Presidential Debate: What you need to know

By | September 23, 2020

The debates: Why nuclear weapons should be a major focus of the 2020 campaign

The first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden takes place on September 29th. Dive into Bulletin articles to explore the nuclear weapons questions that citizens and journalists alike should be asking the candidates now, before the election in November. Start with this overview from editor-in-chief John Mecklin. Read more.

What the presidential candidates should be asked about arms control and nonproliferation

Regardless of whether the next President of the United States is Donald Trump or Joe Biden, he will have the complete and unchecked authority to order the use of the approximately 4,000 nuclear weapons in the active US stockpile. Both men need to be asked how they plan to reduce nuclear risks. Read more.

Why, in nuclear weapons policy, sometimes fewer options are better

The Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for increasing the number of “low-yield” nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. But size matters when it comes to nuclear weapons. Find out why “smaller” is not necessarily better or less dangerous. Read more.​​​​

Extend arms control for a safer future

There is one remaining nuclear treaty forestalling a nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed in 2010. It’s scheduled to expire on February 5, 2021. It may be left up to the 46th president of the United States to (immediately) extend the treaty. Read more.​​​​​​


The Bulletin’s Nuclear Notebook, researched and compiled by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists, is an authoritative accounting of world nuclear arsenals. Want to know how many nuclear weapons the US has? Check out the Nuclear Notebook collection to keep tabs on the US and the 8 other other nuclear weapons states. ​​​​​​Visit the Nuclear Notebook Collection.

The overwhelming case for no first use and No” to no first use—for now

US policy is to consider the first use of nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances,” and only against adversaries who have nuclear weapons or are not in compliance with their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations. Former Obama science advisor John Holdren and former Under Secretary of Defense James Miller debate different approaches to getting to “no first use.” Read more.

Peter Feaver on the president and US nuclear command and control

Read this interview with Peter Feaver, who served on the National Security Council under two presidents and is an expert on nuclear command and control. Read more.​​​

America should welcome a discussion about NATO’s nuclear strategy

Science and Security Board member Jon Wolfsthal dives into the debate over whether the US and NATO can effectively deter Russian conventional aggression and efforts to destabilize Europe without forward-deployed nuclear weapons. Read more.

Loose cannons: The president and US nuclear posture

Bruce Blair, a Princeton University research scholar and co-founder of the Global Zero movement who recently passed away, wrote in the January magazine about the US president’s “sole authority” to order a nuclear attack and how it might be altered to make nuclear war less likely. Read more.

Eight theories on Trump’s “incredible” new secret nuclear weapon

In an interview with Bob Woodward, President Trump revealed the existence of an “incredible” new secret nuclear weapon. Plenty of people have guessed at what it is, but they’ve all been wrong. We’ve got the scoop. Read more.

The Button: A Bulletin Virtual Program 

“Unlike all other instruments of war, nuclear weapons are the president’s weapon.” Watch a Bulletin Virtual Program featuring William J. Perry, former US Secretary of Defense and Chair of the Bulletin Board of Sponsors; Tom Collina, Policy Director, Ploughshares Fund; and led by Kennette Benedict, Senior Advisor to the Bulletin. Read more.


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