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National Missile Defense and Arms Control No. 457

Adopted 1999
Amended 2001
Amended 2006
Amended 2007

Over a decade after the end of the Cold War, there are still about 30,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, most of them many times the size of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. maintains around 3,500 strategic nuclear weapons (which includes bombs, SLBMs, ICBMs and air-launched cruise missiles) far beyond any need for deterrence and in itself a dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Russia has an additional 3,000 strategic nuclear weapons, many of them vulnerable to theft or sale.

The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) recently signed on May 24, 2002 still allows the United States to deploy 1700-2200 strategic warheads, which matches the limit of 1,500-2,000 warheads that was proposed under START III. However, SORT does not address strategic nuclear warhead destruction or tactical nuclear weapons limits, both of which had been suggested under START III. And as such, was a step backwards, at least in terms of reduction efforts.

The recent developments between Russia and the United States concerning the deployment of a ballistic missile defense site in Poland demonstrate that not only does the U.S. missile defense program have a large price-tag for little efficacy, it also poses a threat to the global balance of power. The New York Times writes, "It is in principle a worthy idea, but the military benefits in the short term are not worth the worsening of relations with Russia that it has already engendered… Rather than push the idea now, when the threat of long-range missiles from the Middle East is hardly acute, it would be better to allow a new American president and a new Russian president -- Vladimir Putin is barred by his country's Constitution from running again next year -- to reconsider the subject in 2009 or 2010."

The START I Treaty, which seeks to incrementally reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 6000 each, will expire in 2009. It is essential that either the Bush Administration renew this treaty, or that it is ensured that the next administration will be have sufficient time to do so. Allowing this treaty to expire would completely undermine any U.S. efforts to bolster the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world.

Friends Committee on National Legislation reports that In May of 2007, The House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Energy-Water approved a draft-bill zeroing out money for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program. RRW program is meant to replace existing warheads with reliable and certifiable components. This program could be seen as an effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, so threatening non-proliferation efforts both by threatening the international community and by taking funding away from non-proliferation programs.

For fiscal year 2007, the administration requested $10.4 billion dollars for missile defense, which would make it the largest single program in the fiscal year 2007 Pentagon budget. Council for a Livable World writes, "These annual costs could rise to $19 billion in a few years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A large proportion of the missile defense budget is allocated to the GMD system."

There is overwhelming evidence that the planned deployment of new interceptor missiles in Alaska and is not be technologically able to cope with real world threats, is shaped to meet an exaggerated threat from so-called emerging nuclear states, will be wildly costly in dollars and cause severe damage to arms control and U.S. relations with Russia, China, North Korea, Europe, and the rest of the world.

The ultimate effect of the drive for a technological solution to the threat of nuclear annihilation will be to undermine, not enhance, American security.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty may be a key first step to nuclear weapons reduction. Among the 177 state parties who have signed on, the United States remains among 39 that have yet to ratify the treaty. The CTBT may be proposed on the floor of the Senate again during the summer of 2007; in light of this, the effort to garner support for the CTBT must be renewed. Since the treaty values the overall non-proliferation regime with treaty verifiability, it is not only important for a safe United States nuclear deterrent, but also for global non-proliferation efforts. This monitoring system- similar to that which is included in the SORT treaty- involves a consultation and clarification process, on-site inspections and confidence building measures. However, such measures may only be effectively implemented when the United States ratifies the treaty.

Therefore, Americans for Democratic Action urges:

  1. An immediate abandonment of all but a basic research program into national missile defense. The Administration should decide against deployment of the ill-prepared system.
  2. Immediate and unilateral reductions in nuclear weapons far below the START II limit of 3,500 strategic nuclear weapons.
  3. A renewed campaign to win Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
  4. The education of the American people on the dangers of new nuclear testing.
  5. Urgent efforts to persuade India and Pakistan not to deploy nuclear weapons or missiles capable of destroying each other's cities in a matter of minutes.
  6. Opening five-power negotiations with Russia, China, Great Britain and France to reduce dramatically the nuclear stockpiles of each country to a minimal deterrence for each country.
  7. Separation of nuclear warheads from missiles to limit the chance for a nuclear accident.
  8. Enhanced efforts for international control of nuclear weapons to lead to eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons.
  9. The Bush Administration to renew the Start I Treaty.
  10. That funding for RRW be cut or seriously curtailed.


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No. 457
Foreign and Military Policy Commission