One trillion dollars. Where would you rather see this amount of money spent? Would you rather end global hunger or throw this sum into thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons? Would you rather see every child in the world receive school meals and improve their education? Or would you rather see nuclear test explosions and new designs of warheads?
The world, unfortunately, has made a very poor choice. The group Global Zero released a report in 2011 stating, “The nuclear-armed states will spend, conservatively estimated, at least one trillion dollars on nuclear weapons and their direct support systems over the next decade.”
Baneberry underground nuclear test conducted by the U.S. at the Nevada Test Site on 18 December 1970. Radioactive materials were accidentally released which resulted in two US Federal court cases. (U.S. government photo)
We and other nuclear powers have a vested interest in reducing the spiraling costs of nuclear weaponry. We cannot divert spending away from the foreign policy priorities of fighting hunger and poverty around the globe, for these conditions are the biggest threat to peace and impact all nations. Yet, the nuclear spending goes on and on.
A study by the Carnegie Endowment said the United States alone spends at least 52 billion dollars a year on nuclear arms. In comparison, the U.S. McGovern-Dole global school meals plan costs around 200 million dollars annually. Another program that supports America’s food banks struggles to get about 300 million in funding, but cannot keep up with the demand. Nuclear weapons, just by their existence, cause significant harm: President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Nuclear weapons epitomize this reality. President John Kennedy said of the nuclear arms race, “we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease.”
With so much at stake, we should never give up on the cause of nuclear arms reductions and eventual disarmament. But we have so far to go. Even with the treaties of the last few decades there are still many thousands of nuclear weapons, most of them held by the United States and Russia. China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel also have the bomb. There is the emerging threat of new nuclear powers North Korea and possibly Iran.
A treaty that has been languishing for over a decade would end all nuclear weapons testing.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was created in 1996 but was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999. Since that time, the case for the treaty has only grown stronger. Concerns over the need for test explosions to maintain the current nuclear arsenal have diminished.
National Nuclear Security Administrator Thomas D’Agostino stated, “President Obama shared his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. As we work toward that goal, we have the world’s leading scientific facilities, the world’s fastest computers, and the world’s brightest minds working to ensure that we never again have to perform nuclear explosive testing on U.S. nuclear weapons.”
The treaty is also verifiable and even without all its monitoring stations active, was able to detect North Korea’s nuclear tests.
Ending nuclear testing can kick start disarmament negotiations. The Canberra Commission on eliminating nuclear weapons said, “the CTBT obligation permanently to cease or forgo nuclear testing sets the psychological stage for moving toward elimination of nuclear weapons.”
As the US Nuclear Posture Review in 2010 clearly stated, “Ratification of the CTBT is central to leading other nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”
Besides, who really wants to resume nuclear test explosions? Who wants to charge American taxpayers for these explosions and at the same time increase international tensions?
President Ronald Reagan said, “I am committed to the ultimate attainment of a total ban on nuclear testing, a goal that has been endorsed by every U.S. President since President Eisenhower.” It is time to for the U.S. Senate to realize that goal and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Nuclear testing was a legacy of the Cold War. But those days are over. We do not want to be sitting here 10 years from now looking at another decade of huge nuclear bills. It’s an expensive tab for the world to have for a sword over its head.
The Global Security Priorities Resolution, introduced in Congress during 2010, recognized this and called for disarmament savings to be diverted toward increasing nuclear security, the peaceful uses of the technology and fighting global hunger. That is the kind of policy all nuclear states should be making.
For humanitarian reasons alone we should expect the US and other nuclear powers to take the next steps toward disarmament. It can start by ending nuclear weapons testing once and for all.