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US-Russia Nuclear Cuts Not What They Seem

The Peace Foundation

Disarmament & Security Centre Po Box 8390 Christchurch

Tuesday 14 May 2002

US-Russia Nuclear Cuts Not What They Seem Or Should Be

The Peace Foundation's Disarmament & Security Centre welcomes today's announcement by Presidents Bush and Putin that they have agreed to "liquidate the legacy" (in Bush's words) of their countries' Cold War nuclear arsenals, by reducing their deployed strategic nuclear warheads from about 6,000 each to 1,700-2,200 over the next decade. Unfortunately however, these cuts are not what they seem or should be, because:

1) The US intends merely to put its withdrawn warheads into storage, whereas Russia wants to dismantle them so that they are true, irreversible cuts. If Saddam Hussein and other leaders of countries in President Bush's "axis of evil" agreed to remove their warheads of mass destruction from deployment, but only into store for possible re-deployment, this would rightly be rejected. So it should be for the bloated US and Russian arsenals of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The UK has less than 200 nuclear weapons - but even that number of 100 kiloton warheads is over 1600 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, which is unimaginable overkill.

2) President Putin had suggested reductions to 1,500 warheads each, because Russia can no longer afford to maintain its Cold War-sized arsenal. President Bush, despite the massive military advantage enjoyed by the US over Russia, rejected this offer.

3) These reductions are no real advance on the START III Treaty signed in 1997 by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, who agreed to cut numbers to 2,000-2,500.

4) The new US nuclear posture announced in January makes clear that it is streamlining and modernising its nuclear arsenal, rather than making real progress in good faith towards getting rid of it. For example, the posture review calls for "smarter", more robust nuclear weapons that could have a first strike capability against hardened or deeply buried targets, even in non-nuclear states. This increases the likelihood of use of nuclear weapons, and would be illegal.

5) Despite President Bush's rhetoric to "replace Mutual Assured Destruction with Mutual Cooperation", both the US and Russia each still keep some 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads at "launch-on-warning" readiness to be used within minutes of detection of a ballistic missile launch - and will continue to do so even after these cuts. With an increasingly unreliable Russian early warning system, it is irresponsible for both nuclear superpowers to sustain their addiction to the dogma of nuclear deterrence, when the top priority should be to eliminate the possibility of accidental nuclear war between two alleged partners in the struggle against terrorism.

For more, contact Commander Rob Green RN (Ret'd) at tel: 03-348-1353

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Commander Robert D Green, Royal Navy (Retired)
International Chair, World Court Project UK

Disarmament & Security Centre
PO Box 8390
Christchurch
Aotearoa/New Zealand

Tel/Fax: (+64) 3 348 1353

Email: robwcpuk@chch.planet.org.nz

Website: http://www.disarmsecure.org

[The DSC is a specialist branch of the NZ Peace Foundation]
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