A Plan for Action: Ridding the World of Nuclear Weapons

The vision of a world without nuclear weapons has been espoused by political leaders since early in the nuclear age. Leaders from President John Kennedy to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have called for a world free of nuclear weapons. Even President Ronald Reagan said his “ultimate goal” was “eliminating all nuclear weapons.” Barack Obama is the most recent president to express a belief in this vision. In his landmark 2009 speech in Prague, he said, “I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

These are bold and inspiring words from the leader of the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons and which still has thousands of these weapons. The words mean little, however, without actions to back them up. FCNL supports a two-fold strategy for working toward this goal. First, the United States must work to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries and to non-state actors like al Qaeda. Second, the number of currently existing nuclear weapons and related weapons systems must be reduced.

The U.S. should take the following steps to help accomplish these two goals.

  1. Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT will create a global ban on nuclear test explosions and create a system to verify that countries have not tested a weapon. Without the ability to test a weapon, the development of new nuclear weapons becomes significantly more difficult. The U.S. is one of eight countries that must ratify the treaty before it will enter into force. See more on the CTBT.
  2. Continue to pursue diplomatic means to preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. Diplomacy is the most effective way to keep more countries from joining the “nuclear club.” See more on diplomacy with Iran.
  3. Negotiate with Russia to further reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The vote for ratification of the New START treaty between the U.S. and Russia in December 2010 was a huge victory, reducing the maximum number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons in each country from 2,200 to 1,550. But more must be done. The next arms reduction agreement, whether by treaty or a bilateral agreement, should limit the U.S. and Russia to at most 1,000 deployed nuclear weapons each. Any new arms reduction agreement should also include the elimination of tactical (or battlefield) nuclear weapons.
  4. Continue to contain nuclear weapons and materials around the world. U.S. programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative and the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation Program that help keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of extremist organizations need sufficient funding.
  5. Pursue a treaty to prohibit weapons-grade uranium and plutonium production. Such a treaty would further reduce the risk that new nuclear weapons will be developed or built.

Complete nuclear disarmament will not be accomplished quickly or easily. Building trust among the nuclear powers and overcoming major political hurdles will move us towards accomplishing the vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Find out more about how you can be part of this work to support a world free of nuclear weapons.

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