by George Edmundson / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution –
WASHINGTON — Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn criticized the Bush administration Tuesday for exploring the possibility of developing new nuclear weapons.
Nunn, senator from Georgia from 1972 to 1997, said the recent move dims prospects for reducing the international threat of nuclear attacks.
“I think it’s very damaging to America’s security position because I think it sets back our effort and our moral persuasion effectiveness in trying to move the world away from nuclear weapons,” he said. “So I think it’s counterproductive to our own security interests.”
Congress recently approved funding for research into smaller nuclear weapons and what are called “bunker-buster” bombs to attack deep underground facilities. Funding also was approved to improve the testing site in Nevada.
Nunn said averting catastrophe from weapons of mass destruction will require unprecedented cooperation: “We have to have that cooperation, not because cooperation will give us a warm, fuzzy feeling of community, but because every other method will fail,” he said.
Any unilateral action “that is not absolutely necessary” works against further cooperation, he said, adding that even the massive military power of the United States is not sufficient to deal with the problems.
“And when we take actions in other arenas of the world that look like we don’t need or want any help, I think it’s counterproductive to what I consider to be our most important security problem,” Nunn said. He added that he hoped the issue would be addressed by all candidates in the upcoming presidential campaign.
Nunn is co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization he founded with Ted Turner in 2001. He and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) helped establish a threat reduction program to help Russia and the former Soviet republics deal with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Nunn spoke at a symposium on Capitol Hill the NTI sponsored with Kazakhstan, which has been praised for dealing with nuclear weapons after it declared independence 12 years ago.
At that time, the country had 1,410 nuclear warheads and was the site of a nuclear test site as well as an anthrax production facility. All of the warheads have been removed from Kazakhstan. The nuclear test site has been shut down and the anthrax facility’s capability has been eliminated.
“Iran and other nations could learn from Kazakhstan that a nation can grow, modernize, make progress and gain stature not in spite of renouncing nuclear weapons but because of it,” Nunn said.