Call on your elected representatives to reopen and maintain a dialogue with Russia and all nuclear powers on nuclear risk reduction at all times. We need to reopen all channels of communication on military and security issues and restart a dialogue on strategic stability with all nuclear powers including rules of the road for cyber weapons and other emerging technologies. We had one round of strategic stability talks with the Russians in 2017. We urgently need the next one.
The risks posed by new nuclear dangers—inadvertent nuclear escalation, proliferation of nuclear materials and technology, terrorists, cyber threats—are dangerously high. As former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz underlines, the US and Russia must maintain a constant dialogue to deal with these threats:
"These risks demand renewal of nuclear security dialogue at all levels between the U.S. and Russia. Today that collaboration is held hostage by oscillations and severe strains in U.S.-Russian political relations. This is a dangerous and unprecedented development.”
--Ernest Moniz, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Co-Chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), May 2018
Given the existential nuclear threat, we do not have the luxury of breaking off contact and communication due to our bitter political disagreements with Russia and other nuclear powers. In nuclear matters, it is unacceptable to “punish” bad behavior by ceasing to talk to the offender. In matters of existential risk, communication cannot be a “reward” for good behavior. Channels of communication and information exchange are essential to learn what the other side is doing, to more accurately assess each other’s plans and intentions, to reduce the nuclear risk. In the dark, we tend to assume the worst.
It is in U.S. interests to keep open channels of communication with Russia and with all nuclear powers on military and security issues. The U.S. military has managed to talk with its Russian counterparts and avoid major incidents in Syria, even though we are on opposite sides. The two sides have maintained daily “de-confliction” talks over Syria and the broader Middle East. But other contacts have been reduced drastically and must be reopened to promote transparency and stability that enhances confidence and directly contributes to our national security interests. We need to cooperate on all regional and strategic nuclear risks.
An imperative in the nuclear age: we must insulate talks on existential risks from all political differences, whether over regional conflicts or even the most bitter issues such as meddling in our domestic elections.
Ronald Reagan’s first agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev was to establish communication beyond the “Hotline” and create Nuclear Risk-Reduction Centers for constant, in-depth communication. We must follow that example today.