Russia, the US and the Nuclear Race

In February, the United States and Russia dropped the starting flag on a renewed nuclear arms race. Increasingly powerful weapons from the two main nuclear powers threaten our world. They compete with a destructive nuclear capability that could annihilate large populations and place the planet at risk.

Vladimir Putin jumped ahead of U.S. plans to raise awareness in the coming days of its new defense policy with missiles and nuclear weapons by announcing that Russia had developed and was testing new strategic nuclear arms that could evade U.S. missile defense systems. He showed videos of a new type of missile launch, and animations that demonstrated how these missiles could travel large distances to reach the U.S. and South America, as well as videos of nuclear-powered cruise missiles, drone submarines and other weapons. He referred to the development of a laser weapon, hypersonic missiles, cruise missiles powered by a nuclear reactor that could fly indefinitely, and said that an airplane launched with a hypersonic missile called a Kinzhal could maneuver while flying more than 10 times the speed of sound, guaranteeing that it will overcome any existing or planned anti-missile systems. He blamed the U.S. for withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.

Putin issued an intimidating warning: “And to those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, and have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.” The political elite excitedly applauded as Putin announced each of these nuclear advances. Putin showed an RS-28 missile during testing that traveled 6,800 miles carrying 15 nuclear warheads. Nuclear-powered missiles can fly indefinitely. The arms race between the U.S. and Russia with increasingly more powerful weapons is a real, immediate and permanent danger to our planet.

Several weeks ago, Trump and the Pentagon announced that they were bolstering the defense budget in order to renovate and enlarge the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, the United Nations is working on obtaining signatures for a treaty, already approved by 122 countries, that eliminates nuclear weapons.* The nine nuclear powers have boycotted this treaty and refused to accept it. These powers are the U.S., Russia, China, France and Great Britain, which make up the U.N. Security Council, as well as Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea.

During Putin’s annual address before the Federal Assembly and the political elite, televised throughout the country less than three weeks before elections that will carry Putin to his fourth term as president, he used emotional language to escalate his military rhetoric, and he accused the U.S. of encouraging a new arms race by resisting arms control negotiations, developing new missile systems and adopting an aggressive position in its nuclear strategy. The two great nuclear powers are face-to-face again with verbal and military aggression not seen in previous crises, with new and more dangerous technological developments in weapons, with more destructive power and with two aggressive, unpredictable men in charge: Donald Trump and Putin.

In harmony with what the world would like to see – the end of nuclear weapons – the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded in October to Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.** In 1959, it was awarded to Phillip Noel-Baker for his work with disarmament, and in 2015, to the International Atomic Energy Agency headed by Mohamed ElBaradei.**In 1982, the Nobel Peace Prize went to Mexican Ambassador Alfonso-García Robles in recognition of negotiating the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which abolished nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. The treaty was signed, ratified and maintained by every country in the region.*** This demonstrated the only possible path to a world without nuclear weapons.

The nuclear danger is growing due to the arms race between the U.S. and Russia, the North Korea–U.S. conflict, the uncertainty surrounding the treaty with Iran and the lack of commitment to the security of the planet from those countries that possess nuclear weapons and place humanity in danger.****No country or any world leader should have the capacity for destruction that those who lead the nine countries with nuclear weapons do.

*Translator’s note: The Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty was passed on July 7, 2017.

**Editor’s note: The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow accepted the award on behalf of the organization. The International Atomic Energy Agency and ElBaradei were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

***Translator’s note: The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean was signed Feb. 14, 1967.

****Translator’s note: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Deal, was adopted on Oct. 18, 2015.

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