Press Release

Blechman, Heeley Analysis: UN Anticipated To Take Step Toward Banning Nuclear Weapons

in Program

In light of the anticipated vote today at the United Nations to approve the process for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, experts from the nonpartisan Stimson Center released the following statements:

Barry Blechman, Co-Founder, Stimson Center: “Within months of taking the oath of office in 2009, President Obama electrified the world by pledging in Prague to, “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”  A few months later, he convened a meeting of the U.N. Security Council and persuaded all the members — represented at that meeting by their heads of state — to pass a resolution making the same pledge. It is thus supreme irony that in the waning days of his second term, the Obama Administration is working diligently to defeat a U.N. resolution that would authorize negotiations for a treaty to declare nuclear weapons illegal because of the existential threat they pose to humanity. An outgrowth of a series of meetings on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war convened by non-nuclear weapon states — followed by a 2016 U.N. working group, the hoped-for treaty would for the first time declare nuclear weapons illegal, providing a complement to the existing Non-Proliferation Treaty, and a rallying point through which the all but nine countries that have voluntarily refrained from developing nuclear weapons could pressure the few nations whose nuclear arsenals threaten the very existence of life on this planet. President Obama has come far on nuclear weapons; it’s too bad it’s been in the wrong direction.”
Laicie Heeley, Fellow, Stimson Center: “Today’s vote will not change the world overnight, but it does send a powerful message. As the U.S. embarks on a vast, expensive effort to rebuild its nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration must be cognizant of its commitments under the NPT and the message this buildup sends to our adversaries and allies alike. President Obama committed to “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and he has done much in his eight years to further that goal. It is irresponsible at best, however, to burden the next administration, and the American people, with costly nuclear expenditures that have little value in combating today’s security threats. The battles of tomorrow will not be waged through the use of nuclear weapons, which the U.S. military deems of little tactical value. Investing in long-term American security must ultimately include careful consideration of the trade-offs between a 1 trillion dollar nuclear modernization program and more relevant conventional defense needs. “


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