Report Says Trump Officials Discussed Conducting First US Nuclear Test Since 1992
(May 23, 2020) — White House officials discussed whether to conduct the first nuclear test explosion since 1992, The Washington Post reported Friday.
A meeting of people representing the top national security agencies discussed the matter May 15, according to the newspaper, which cited an unidentified senior administration employee and two former officials familiar with the deliberations.
The matter surfaced after some administration representatives said Russia and China were conducting low-yield nuclear tests, “an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied,” the newspaper said.
The National Security Council declined to comment to the Washington Post.
The Post, quoting a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that demonstrating to Russia and China that the United States could “rapid test” could prove to be a useful negotiating strategy as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the nuclear arsenals of the three powers.
The report quoted one official as saying that while the meeting did not end in any agreement that a test would be conducted, the proposal is “very much an ongoing conversation.”
Another person familiar with the meeting, however, said a decision was ultimately made to take other measures in response to threats posed by Russia and China and avoid a resumption of testing.
The United States said on Thursday it will withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, the Trump administration’s latest move to pull the country out of a major global treaty.
The decision deepens doubts about whether Washington will seek to extend the 2010 New START accord, which imposes the last remaining limits on US and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each. It expires in February.
Later in the day, Trump’s arms control negotiator mounted a full-blown defense of the administration’s arms control policies, focusing on the president’s proposal that China join the United States and Russia on a replacement for the New START Treaty.
“We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea told the Hudson Institute think tank.
The US has not conducted a nuclear test explosion since September 1992, and nonproliferation advocates quickly warned that doing so now could have destabilizing consequences.
“This is the nuclear arms control version of injecting yourself with disinfectant,” tweeted Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. “The notion that a US nuclear test would bring Russia and China cowering to the negotiating table is beyond outlandishly preposterous.”
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Executive Director and former Rep. John Tierney called the report “nothing short of appalling.”
“We are in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime and this is what the Trump Administration is doing with its time? When Americans say that they want and need tests, they weren’t talking about the nuclear kind,” he said in a statement, referring to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Tierney added that there was “no need to conduct explosive nuclear tests” since “nuclear experts at our labs and our top military leaders affirm the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal every single year.”
Resumed Nuclear Testing “Absolutely Unacceptable”
(May 25, 2020) — The Washington Post reported on Friday May 22 that US officials are discusing the possibility of resuming explosive nuclear testing for the first time in 28 years.
The following day (May 23), nuclear abolition campaigners from around the world met online for the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons and unanimously adopted a statement condemning the consideration of such a provocative and regressive move by the United States, and opposing any nuclear tests worldwide.
“Testing of nuclear weapons evokes nuclear apocalypse, as in the days of US-Soviet brinksmanship. It must not be resumed,” says John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and one of the statement’s drafters. “At the same time, we must recognize that the capabilities for apocalypse remain in place, and are being maintained and improved in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. This too must be brought to an end.”
“Renewed nuclear testing initiated by the US would enable India, Pakistan and North Korea to test and develop ‘H-bomb’ thermonuclear warheads, which the existing moratorium on testing has prevented them from deploying,” says Daniel Ellsberg, former US nuclear war planner, andfamed whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers.
“They could then join the US and Russia in threatening the world with the capability to cause nuclear winter, global famine, and near-extinction of humanity. Obviously, no nation on earth should possess this power. Rather than inviting its spread, the US and Russia should neither maintain nor ‘modernize’ but dismantle their own Doomsday Machines.”
“25 years ago, we launched the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons with an 11-point statement which includes a call to abolish all forms of nuclear testing,” says Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation, and a founding mother of Abolition 2000.
“For more than a quarter of a century the moratorium on full-scale explosive nuclear testing has been largely adhered to. US resumption of such tests at this time would rock the foundations of an increasingly fragile world order and would set back efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons by decades. It must not be allowed.”
About the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The CTBT opened for signing in 1996 obliges states:
- Not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
- To refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.
Participants at the Abolition 2000 AGM also discussed nuclear weapons policies and disarmament strategies in the new COVID-19 environment and a post COVID-19 world. This was stimulated by insightful video presentations from leading thinkers and campaigners in the field, including:
- Oleg Bodrov (Russian Federation), Public Council of the South Coast of the Gulf of Finland
- Maria Fernanda Espinosa (Ecuador), World Future Council and former President of the UN General Assembly
- Tarja Cronberg (Finland), SIPRI European Security Programme
- Kate Hudson (United Kingdom), Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- Andrew Lichterman (United States), Western States Legal Foundation
- Vanda Proskova (Czech Republic), Abolition 2000 Youth Network and Move the Nuclear Weapons Money
- Suvrat Raju (India), Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.
- Elder Kathy Sanchez (United States), Environmental Health & Justice and Sayain Circle of Grandmothers Coordinator.
Click here to watch their video presentations. http://www.abolition2000.org/en/news/2020/05/23/nuclear-abolition-in-the-post-covid-19-world/
Copyright © 2020 Basel Peace Office, All rights reserved.
Absolutely Unacceptable: Resumed Nuclear Explosive Testing
(May 23, 2020) — Resumption of nuclear explosive testing is absolutely unacceptable. Even discussing nuclear testing again is dangerously destabilizing. Yet according to news reports such discussions have recently been held in the Trump White House. US resumption of nuclear testing would lead to testing by other states — possibly China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and DPRK.
It would accelerate the emerging nuclear arms race, and damage prospects for nuclear arms control negotiations. A nuclear explosive test is itself a kind of threat. Testing would generate fear and mistrust and would entrench reliance on nuclear arms.
It would move the world away from rather than towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Nuclear explosive testing must not happen, and there must not even be signals of its possibility. Instead the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty should be brought into legal force.
This episode comes in the context of ongoing upgrading of nuclear forces by the world’s nuclear-armed states. It is supported by extensive laboratory research and experimentation which in part serves as a substitute for functions once served by nuclear explosive testing.
So, even as we demand that such testing not be resumed, we must recognize the dangers inherent in the ongoing nuclear weapons enterprise. Those dangers are now mostly out of sight of the public and subject to little media scrutiny, but they are real. They too must be addressed, which in the end will require the global abolition of nuclear arms.
Drafted on behalf of the AGM by:
John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner Andrew Lichterman, Senior Research Analyst, Western States Legal Foundation
Alice S: Just wanted to share my take with you on the latest statement from Abolition 2000. While we certainly should be supporting all efforts to halt a resumption of full scale nuclear testing, Abolition 2000 used to know better about how nuclear testing never really stopped.
Calling it “explosive nuclear tests” is an arms controller euphemism to forgive the awful tests we continued to explode in Nevada, even after Clinton signed the 1992 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, calling them sub-critical, because the only blew up the plutonium with chemicals that didn’t cause a chain reaction. They stopped reporting on the ongoing sub-critical tests at some point in the last few years.