The U.S.-Russia nuclear weapons treaty, signed May 24 with much fanfare in the Kremlin, actually moves the world closer to nuclear weapons use, peace activists warn. Pentagon warhawks are the main beneficiaries of the agreement, Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, told the World. “We should not be fooled by this treaty,” he said.

The “Treaty of Moscow” was pursued by the Bush administration for very strategic reasons, Gagnon said. Most important, it enables the Pentagon to move money into development of a Star Wars nuclear missile defense system and so-called “battlefield nuclear weapons,” sometimes called “mini-nukes,” he said.

Protesters turned out to greet Bush at every stop on his trip to Europe, including Moscow, Berlin and Paris.

The treaty follows the game plan of the Pentagon’s recently leaked Nuclear Posture Review – a smaller, more “efficient” arsenal of nuclear warheads, and major research and development to build more “usable” nuclear weaponry, Scott Lynch, communications director of Peace Action, told the World.

“It is a unilateralist public relations treaty,” Lynch said. The weapons cuts specified in the treaty “aren’t real cuts. They don’t actually get rid of anything.” The treaty leaves each country with more than enough nuclear warheads so “you would never run out” before destroying the world, he said.

It commits the U.S. and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals to 2,200 warheads by 2012, without any annual timetable for the reductions. In other words, Lynch noted, the U.S. could leave its entire arsenal in place throughout the Bush administration, or make only token reductions. Moreover, the treaty provides only for dismantling warheads, not destroying them. Each country could rapidly reassemble the warheads whenever it chooses. Furthermore, either side can withdraw from the treaty with only three months’ notice, and the treaty expires in 2012 unless renewed.

The treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate. Peace Action is urging the Senate to attach “reservations and understandings” that would compel the administration to set specific annual warhead reduction targets and appropriate funding to ensure the reductions actually happen. Without such measures, Lynch said, there is a good chance that even the limited reductions called for in the treaty will never be realized.

Kevin Martin, Peace Action executive director, said in a statement, “Far from ending the threat of a nuclear war, President Bush is giving that threat new life.”

Currently, Martin warned, the Senate is debating the administration’s request for $15.5 million to research a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, a new nuclear weapon, aimed at destroying buried targets, that could likely be used against states that do not have nuclear weapons. This is designed to be a “usable nuke” in conventional combat. “By developing such a weapon,” Martin said, “the administration puts the U.S. on the path to restarting nuclear testing – ending the moratorium put in place by the President’s own father.”

Lynch told the World an immediate task is to urge Senators to block funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator when the defense appropriations bill is voted on by the full Senate in the coming days. Funding for the project was removed from the bill in subcommittee and the removal was sustained by the Armed Services Committee, but a fight is needed to ensure that the money is not restored on the Senate floor. Grassroots lobbying works, Lynch said, noting that Nebraska peace activists played a pivotal role in the subcommittee vote. They organized a lobbying campaign that succeeded in getting Sen. Ben Nelson to vote against funding the weapon, he said.

Meanwhile, a No Star Wars Peace Camp at Fort Greely, Alaska, on June 15 will protest the Bush administration’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The withdrawal, announced six months ago, is set to take effect June 14. The pullout will enable the Bush administration to push ahead with construction and testing of the hugely expensive and technically questionable Star Wars project, which critics say will promote a dangerous new global arms race. Missile silo construction is slated to begin at Fort Greely on June 15.

A Stop Star Wars caravan will travel throughout Alaska the week before the Peace Camp, June 6-12, setting up temporary information centers in communities along the way.

Similar protests will be held simultaneously at the Star Wars site in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.

Gagnon urged pressure on Congress to cut research and development funding for Star Wars. “This is where the new arms race is,” he said, noting that last year $8.3 billion was spent on this military contractor boondoggle.

Three hundred organizations from around the world have sent a letter to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and other prominent Senators urging the Senate to “take whatever action is within its power to prevent the withdrawal from the ABM treaty by the Bush administration.” The groups include the Anglican and Episcopalian churches worldwide, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.