Nuclear Risk Reduction

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Nuclear Risk Reduction

Fears of the use of nuclear weapons are steadily increasing, and the consequences could be catastrophic.

Deteriorating regional stability, increased efforts among U.S. adversaries to develop new nuclear capabilities, expanding stockpiles of nuclear material, and vulnerabilities around emerging technology and terrorism are converging to create a unique risk environment around the deliberate use or potentially the accidental detonation of a nuclear weapon. The escalation risks of such an event could spiral into a larger and possibly irrevocable nuclear conflict. With the ongoing war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s repeated threats that he could use nuclear weapons, Americans have good reason to fear a nuclear catastrophe.

At the same time, the frameworks for reducing nuclear risk, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and increasing strategic stability are fraying. Putin has suspended Russia’s participation in the bilateral New START treaty, the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia. If Iran successfully develops a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia and other states may seek to follow in their footsteps. China, which currently has a nuclear arsenal less than a tenth the size of that of the United States and Russia, continues to pursue its aggressive nuclear buildup. Insecurities on the Korean Peninsula and a growing lack of confidence in U.S. extended deterrence is fueling a once-taboo debate in U.S.-allied South Korea for developing an indigenous nuclear weapons program. After four decades of steady decline in global nuclear weapons inventories, we now risk the launch of a new and more complex nuclear arms race among the United States, Russia, and China. 

“Russia’s ‘suspension’ of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and its refusal to engage in talks on a New START follow-on agreement exacerbates the danger of an unconstrained arms race – not only between the owners of the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals but also with China. There are no winners – only losers – in a nuclear arms race.”

— Senators Edward J. Markey and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Don Beyer Hear this quote in context Co-Chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group

What You Can Do

To reverse these trends, U.S. diplomatic leadership will be essential to restore strategic stability and reduce the risk of intentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons. Engaging in bilateral and multilateral nuclear arms control and confidence-building talks—especially with Russia and China—is critical to nuclear risk reduction.

Together, the United States and Russia possess 90% of the global inventory of nuclear weapon, and the U.S. Department of Defense intelligence estimates project that China will field a stockpile of 1,500 warheads by 2035. U.S. lawmakers should resist political pressures for costly new weapons that contribute little to U.S. nuclear deterrence capabilities while heightening the risk of miscalculation and strategic instability and potentially fuel an arms race. Help reduce nuclear risk by calling your elected representatives and urging them to support new nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia and China.

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