Nukes Need Checks and Balances

Congress should end nuclear monarchy - “Within minutes, President Trump could unleash up to 1,000 nuclear weapons, each one many times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Short of mutiny, no one can stop him. Once launched, the missiles cannot be recalled. But never before have so many openly questioned the authority of the commander-in-chief to have his finger on the nuclear button,” write Kennette Benedict and Tom Z. Collina for The Hill. “Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said we simply could not give the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.’ President Barack Obama ‘still doesn’t think Donald Trump can handle the nuclear codes or safely protect America from attack.’”

--“There are many systems in place to prevent nuclear weapons from being launched by an unauthorized person or by accident. But currently there is no way to prevent a president from starting nuclear war… On Jan. 24, Rep. Lieu and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching nuclear weapons without a declaration of war from Congress, except in response to a nuclear attack… Without congressional deliberation and citizen participation… our democracy is greatly diminished. Citizens are treated as children who don’t deserve a voice in how our country’s nuclear weapons are deployed. That is not how the world’s greatest democracy should work.” Full story here.

Tweet - @ArmsControlNow: 900 warheads. 5 minutes. One decider—Does Congress know how you feel about how easy a nuclear war can start? SURVEY:

Trump’s giving Mattis the reins - “In a Jan. 27 executive order signed at the Pentagon, Trump directed Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to ‘initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review [NPR],’” writes Aaron Mehta for Defense News. The order has “wide open language, leaving Mattis with significant leeway over how the study will be run, who will be involved, and even the timetable, all factors that are certain to affect the study's conclusions. Or, as Jeffrey Lewis... puts it: ‘Trump is basically turning nuclear policy over to Mattis, whether Trump realizes it or not.’”

--“Nuclear experts believe that major changes to the current modernization program under Trump are unlikely. That’s largely because the Obama administration had set the Pentagon on an ambitious modernization course that will see almost the entire nuclear weapons complex renewed... [The Arms Control Association's Kingston Reif] predicts the emerging Pentagon leadership will push for a traditionally conservative nuclear posture, one that prioritizes deterrence and modernization over nonproliferation... [Added Jeffrey Lewis], ‘I would expect it to look a lot like the Bush one, which was an unrealistic wish list of the conservative defense types that went nowhere. I presume Mattis and [Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work] will push for a pro-forma internal study that ratifies what they already want to do.’” Full story here.

SecAF nominee’s lobbying past - When President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Air Force, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), “left Congress in 2009, she went to work the same month as a paid consultant for a subsidiary of weapons-contracting giant Lockheed Martin. That company then capitalized on Wilson’s extraordinary familiarity with Washington to craft a lobbying strategy meant to avoid having to compete for the renewal of a government contract that brought in huge profits,” writes Patrick Malone for Center for Public Integrity. “Fulfilling the classic role of a ‘nonlobbyist’ strategic adviser, trading on information she gained while serving in public office, she told the firm exactly who they should approach for help.”

--“Wilson, a Republican who had spent four years on the House Armed Services Committee... spent five months drawing up a roadmap for Lockheed to achieve its key objective: Renewing its existing contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, a wholly-owned subsidiary that helps make nuclear weapons and has an annual budget of more than $2 billion, without having to compete with any other firm — unlike most federal contractors... [Yet] in Wilson’s new job, she apparently won't be constrained from making any decisions about her former client Lockheed, which does more business with the Air Force than any other contractor, according to federal procurement records published by the General Services Administration.” In-depth article here.

Whistleblowers lose cover at Energy - The U.S. Energy Department “has temporarily halted an Obama administration regulation permitting civil penalties against federal nuclear contractors that retaliate against whistleblowers who report waste, fraud and dangerous conditions,” writes Joe Davidson for The Washington Post. “Whistleblower advocates worry the rule could discourage workers from reporting violations.”

