Tag Archives: arms control

My Time Column on the Rush-Bagot Treaty

President Trump had some harsh words for Canada recently over their trade policies for the dairy industry.

But Trump should be praising the friendship with our neighbor to the north. In fact, if he watched a recent episode of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon he would have a good briefing in U.S.-Canadian relations.

It happened in a dance off between Fallon and actor Mike Myers. Myers was representing his homeland Canada and Fallon the United States. When the dancing duel was ending, Myers talked about the peaceful relations between the U.S. and Canada. He mentioned the Rush-Bagot agreement, which was negotiated when Canada was a colony of Great Britain.

See my column at Time Magazine.

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San Diego Union Tribune commentary: Build up diplomacy, not nukes

The nuclear tweet from Donald Trump was not exactly the holiday season message we were hoping for. The president-elect said on Dec. 22, via twitter, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

But sadly no mention of strengthening our diplomacy to reduce the nuclear threat. You have to ask where’s the peace?

Read my full commentary at the San Diego Union Tribune:

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Candidates should carry on Reagan’s quest of no nukes

It was President Ronald Reagan who said his goal was “to reduce substantially, and ultimately to eliminate, nuclear weapons and rid the world of the nuclear threat.” Reagan set in motion treaties reducing nuclear arms. Likewise, President Obama has also advocated the elimination of nukes.

See my full commentary at The Hill.

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Video: Arms Limitation in the Nuclear Weapons Age (part 1)

This film highlights nuclear arms control efforts during the Cold War. View the film on YouTube.

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How an Idea of Ike’s Could Help Settle India/Pakistan Nuclear Tensions–And Help Us Win the War on Terrorism

India and Pakistan, two nuclear weapons states, need to build a lasting peace. The two nations suffer from extreme hunger and poverty. This will persist as long as they pour their resources into a costly arms race.

Back in 2004 I wrote about one confidence building measure the two rivals should adopt on the road to peace. Hopefully in 2012 it will take place.  Here is a copy of the article as it appeared on History News Service and History News Network.

How an Idea of Ike’s Could Help Settle India/Pakistan Nuclear Tensions–

And Help Us Win the War on Terrorism

There’s encouraging news about ending the decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan. At the United Nations, the leaders of both nations recently expressed their desire for peaceful coexistence, and called for confidence-building measures.

How crucial is this development for the United States? Extremely. The war against terrorism cannot be won without stability in South Asia. Now is the time for the United States to intensify its efforts to help establish peace between the two rivals.

India and Pakistan are both armed with nuclear weapons. The two nations have frequently exchanged gunfire in the region of Kashmir, which both claim. In 2002, when hundreds of thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops massed on their respective borders, war seemed imminent. South Asia was on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. The crisis subsided but the urgent need for peace between the two adversaries remained.

How can the United States aid the Indian-Pakistani peace process? By means of an old Cold War initiative, originally proposed by the United States. In 1955, in the midst of the Cold War, President Eisenhower presented a diplomatic surprise to the Soviet Union. Why not allow both the Americans and Soviets to fly unarmed aerial observation missions over each other’s military facilities? Such a move, the president surmised, could reduce the possibility of secret military preparations and help build trust through transparency. As Eisenhower stated, “Open Skies” would have the effect of “lessening danger and relaxing tension” between the two heavily armed rivals.

The Soviets didn’t accept Eisenhower’s idea in 1955. In fact, it took nearly 40 years to implement it. In 1992 the United States, Russia and other European nations signed the Open Skies Treaty allowing unarmed aerial observation missions over the respective territories of each nation.

A similar arrangement would benefit India and Pakistan, who fear each other’s military might. Open Skies missions would provide that Indian and Pakistani officials work together on observation flights. This type of cooperation would set the groundwork for future disarmament agreements.

Increased cooperation was Eisenhower’s intention when he unveiled Open Skies. He said at the time, “What I propose, I assure you, would be but a beginning.” His proposal was not by itself going to end the Cold War. It was a confidence-building measure similar to what India and Pakistan have called for at the United Nations.

A joint Indian-Pakistani statement emphasized that such measures could develop “an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.” This was the very basis of Eisenhower’s original Open Skies proposal during the Cold War.

The security of the United States is greatly affected by relations between India and Pakistan. A successful war on terrorism cannot be carried out without stability in South Asia. Pakistan and Afghanistan form the major front on the war against terrorists. The remnants of al-Qaida, and possibly Osama bin Laden himself, are in that area. For the international community to finish off al-Qaida, uninterrupted cooperation from Pakistan is a necessity. An escalating conflict with India would only draw Pakistani attention and resources from the war on terrorism.

The United States must use its best diplomatic tools, such as Open Skies, to assist India and Pakistan. The use of diplomatic measures, great and small, cannot be overlooked as an essential tool against terrorism. The furthering of peace and economic prosperity worldwide will make terrorism less likely to prosper.

There are other reasons for the United States to be heavily active in promoting peace between India and Pakistan. The gravest risk facing South Asia is nuclear war. Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998 and possess effective missile capability. One nuclear strike could kill millions and bring about a nightmare of unimaginable proportions. A step-by-step process toward nuclear disarmament in South Asia is imperative.

