a new competition in offensive weapons, increase the risk of the use of nuclear weapons, or absorb a disproportionate percentage of the federal budget. The USCCB urged that the ABM Treaty not be cast aside or overridden and that SDI not be deployed. USCCB is considering the more limited defensive system currently at issue in light of this earlier judgment about SDI.
Some 150 nations have signed the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel (AP) landmines. President Clinton refused to sign the treaty, citing the need for AP landmines in Korea and for anti-tank systems that include a mix of antipersonnel mines. While AP landmines were not used in the Iraq war, the Bush administration has indicated that it does not plan to sign the Treaty. The U. S. continues to be a leader in funding global humanitarian de-mining and landmine survivor assistance.
USCCB Position: With Pope John Paul II and the Church around the world, the USCCB strongly supports efforts to secure a U. S. commitment to sign the Mine Ban Treaty, which would eliminate the scourge of these morally unacceptable weapons that do not distinguish between soldiers and civilians or between times of war and times of peace.
Urge your Member of Congress to oppose further funding for research on the Robust Nuclear Penetrator and new low-yield nuclear weapons, and, even though it is not now before the Senate, remind your Senator of the need for the U.S. to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Letter to Senate on new nuclear weapons (9/03), Statement on Moscow Treaty (5/02), Joint religious-military leaders statement on nuclear disarmament (6/00); The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace (1993), Sowing Weapons of War (1995), Letter to Secretary of State on landmines (8/01). See www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/arms.shtml.
For further information: Gerard Powers 202-541-3160 (ph); 54I-3339 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org