The baby boom generation grew up in the shadow of an unrestrained nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Nuclear arsenals soared until a series of arms control agreements significantly reduced the nuclear arms possessed by the super powers by the time President Obama left office. Between 1990 and 2016, the number of nuclear warheads possessed by the U.S. and Russia declined from 64,000 to 10,000.
Since Donald Trump has been in office, he has broken with the nuclear arms control policies of all of his predecessors dating back to John F. Kennedy. In 2019, Trump repudiated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 that had eliminated a total of approximately 2,700 missiles. Last week, the former TV reality star announced that the U.S. would be scrapping its participation in the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. This landmark agreement allows the U.S., Russia and thirty two other nations to conduct observation flights over one another’s territory.
Trump’s decision to repudiate the Open Skies Treaty is so extreme that it was opposed by Deb Fischer, Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon. The CD02 Congressman said: “I think it’s a mistake we’re pulling out. The most important thing is that our allies want it. Our more junior NATO partners rely on this imagery.” It is doubtful that our supine and spineless Congressional delegation will do anything about it even though this withdrawal would ground reconnaissance aircraft based at Offutt air force base in Sarpy County.
At the same time, the Trump Administration is seriously considering the resumption of the testing of nuclear weapons. The U.S. hasn’t conducted any nuclear weapons tests explosions since 1992. Subsequently, in 1996, the U.S entered into the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT was never ratified by the Senate but presidents of both parties have voluntarily complied with it. The Trump Administration may soon cease honoring this 1996 treaty entered into by 184 countries.
“It would be an invitation for other nuclear-armed countries to follow suit,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It would be the starting gun to an unprecedented nuclear arms race. You would also disrupt the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who may no longer feel compelled to honor his moratorium on nuclear testing.”
If Trump is re-elected (God forbid), he may scrap the last extant arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia. The 2010 Start Treaty expires on February 5, 2021. This treaty cut in half the number of nuclear arms launchers and significantly limited the deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs. The Trump Administration has sent mixed messages about the status of this vital agreement.
On the one hand, national-security adviser Robert O’Brien said the U.S. would continue to honor the START treaty and would enter into good faith negotiations with Russia on arms control.
However, Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea recently said at an online presentation at a think tank, that the treaty wouldn’t be renewed next year. Instead, the U.S. would try to include both Russia and China in a new agreement. In the same speech, Billingslea argued that the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race.
Democratic national security experts are (justifiably) alarmed by the Trump Administration’s reckless policies. Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted: “A three country nuclear arms race between increasingly nationalist and adversarial countries is not a great idea. Neither is spending a trillion dollars on our nuclear infrastructure. “
“The potential lapse of this treaty (START) is the most pressing arms control issue we face. Avoiding such a lapse is a top priority,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said in a statement. “For four decades, Russia and the United States have avoided nuclear war and a costly arms race based on our mutual efforts to limit the production of nuclear weapons. New START’s limitations on the number of deployed nuclear weapons and delivery systems and provisions for inspection and verification measures are irreplaceable and must remain in effect.”
If you think the stakes couldn’t be any higher this year, they just got even higher. We’re not only facing an economic depression and a pandemic, we could also have to deal with a new and dangerous nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia. As Hillary Clinton said in 2016: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
The only check and balance on Trump and the GOP is the Democratic Party. Vote blue as though your life depends upon it. The stakes are too high for you to stay home or vote third party on November 3. The outcome of this election is literally a matter of life or death.