The Current State of Affairs

Now more than ever, we need to change our nuclear weapons policies. In January 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday clock to 100 seconds to midnight – the closest it has ever been. But instead of fulfilling obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to move in good faith toward eliminating our nuclear arsenal, the U.S. and other nuclear nations are building new, enhanced nuclear weapons. Congress passed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act which funded almost all of the Trump administration’s plans to spend $1.7 trillion to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with new, more deadly weapons that we do not need and cannot afford. Meanwhile, climate chaos is heightening global tensions and increasing the likelihood of armed conflict which could escalate to nuclear war. While the Biden Administration has signaled it will consider cuts to nuclear weapons programs, it’s going to take all of us to ensure critical policy reforms are enacted, including pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed nations to eliminate their arsenals.

Key Problems with U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

The United States retains the right to use nuclear weapons first, thus instigating a nuclear war. Every U.S. president has the sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear weapon, without needing to consult with anyone else. Hundreds of the nuclear weapons within the U.S. arsenal are constantly kept on hair-trigger alert, compounding the likelihood of an accidental launch. Plans are underway to spend $1.7 trillion to create a new set of enhanced nuclear weapons. And despite a global movement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the entry into force of the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on January 22, 2021, no nuclear armed nations have agreed to endorse such a call. Our five policy solutions are a response to these problems.

Nuclear weapons are also intrinsically linked to environmental justice, from the colonial aspects of uranium mining on indigenous land, to radiation exposure suffered by workers and communities near nuclear production, waste, and testing sites. If we build and test new nuclear weapons, we will cause more harm to the environment and vulnerable communities.

A Critical Moment for Change

We are living through a time of incredible peril and transformation. As the nation struggles with COVID-19, mass unemployment, and racial injustice, millions of Americans are gaining a deep understanding of just how much federal policy impacts their lives. Municipalities and local governments have also been faced with the tremendous impact federal policy – or a lack thereof – has on their jurisdictions, and of their own critical role in protecting public health and safety.

As we chart a course for the future, we will decide what kind of nation we want to be. Many of us don’t wish to return to “normal.” We want to live in a country that lives up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and democracy for all; we want to live in a country that is just, sustainable, and free. Nuclear weapons are simply incompatible with this vision. They are designed to kill masses of people indiscriminately and to frighten other countries into submission. They siphon critical funds from our communities while lining the pockets of defense contractors. They poison the environment, often at the expense of low-income communities of color. They’ve got to go.

There are tangible steps that the U.S. government can take right now to reform our nuclear weapons policy and reduce the threat of nuclear war. When everyday Americans, municipalities, and organizations speak out about these issues, our elected representatives must listen. We are speaking out loud and clear – enough is enough, it is time to leave behind our antiquated Cold War approach to nuclear weapons and usher in a new era of real security.

Now it is the time to act – join Back from the Brink today!

“Since the height of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have dismantled more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, but 15,000 of these weapons still exist and pose an intolerable risk to human survival.”

Monique Limón
California Assemblymember
Back from the Brink resolution adopted August 2018

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