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 arms negotiations and seeking greater flexibility of action, in November 2001, the Bush administration announced unilateral cuts in deployed U.S. strategic nuclear weapons from 6000 (the START I limits) to 1700-2200 by 2012. (Several hundred deployed tactical nuclear weapons would not be reduced.) These strategic reductions would be significantly lower than the 3-3500 warheads on each side permitted under START II, which has been ratified but has not entered into force. 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.) Russia responded to the U.S. announcement by reiterating a proposal to negotiate a new treaty with verification mechanisms that would cut strategic warheads to 1500 each. The U.S. opposes deeper cuts, but is expected to enter into some form of agreement with Russia this year that would codify the unilateral cuts already announced.
Missile Defense. Further cuts in nuclear weapons and the arms control process, in general, could be greatly complicated by the Bush administration's announcement in December 2001 that it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months, so that it can deploy a national missile defense system designed to defend against accidental launches or limited nuclear attacks by rogue states. $7.8 B has been requested for missile defense. 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.
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 supports:
- The new unilateral cuts are welcome, but verifiable agreements involving much deeper, irreversible cuts should be pursued. 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 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 SDI in 1988, the more ambitious forerunner of the current proposals, the USCCB supported the objective of missile defenses (i.e., 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 140 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 anti-personnel 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 date for signing the treaty). The Bush administration is currently reviewing its landmine policy. The Defense Department reportedly is recommending that the U.S. not sign the Treaty, not eliminate "dumb" mines, and not develop alternatives. Meanwhile, Congress continues to authorize funds for global humanitarian de-mining (e.g., the U.S. has pledged $7 M toward the $43 M the UN says is needed for Afghanistan) and landmine survivor assistance (for which the US has been a world leader).
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.
Action Needed: Urge Secretary of State Colin Powell (State Dept., Washington, DC 20520) to recommend that the U.S. sign the Mine Ban Treaty. See Cardinal Law to Secretary Powell (8/01). www.usccb/sdwp.
There has been a welcome decline in world military expenditures and arms transfers since the end of the Cold War, but for most of the past decade the United States has been the world's largest arms supplier (Agreements worth $18.5 B were signed in 2000). 95% of recent U.S. sales to the developing world were to the Middle East and Asia The U.S. has aggressively promoted arms sales abroad in order to press U.S. foreign policy interests, maintain military production capacity, and protect profits and jobs. Since September 11th, the U.S. has lifted restrictions on military aid and/or arms transfers to India, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. The Bush administration has requested a $457 M increase (12.5%) in foreign military financing, including $98 M for Colombia to protect the Cano-Limon pipeline and $50 M each for Pakistan and India.
USCCB Position: Pope John Paul has frequently condemned the almost unrestricted trade in arms as a "serious disorder" in world affairs. While arms transfers may be morally permissible if necessary for legitimate defense of another country, economic factors, such as protecting jobs or promoting economic competitiveness, may not, of themselves, justify arms transfers. As the bishops said in The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace, "Jobs at home cannot justify exporting the means of war abroad." The U.S. has a great responsibility for curbing the arms trade by taking concrete actions to reduce its own predominant role in this trade.
National Council of Catholic Bishops, The Harvest of Justice Is Sown in Peace (1993) ($3.95) and Sowing Weapons of War (1995) ($2.95), OPPS, 3211 Fourth St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20017; Joint religious-military leaders statement on nuclear disarmament (June 2000), /sdwp/international/armsjoin.shtml
For Further Information
Gerard Powers 202-541-3160 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax) ; firstname.lastname@example.org