--“‘There is already a chilled atmosphere for DOE whistleblowers, and the rule that has now been stayed was meant to help address that problem,’ said Lydia Dennett, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight. ‘Halting the regulation from going forward does nothing to help the department and certainly will not encourage whistleblowers to come forward with legitimate safety concerns.’... [Yet] unless the regulation is reinstated, contractors can punish whistleblowers with no fear of civil penalties. Even a temporary halt on penalties against vengeful contractors could discourage whistleblowers.” Full story here.

Tweet - @SecDef19: "Of course we want to prevent nuclear war, but do we need to throw the upper Midwest under the bus to do it?"

Low-yield nukes threaten international balance - “A decision by the United States to pursue a new breed of nuclear weapons could push China to reconsider its decades-long atomic policy, according to experts,” writes David Reid for CNBC. “The U.S. Defense Department recently recommended the government develop tactical nuclear weapons with ‘low yield’ results that can be deployed within smaller battlefield areas. Tong Zhao, an associate in the Carnegie Endowment's Nuclear Policy Program based in Beijing, ... [said], ‘This will be seen by China as evidence of U.S. contemplating first use of nuclear weapons in a future crisis and will encourage China to consider pursuing similar capabilities that may undermine the no-first-use policy.’”

--Yet, “M.Taylor Fravel, Associate Professor of Political Science in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology... [added], ‘That China has chosen not to build a large nuclear force despite being able to do so is more revealing about China's intentions than its possession of the capability to upgrade its nuclear weapons.’" Full story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: Read about the hot-button #nuclear issues against the backdrop of the Prague agenda

For the EU, more nukes makes less sense - “The strongman of Poland’s ruling national-conservative party has stoked a debate that was previously held in only a very limited capacity,” writes Barbara Wesel in Deutche Welle. “In an interview with the daily ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,’ Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Europe should be a superpower with a nuclear arsenal to rival that of Russia... [Though, Kaczynski] conceded that such a program would... be very costly and that he did not anticipate such investment.”

--“‘There is no concrete threat,’ said Ulrich Kühn of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The arguments for such a discussion are all there now in the Trump era, but at the same time, he says, this is ‘not helpful’... As long as NATO exists, Europeans should stay away from a nuclear race... [Kühn] believes it is dangerous that the non-proliferation treaty would effectively be voided if the Europeans were to withdraw from it. ‘That would have global consequences,’ he said. ‘You could suddenly see the creation of 55 to 60 nuclear countries - a horrific scenario.’” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“Trump’s Reckless New Iran Provocation: Designating the IRGC,” published by National Iranian American Council.

--“Nuclear terrorism an international threat, need for global response: Foreign Secretary Jaishankar,” by PTI for The Economic Times.

--“India denies Pakistan claim of building secret nuclear city,” by Munir Ahmed for The Washington Post.

--“A Simple, Unthreatening Way to Shore Up NATO,” by Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk.

--“The fierce urgency of nuclear zero,” published by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--“Trump tweets a red line for North Korea,” by George F. Will for The Washington Post.

--“White House weighs designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group,” by Mark Hosenball, John Walcott, Jonathan Landay, Lesley Wroughton, Jeff Mason, and Yeganeh Torbati for Reuters

--“Pyongyang using refined tactics to duck sanctions on large scale: U.N. report,” by The Japan Times.


--“Guiding Principles for U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia,” a panel hosted by the Carnegie Endowment. February 9, 2017 from 3-4:15pm. 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington, DC 20036. RSVP and details here.

--“Debate: European Missile Defenses for NATO,” hosted by CSIS. February 16 from 4:30-7:30pm at Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. Details here.

--"Nuclear Early Warning: The President's 3 AM Phone Call," with Jaganath Sankaran. The event will be held on February 23, 2017, from 12:00p.m. to 1:15 p.m., at the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, University of Maryland, 4113 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD. More information here.

--“Defending Our Values, Fighting For Our Future,” J Street’s 2017 National Conference, from February 25 to 28, 2017. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, Washington. More information here.

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