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February 4, 2011 

With New START Treaty in Force, Administration Should Continue to Jointly Reduce Nuclear Risk

Statement by Kevin Knobloch

WASHINGTON (February 4, 2011) -- Tomorrow, at the annual Munich Security Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will exchange instruments of ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), marking the moment the treaty enters into force.

New START, which the United States and Russia signed last April and the Senate approved on December 22, will make critical but modest reductions in each country’s arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons. Forty-five days from Saturday, both countries are required to make an initial exchange of data on missiles, launchers, heavy bombers, and warheads subject to the treaty. Fifteen days later, both will have the right to conduct on-site inspections of each other’s arsenal.

Below is a statement by Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, on this momentous occasion.

“This is a good day for America, and for the rest of the world. But reducing the dangers and risks posed by 20,000-plus nuclear weapons worldwide remains an urgent challenge. As more and more American experts and officials have realized, nuclear weapons are now a liability for the United States, not an asset.

“With its entry into force, New START takes an important step in the right direction, one that the administration must quickly follow up with additional steps to make our country and world safer. The administration must keep in mind the vision of a ‘world without nuclear weapons’ that President Obama articulated two years ago in Prague, and further reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy.

“We recommend that the administration take a number of follow-on steps to strengthen national—and international—security.

“First, it should revise the guidance on nuclear roles and missions to permit U.S. nuclear reductions to 500 to a thousand warheads or less, including those deployed and in reserve, and begin a new round of negotiations with Russia to reach that limit.

“Second, it should eliminate the requirement to maintain a rapid launch capability for nuclear missiles and maximize the time the president has to decide to use nuclear weapons—and it should encourage Russia to follow suit. That would eliminate the current hair-trigger status of U.S. and Russian forces, decreasing the chances of a nuclear exchange due to misinformation or miscalculation.

“Third, it should work with NATO to consolidate and develop a plan to withdraw the approximately 180 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

“And fourth, it should declare that the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter an attack on the United States or it allies.

“The Obama administration also should make the technical and political case for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would ban all nuclear explosive testing globally. The treaty would help prevent other countries from developing advanced nuclear weapons, and would not change anything here at home given the United States has never relied on nuclear explosive testing to maintain a safe, secure, reliable arsenal.”


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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