Clearly, a stable Pakistan at peace with India is in the best interests of the entire world. Adopting an Open Skies agreement will help create the atmosphere India and Pakistan need to resolve their disputes. Its successful implementation would set a formidable model for arms control and peace that other regions of the globe could emulate. The United States and NATO can offer considerable expertise to help formulate the agreement.

An Open Skies initiative will help lay the foundation for amicable relations between India and Pakistan. This is one of many steps that will be needed to achieve peace in South Asia. The stakes are high. A failure to resolve the differences between India and Pakistan will prolong tension in South Asia, increase the chance for war and rob valuable time and resources from the fight against terrorism.

Article originally distributed in 2004 by the History News Service.

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Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Fears of a nuclear-armed Iran may provoke a Middle East arms race, one that would place even more burdens on an impoverished region.

We see a similar scenario in Asia with India and Pakistan, where malnutrition rates are high while spending on nuclear weapons continues. The World Food Programme’s relief operation for flood-ravaged Pakistan has faced severe funding shortages.

At the same time, costly nuclear missile tests by Pakistan and India have gone forward; and in North Korea there have been famine conditions as the country has developed its nukes.

We need to challenge all these countries. But not to an arms race; rather to what President Kennedy called a “peace race.” This is our best hope for unifying the world in eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and lifting this burden off all peoples.

This unity must first begin at home between Democrats and Republicans. A starting point should be ratifying a pact eliminating all nuclear weapons testing, finally finishing a job started long ago by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Back in 1963 when Kennedy put before the Senate a treaty with the Soviet Union limiting nuclear weapons testing, he gained strong support from the other side of the aisle. Republican Senator Everett Dirksen met with President Kennedy to help him win over key votes for treaty approval.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican who actually started the road toward the treaty during his administration, lent his support in the form of a letter to the Senate. Eisenhower urged the treaty be passed as “people are frightened… world fears and tensions are intensified. There is placed upon too much of mankind the costly burdens of an all out arms race.”

Expensive and dangerous nuclear weapons: Dwight Eisenhower talking about pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty in March of 1960 (audio and photo courtesy of the Eisenhower Library)

The Limited Test Ban Treaty won approval from the Senate one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the US and Soviets almost went to nuclear war. The 1963 treaty was a first step towards arms control in the fast-escalating nuclear age.

President Kennedy signs the Limited Test Ban Treaty in October, 1963 in the Treaty Room at the White House (courtesy Kennedy Library)

But decades later, what Ike and Kennedy started is not yet finished. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT) still needs to be ratified. This treaty goes a step further than the limited one of 1963 and bans all nuclear test explosions, including underground. The United States and seven other nations have yet to approve this treaty for it to take effect. Russia has already ratified it.

The U.S. Senate rejected the treaty in 1999 and the bipartisan cooperation of 1963 was absent, with almost all Republicans voting together against it. Now, in 2012, is the time to reconsider ratification for the sake of America’s national security.

Resuming nuclear weapons testing places additional costs on an arsenal that already costs Americans at least $52 billion a year. Progress toward nuclear disarmament is needed to reduce this burden which drains our treasury. But costs alone are not the only issue.

What would Russia and China’s reaction be should we resume nuclear weapons tests? As the Russian deputy foreign minister said, his country intends to fully comply with its CTBT commitment, “if other nuclear states do likewise.” But if we resume nuclear testing, will Russia follow? What will China do? Would a new arms race come next?

The CTBT is an important step toward nuclear disarmament, because you reach a wall in arms reductions if you are leaving the door open to new nuclear testing and development.

A CTBT would increase momentum toward gaining a disarmament agreement with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons, and offer hope of arms reductions in Asia, where China and rivals India and Pakistan have nuclear weaponry.

Arms Control Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher says, “Nowhere would these constraints be more relevant than in Asia, where you see states building up and modernizing their forces. A legally binding prohibition on all nuclear explosive testing would help reduce the chances of a potential regional arms race in the years and decades to come.”

But without a commitment to end nuclear weapons testing, it is far less likely such agreements will ever take place. Unity among the nuclear states is also needed to implement diplomatic pressure to get North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

One way Kennedy gained support for the limited test ban treaty was to ensure that the U.S. would commit to extensive research into technologies needed to ensure the reliability of the nuclear arsenal.

Today, there are opportunities to quell fears that the CTBT is not verifiable, and that nations could cheat the treaty. As Jonathan Medalia writes in a Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. could add additional planes for its nuclear detection system operated by the U.S. Air Force. This Atomic Energy Detection System has been place since the start of the Cold War, even detecting the Soviet Union’s first tests in 1949 and 1951.


The Air Force’s WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft collects air samples from areas around the world where nuclear explosions have occurred. (U.S. Air Force photo)Enhancing our own technical means would complement the treaty’s existing monitoring system which, even though not fully operational, detected North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

In ratifying the CTBT, the U.S. can join Russia and urge other nations to follow their lead and take further measures to reduce nuclear weapons. As diplomat Gerard Smith once wrote, “In urging others not to acquire this awesome capacity, the United States and Russia may persuasively say that they have found it expensive, dangerous and, ultimately, useless.”

Nuclear weapons in the world is a shared risk among all nations, for the cost of the armaments, the danger of terrorist theft, and the international tensions are a burden all countries feel. It is in the interest of all nations to end nuclear testing once and for all, and work toward further agreements reducing the nuclear menace.

Article first published as Starting a Peace Race with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on Blogcritics.

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