RENOUNCE THE OPTION OF USING NUCLEAR WEAPONS FIRST
The United States, Russia and all nuclear powers except China and India still reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first. This increases the chance that a conflict could escalate to a civilization-ending nuclear war. The United States and all nuclear powers should instead declare that they will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and would use them only in response to a nuclear attack.
Cooperate with Russia and other nuclear powers on nonproliferation.
END THE SOLE, UNCHECKED AUTHORITY OF ANY U.S. PRESIDENT— OR ANY ONE PERSON ANYWHERE—TO LAUNCH A NUCLEAR ATTACK
The U.S. president has unchecked authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, either first or in response to a nuclear attack. This system is risky and unjustified. There are practical ways to include multiple decision-makers in authorizing the use of nuclear weapons, and the United States and all nuclear powers should adopt such policies.
AGREE TO TAKE NUCLEAR WEAPONS OFF HAIR-TRIGGER ALERT
If the U.S. and Russia begin to take their nuclear weapons off launch on warning, this will immediately reduce the time crunch—the impetus toward use of nuclear weapons—in moments of crisis.
CANCEL THE PLAN TO REPLACE THE ENTIRE US ARSENAL WITH ENHANCED WEAPONS AND NEGOTIATE DEEP CUTS IN U.S. AND RUSSIAN ARSENALS
The United States plans to spend over a trillion dollars in the next 30 years to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons. Instead, the United States should simply refurbish existing weapons where possible and eliminate certain classes of weapons, including ICBMs, the weapon system most likely to be fired in response to a false alarm and cause an apocalyptic, accidental nuclear war. At the same time, the U.S. and Russia should negotiate deep cuts to move to a small arsenal, like China, of just a few hundred nuclear weapons. This is a realistic path to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and a new security system.
PURSUE A VERIFIABLE AGREEMENT AMONG NUCLEAR STATES TO ELIMINATE THEIR NUCLEAR ARSENALS
Nuclear weapons are immoral, as many religious leaders have underlined, and there is a movement to ban and make them illegal. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), championed by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in 2017, entered into force on January 22, 2021. The U.S. and all nuclear-armed states should take steps to eliminate these hellish nuclear weapons and ratify the TPNW. But how? As we implement the previous four steps, building confidence, stability and moving to drastically reduced nuclear arsenals, it becomes possible to develop and implement alternative security systems and achieve a verifiable agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
MAINTAIN A DIALOGUE ON NUCLEAR RISK REDUCTION WITH ALL NUCLEAR POWERS NO MATTER WHAT
We must maintain a dialogue at all levels with all nuclear powers on nuclear risk reduction and strategic stability, including emerging technologies, regardless of our political differences. It is imperative that the U.S. and Russia, the two countries with over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, maintain a constant dialogue on nuclear risk reduction, a safe space insulated from our political differences, as we did during the Cold War.
REAFFIRM THE DECLARATION MADE BY BOTH REAGAN AND GORBACHEV: “A NUCLEAR WAR CANNOT BE WON AND MUST NEVER BE FOUGHT
The Trump nuclear posture takes us toward more “tailored” flexible use of nuclear weapons. The Russians have for some time threatened to use small nukes in Europe in an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy. To move to a more secure world, we need to change direction. Reaffirming this declaration is a step in the right direction.
RESURRECT ARMS CONTROL
Agree on New START and work out our differences on the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The United States has high confidence that the Russians are violating INF and the Russians accuse the U.S. of the same. But Reagan and Gorbachev reached agreement in the 1980s when the divisions were at least as deep. Abandoning INF risks a new arms race with both Russia and China in intermediate range missiles.
COOPERATE WITH RUSSIA AND OTHER STATES ON PREVENTING NUCLEAR AND CYBER TERRORISM—NO MATTER WHAT
A nuclear terrorist attack in New York, Moscow, or any of the world’s large cities would not only result in hundreds of thousands of lives lost but would also have profound effects on global security and economics. Regardless of our political differences, we must act now to expand cooperation on counter-terrorism. Efforts should include cooperation to reduce the danger of cyber interference in strategic systems and command and control.
COOPERATE ON NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION AND RATIFY THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR-TEST-BAN TREATY (CTBT)
As we work toward the reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons, the U.S. must cooperate with Russia and other nuclear powers to prevent more countries from acquiring their own nuclear arsenals. We need a multilateral approach to negotiations with emerging nuclear powers which is more likely to succeed – with North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.
The time to act is now. Momentum is building, a new great coalition is emerging across the United States to avert a nuclear catastrophe, a growing coalition of citizens, churches, NGOs, Members of Congress, mayors, arms control and security experts, and others.
See What You Can Do for ways that you can act now to realize the ten steps of The Nuclear Playbook so we can survive our planet’s most dangerous time and move towards a world without nuclear weapons.
In What You Can Do we offer ways that we can engage the power of the larger community, all of us whose lives are at stake, to compel our political leaders to take these ten steps.