Arms Cuts. 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 serious risk of nuclear use. Since the end of the Cold War, strategic nuclear warheads 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 U. S. strategic nuclear weapons. The U. S. did not accept a Russian proposal to negotiate a new treaty, with verification mechanisms, that would have cut strategic warheads to 1500 each. Instead, the U. S. and Russia agreed in May 2002 to a treaty that codifies the unilateral U. S. 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. (5,000 warheads are already stored on active or inactive reserve). 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. 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. As in 1991, the same threat is being made with regard to any use of chemical or biological weapons by Iraq.
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.
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.
- The USCCB welcomed the Moscow Treaty as an indication of how progress in political relationships and progress in arms control can be mutually reinforcing. The USCCB urged that the treaty not be seen 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.
- The USCCB opposes the continued readiness of the United States to use nuclear weapons, especially against non-nuclear threats, and the potential development of new weapons for this purpose. 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.
- The USCCB has long supported U. S. ratification of 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.
- 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.
More than 146 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. The Clinton administration pledged, however, to stop use of AP landmines (except in Korea) by 2003, and to develop alternatives for Korea by 2006 (the target daze for signing the treaty). The Bush administration is currently reviewing its landmine policy. The Bush administration is reportedly considering not signing the Treaty, and continuing to rely on "smart" self-destructing AP mines rather than developing alternatives. It has also not ruled out their use in a war in Iraq. Meanwhile, 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. U. S. leadership is essential for the success of the treaty.
- During this, the 20th anniversary of the Bishops' landmark peace pastoral, The Challenge of Peace, sponsor diocesan, university, parish events on the morality of nuclear weapons.
- Urge President Bush to sign the Mine Ban Treaty and not to use AP mines if there is war in Iraq.
NCCB, The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace (1993) ($3.95) and Sawing Weapons of War (1995) ($2.95), OPPS, 3211 Fourth St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20017; Statement on Moscow Treaty, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President, USCCB (May 2002); Joint religious-military leaders statement on nuclear disarmament (June 2000); Letter on landmines from Cardinal Bernard Law to Secretary of State Colin Powell (8/01). See www.usccb.org/sdwp.
For further information: Gerard Powers 202-541-3160 (ph); 54I-3339 (fax); email@example.com