Biden Announces Independent Reduction of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

Obama makes independent arsenal reduction - Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. has cut an additional 553 nuclear weapons from its stockpile, bringing the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons total to 4,018 warheads. “This means that the Obama administration during its two terms has reduced the US nuclear weapons stockpile by 1,255 weapons compared with the size at the end of the George W. Bush administration – a number greater than the estimated number of warheads in the arsenals of Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan combined,” writes Hans Kristensen for the Federation of American Scientists.

--Even with these cuts, “the Obama administration still holds the position of being the administration that has cut the least warheads from the stockpile compared with other post-Cold War presidencies... The Trump administration should continue the broad outline of the Obama administration’s nuclear policy of gradually but responsibly reducing the numbers and reliance on nuclear weapons while actively seeking to persuade other nuclear-armed states to follow the example.” Find article here. Full speech by Vice President Biden here.

See also - For an in-depth look into U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles prior to Biden’s announcement, see “United States nuclear forces, 2017,” by Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Let your voice be heard - Ploughshares Fund’s petition to President Obama now has over 99,000 supporters asking him to take our nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert. Sign and share the petition here.

Iran vows to further cut uranium stockpile - “Iran agreed to take steps that would push its stockpile of enriched uranium far below the 300-kilogram cap fixed in its 2015 nuclear agreement, potentially eliminating one flashpoint over an accord that President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly criticized during his election campaign… The pledge by Tehran to take the step came after discussions in Vienna on Tuesday with the six powers that negotiated the nuclear accord,” writes Laurence Norman for The Wall Street Journal. “The meeting is expected to be the last the Obama administration will take part in before Mr. Trump takes office on Jan. 20.” Full story here.

Tweet - @AmbassadorRice: @TheIranDeal: ✓Cut all paths to a nuclear weapon ✓Dismantled 2/3 of installed centrifuges ✓Shipped out 98% of enriched uranium stockpile

Rex Tillerson against nuclear proliferation - “President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state broke with Trump on the issue of nuclear proliferation [yesterday] during the first of what's expected to be a two-day confirmation hearing,” writes Justin Fishel for ABC News.

--“[When Senator Edward] Markey pressed if Tillerson agreed with Trump that proliferation would not be a bad thing. ‘I do not agree,’ Tillerson said. ‘Senator, I think if confirmed, it is a vital, one of the vital roles for the State Department to play... has to be the pursuit of nuclear nonproliferation,’ Tillerson continued. ‘We just simply cannot back away from our commitment to see a reduction in the number of these weapons on the planet.’” Full story here.

Tweet - @plough_shares: Eight years ago, who believed we could stop a new war in the Middle East, and stop a nuclear bomb? #IranDeal #ThanksObama MT @ReThinkDefense

Gen. Mattis on nuclear weapons - “Barring any unexpected events, Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis will be the next United States secretary of defense. Since President-elect Donald Trump announced the appointment, Mattis has been something of a unifier in Washington. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, a Democrat, called him ‘a very serious thinker’ and ‘a solid addition to Trump's team,’” writes John Tierney for U.S. News. “Mattis will have a lot on his hands when he takes over the Pentagon, not least of which involves decisions that will further set the course for the maintenance and overhaul of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, an extensive process that could cost $1 trillion over three decades.”

--“Mattis is no stranger to the nuclear challenges ahead. In January 2015, he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and asked for clarification on U.S. nuclear weapons policy moving forward. Specifically, he said that ‘fundamental questions must be asked and answered’ about the nuclear stockpile, including declaring what role nuclear weapons play in national security strategy – solely as a deterrent or as something more – and whether it is time to remove land-based nuclear weapons once and for all… Declaring that U.S. nuclear weapons exist solely for deterrence, as Mattis suggested might be sound policy, would in essence establish a ‘no-first-use’ policy, whereby the United States promises to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack against itself or an ally.”

See also - “Ten Questions for General Mattis,” by William Hartung for The National Interest.

Tweet - @carnegienpp: @VP says nuclear policy is too important and shouldn't be a partisan issue

Nuclear war’s capacity to kill - “For decades, the U.S. has argued that even a few nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue nations would pose an unacceptable risk, but ‘responsible’ states like the U.S. having these weapons is acceptable,” write Congressman Jim McGovern and Dr. Ira Helfand for The Huffington Post. “Many in the medical and scientific community have long argued there are no ‘right hands’ with nuclear weapons... Recent studies have shown that even a very limited nuclear war, involving less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, would cause worldwide climate disruption and precipitate a global famine that could put some two billion people at risk.” Full piece here.

See also - “An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump about Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Winter,” by Alan Robock for Huffington Post.

Your long weekend documentary - If you missed Tuesday’s airing of Command and Control on PBS, check out the full documentary here. The documentary covers the perilous nuclear situation Arkansas faced in 1980, and is currently on the shortlist for Best Documentary Film at this year’s Academy Awards.

U.S. responds to DPRK - In response to recent missile tests and aggressive rhetoric by Kim Jong-un in North Korea, “A high-tech sea-based U.S. military radar has left Hawaii to monitor for potential North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] test launches,” write Idress Ali and Phil Stewart for Reuters. “The radar is able to track ICBMs and differentiate between hostile missiles and those that are not a threat,” but was not deployed “based on any credible threat.” Full article here.

Quick Hits:

--“Kerry: ‘More forceful ways’ may be needed with North Korea,” by Matthew Pennington for The Washington Post.

--“Obama Administration Seeks to Secure Iran Deal,” by Laurence Norman for The Wall Street Journal.

--“Try negotiating for peace with North Korea,” letters to the editor of The Washington Post.

--“Kim Jong Un Now Has Enough Plutonium to Make 10 Nuclear Warheads, a New Report Says,” by Kevin Lui for Time.

--“9 foreign policy issues the Trump administration will have to face,” by Missy Ryan, Karen DeYoung, Anne Gearan, Griff Witte, Carol Morello, and Joshua Partlow for The Washington Post.

--“Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive Trump?,” by ECFR Senior Policy Fellow Ellie Geranmayeh's interview with Dr. Richard Nephew, Program Director, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University and Daryl Kimball, Director, Arms Control Association.

--“Why the US might not shoot down a North Korean missile after all,” by Gretel Kauffman for The Christian Science Monitor.


--"Can the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive a Trump Presidency?" panel discussion with five speakers hosted by National Iranian American Council. The event will take place on January 12, 2017, from 12:00pm to 1:00pm at Rayburn House Office Building, 2168, Washington. RSVP online.

--"The U.S. Air Force's Approach to Nuclear Modernization," with Gen. Jack Weinstein, U.S. Air Force on January 13, 2017 at 12:30-2:00 p.m. The event is held at National Defense University, 62, 300 Fifth Ave. SW, Fort McNair, Washington. RSVP online.

--“One Year of JCPOA Implementation: Achievements and Prospects for Sustainability,” an event with Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister; and Anton Khlopkov, Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS). Sponsored by the Russian Mission to the United Nations and CENESS. United Nations, Conference Room 12. RSVP by Jan. 13 to Dmitry Konukhov via email.

--“Atomic Football: The Nuclear Playbook in a Strange New Era,” a panel discussion featuring former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, former covert operations officer for CIA Valerie Plame, and other experts. The event is hosted by Ploughshares Fund on January 25, 2017 at 6:30-9:00pm at the Norman Lear Center, 4222 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA. More details here.

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