A group of 21 Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to “reject a 21st century arms race” with key actions including reducing the country’s nuclear arsenal and confirming a no-use policy first.
The call came in a letter (pdf) edited by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) And Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) And John Garamendi (D-Calif.), The co-chairs of the Working Group on Nuclear Weapons and Control recently formed armaments.
The letter, first reported by The hill, came as the Biden administration is drafting its nuclear weapons doctrine, or Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which is expected to take several months.
“We respectfully request that you directly guide the NPR process to reduce the role of US nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, to forgo the development of new nuclear weapons, and to develop a sounder declaratory policy on the use of nuclear weapons. “
Referring to Biden’s story as a United States Senator and Vice President when he was “a party to all the great nuclear weapons debates of the past five decades,” lawmakers wrote that ” anti-ballistic missile treaty, to building European support for the intermediary -Nuclear Forces Treaty, to get votes for the ratification of the new START treaty, you’ve always been on the right side of history. “
They presented the NPR as “a watershed moment” in which Biden “can reject a 21st century arms race and make bold decisions to lead us to a future where nuclear weapons no longer threaten all of humanity.”
Six recommendations are detailed for inclusion in Biden’s NPR, the first of which refers to his June joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” As such, the NPR should adjust “declaratory policy to assign a reduced role to US nuclear weapons.”
“We hope the NPR realizes your previously expressed view that the United States will not need to fire the first shot in a nuclear conflict,” lawmakers wrote, “and that it sets its nuclear forces away. of this fighting posture accordingly. “
Biden is also expected to order the Pentagon “to include in its proposed list of goals a breakdown of the expected damage, civilian casualties, and climatic and humanitarian consequences arising from the use of nuclear weapons,” given that even a geographically limited nuclear conflict “would be felt by all inhabitants of the planet.”
The NPR is also expected to assess the quantity and “types of new weapons needed to deter nuclear attacks,” taking into account previous recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to cancel certain nuclear weapon modernization programs.
Other recommendations include an external review of the Strategic Ground Deterrence Project (GBSD) which would cost taxpayers approximately $ 264 billion over its lifecycle; ban the two new types of lower yield nuclear weapons called for in 2018 in then President Donald Trump’s NPR; and commit to “pursuing strong diplomacy with Russia and China on arms control”, including through a successor agreement to the new START treaty.
“We respectfully request that you directly guide the NPR process to reduce the role of US nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, to forgo the development of new nuclear weapons, and to develop a sounder declaratory policy on the use of nuclear weapons.” , wrote the Democrats.
The other signatories of the letter are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Patty Murray (D-Wash.), And Representatives Barbara Lee. . (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis. ), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) , IIhan Omar (D-Minn.) And Ami Bera (D-California).
It is not clear at this time whether the next NPR will introduce fundamental changes to US nuclear weapons doctrine that anti-nuclear proponents say are badly needed.
Speaking earlier this month to Politics, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that the “NPR will be a real test of whether the Biden administration keeps its promises on reducing the role, number and cost of nuclear weapons.”
“Biden also has a responsibility to fundamentally reconsider outdated concepts of the amount of damage – and the number of nuclear weapons – needed to deter nuclear threats against the United States and our allies,” Kimball said. “Only a few hundred nuclear weapons could destroy Russia and China, kill hundreds of millions of people and produce an acute global climate catastrophe.”