4 May 2017

Rising tensions, nuclear modernizations: How Washington can turn down the heat

Lawrence J. Korb

A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Korb is the vice-chair of the Bulletin's...

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Statesmen such as William Perry and Mikhail Gorbachev are growing increasingly concerned about global nuclear tensions. Their concern springs in large measure from the nuclear modernizations being conducted by all major nuclear powers. The United States has embarked on a trillion-dollar modernization program – motivated partly by Russia’s increasing aggressiveness abroad and by indications that Vladimir Putin might be willing to use nuclear weapons. Donald Trump, meanwhile, makes erratic, inconsistent, and impulsive statements about nuclear weapons, causing many to argue that his sole authority to launch these weapons should be taken away. Nuclear tensions will be dampened somewhat by fiscal pressures in both Washington and Moscow and by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Nonetheless, the United States should reduce nuclear dangers by paring down some aspects of its modernization program; agreeing to extend New START; adopting a no-first-use policy and ending hair-trigger alert for nuclear weapons; better educating Donald Trump about arms control agreements and nuclear risks; and stopping or slowing plans for ballistic missile defense installations in Poland and Romania.

Countries: United States
Region: Americas