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U.S. Plan to Boost Nuke Spending Undercuts Nonproliferation, Activists Warn

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2011 (IPS) - A Pentagon plan to step up spending on nuclear weaponry would severely undermine global efforts geared towards disarmament, warn independent analysts on U.S. nuclear policy.

“This is in direct conflict with the commitment to nuclear disarmament,” said David Krieger, president of the U.S.-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, regarding the U.S. military’s request for increased funding for nuclear weapons maintenance.

The U.S. military reportedly wants Congress to approve 213 billion dollars for the “modernisation” of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems over the next 10 years. That is in addition to average annual spending of 54 billion dollars on nuclear maintenance.

Analysts say much of the increased funding is likely to be spent on new drones, submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and facilities to build a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Congress is currently debating cuts in the forthcoming budget. At the moment, there is no indication that the majority of lawmakers and the Barack Obama administration intend to question the rationale behind the development of new nuclear weapon systems.

Since taking charge of the White House in January 2009, Obama has given speeches championing the cause of global nuclear disarmament, but like his predecessors, has shied away from setting a deadline for complete abolition of nuclear weapons in his country and abroad.

“He has said nice things about nuclear disarmament,” Krieger told IPS. “But, apparently, he has agreed to spend over 200 billion dollars on nuclear weapons modernisation.”

Krieger noted that the so-called “new” nuclear weapons programme also includes nuke-carrying drones.

“It’s a long-distance killing,” said Krieger. “Drones with nuclear weapons are inappropriate. That’s an invitation to nuclear chaos,” he added, expressing concerns that other states suspected of having or developing nuclear weapons programmes would be more defiant in the coming years.

For more than a decade, the U.S. nuclear policy establishment has cracked down on Iran and North Korea, the first for allegedly trying to develop nuclear weapons and the second for its avowed nuclear programme, but has not given a clear signal about when it would be ready to destroy its own huge nuclear arsenal.

Krieger’s foundation, which is part of the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), an umbrella group of eight major international disarmament organisations, is currently involved in lobbying efforts to speed up the U.N.-led process towards nuclear non-proliferation and complete disarmament.

The MPI stands for a “verifiable, irreversible and enforceable legal ban on nuclear weapons” and wants urgent action on U.N. chief Ban Ki- moon’s five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, which calls for the development of “mutually reinforcing” framework agreements or a nuclear weapons convention.

“The overwhelming desire of governments and people for the abolition of nuclear weapons requires practical action,” MPI chairman Richard Butler said in a statement sent to IPS last week. “Nuclear weapons’ continued existence threatens all and poses unacceptable risks.”

The MPI is lobbying world diplomats for their support to implement Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in which the nuclear states commit themselves to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Last week, Butler, a veteran Australian diplomat who has served the U.N. as nuclear weapons inspector, presented a brief to the governments at the U.N. as part of MPI’s ongoing project to ensure implementation of agreements under the NPT.

While he was preparing to have talks with fellow diplomats at the U.N. headquarters in New York on disarmament actions last week, MPI founder Senator Douglas Roche of Canada embarked on a world tour for the same reason.

Before his departure to Europe, Russia, China and India, Roche, who has been nominated for Nobel Prize, noted in a statement that landmines and cluster munitions had been banned by treaty “once people realised the humanitarian consequences of their continued use.”

He went on: “There is now similar realisation of the threat to humanity, not just if nuclear weapons are used, but by the threat of use, their possession and their proliferation.”

For his part, Krieger admires his Canadian counterpart’s efforts for nuclear disarmament and peace, but, at the same time, he is wary of the consequences of actions that the U.S. Congress and the administration might take in the coming days.

“It’s a huge problem for the U.S. to continue seeking domination in the world,” he told IPS. In his view, the policymakers in Washington must realise that the security of the U.S. does not lie in increasing the military budget, but in cutting it substantially.

“The increase [in spending] on nuclear weapons would send a message to the world is that the U.S. is not serious about nuclear disarmament,” he concluded.

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