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Nuclear Posture Review 'Recipe for a Disaster', Warns Pugwash

By J Nastranis

Photo: Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify on the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2018. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm

NEW YORK (IDN) – The Nobel Peace laureate 'Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs' has warned that the latest development of U.S. nuclear weapons policy "will serve only to increase the saliency and attractiveness of nuclear weapons, and will certainly not enhance international security."

Commenting on the United States 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Pugwash President Sergio Duarte and Secretary General Paolo Cotta-Ramusino said on February 6: "The global landscape is already filled with simmering nuclear tensions, as well as other serious issues of conflict. Stressing the role of nuclear weapons is not merely unhelpful but is likely to increase these tensions."

Duarte and Cotta-Ramsusino were referring to Pentagon chief Secretary James Mattis' preface to the NPR released on February 2, in which he said that the new nuclear policy rests "on a bedrock truth: nuclear weapons have and will continue to play a critical role in deterring nuclear attack and in preventing large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states for the foreseeable future."

The Pugwash statement alerts: "In a complex and dangerous international environment, the difficult relations between the United States and Russia and China, as well as the other states named in the NPR (North Korea and Iran), can be worsened by any provocative nuclear policy, leading them to strengthen their reliance on nuclear weapons."

The expansion of the role of nuclear weapons risks triggering another round of the nuclear arms race, dramatically increases the risks of their use, and makes the road to a nuclear weapons free world even more difficult, the statement adds.

Duarte and Cotta-Ramusino note that besides pursuing the modernization of all the elements of the Triad (strategic bombers, ICBM, SLBM), the NPR foresees projects to develop new types of nuclear weapons tailored to different adversaries and scenarios, and "flexible" enough to respond to a variety of current threats.

"Increasing the number and the possible role of (smaller) tactical nuclear weapons is a recipe for a disaster," they declare, adding: "Tactical nuclear weapons can make nuclear war more likely through de-facto lowering the threshold between a conventional and a nuclear conflict."

Duarte and Cotta-Ramusino find that as compared to the previous NPR, this NPR has taken backward steps. "For example, the assertion that nuclear weapons have a role in deterring significant non-nuclear attacks reverses the prior statement that the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons to deter chemical or conventional attacks."

The statement concludes: "We believe that this latest development of U.S. nuclear weapons policy will serve only to increase the saliency and attractiveness of nuclear weapons, and will certainly not enhance international security, let alone prospects for progress in bilateral and multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation efforts."

Pugwash president Duarte, former UN Undersecretary for Disarmament Affairs and a retired career diplomat from Brazil, succeeded Jayantha Dhanapala, who after ten years in the role retired at the conclusion of the 62nd Pugwash Conference in the Kazakh capital city Astana, on August 29, 2017. Dhanapala was hand picked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take on the challenging job of Under Secretary General to re-establish the Department of Disarmament after the UN reforms of 1997 (1998–2003).

The Pugwash Conferences take their name from the location of the first meeting, held in 1957 in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada, birthplace of the American philanthropist Cyrus Eaton, who hosted the meeting.

The stimulus for that gathering was a Manifesto issued in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein – and signed also by Max Born, Percy Bridgman, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Herman Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil Powell, Joseph Rotblat, and Hideki Yukawa – which called upon scientists of all political persuasions to assemble to discuss the threat posed to civilization by the advent of thermonuclear weapons.

The 1957 meeting was attended by 22 eminent scientists: seven from the United States, three each from the Soviet Union and Japan, two each from the United Kingdom and Canada, and one each from Australia, Austria, China, France, and Poland.

Pugwash's mission is to bring scientific insight and reason to bear on namely, the catastrophic threat posed to humanity by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It was in recognition of it mission to "diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms" that Pugwash and its co-founder, Sir Joseph Rotblat, were awarded the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize.

Pugwash draws its inspiration from the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, which urged leaders of the world to "think in a new way": to renounce nuclear weapons, to "remember their humanity" and to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them. [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 February 2018]

Photo: Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify on the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2018. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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