Pugwash Statement on the U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review


Amb. Sergio Duarte | Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs – TRANSCEND Media Service

6 Feb 2018 – On 2 February the Pentagon released the new 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), stating that it rests “on a bedrock truth: nuclear weapons have and will continue to play a critical role in deterring nuclear attack and in preventing large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear-armed states for the foreseeable future.”[1] The global landscape is already filled with simmering nuclear tensions, as well as other serious issues of conflict. Stressing the role of nuclear weapons is not merely unhelpful but is likely to increase these tensions.

In a complex and dangerous international environment, the difficult relations between the United States and Russia and China, as well as the other states named in the NPR (North Korea and Iran), can be worsened by any provocative nuclear policy, leading them to strengthen their reliance on nuclear weapons. The expansion of the role of nuclear weapons risks triggering another round of the nuclear arms race, dramatically increases the risks of their use, and makes the road to a nuclear weapons free world even more difficult.

Besides pursuing the modernization of all the elements of the Triad (strategic bombers, ICBM, SLBM), the NPR foresees projects to develop new types of nuclear weapons tailored to different adversaries and scenarios, and “flexible” enough to respond to a variety of current threats.

ncreasing the number and the possible role of (smaller) tactical nuclear weapons is a recipe for a disaster. Tactical nuclear weapons can make nuclear war more likely through de-facto lowering the threshold between a conventional and a nuclear conflict. As compared to the previous NPR, this NPR appears to have taken backward steps. For example, the assertion that nuclear weapons have a role in deterring significant non-nuclear attacks reverses the prior statement that the US will not use nuclear weapons to deter chemical or conventional attacks.

We believe that this latest development of US nuclear weapons policy will serve only to increase the saliency and attractiveness of nuclear weapons, and will certainly not enhance international security, let alone prospects for progress in bilateral and multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Sergio Duarte, President of Pugwash
Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General of Pugwash


[1] Secretary James Mattis, Preface to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF


Sergio Duarte, a Brazilian Ambassador (ret.), is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development  Environment; president of [1995 Nobel Peace Laureate] Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; former Chairman of the 2005 Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and former President of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A career diplomat, Duarte served the Brazilian Foreign Service for nearly 50 years as ambassador to Austria, Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia concurrently, China, Canada, Nicaragua, Switzerland, the United States, Argentina, and Italy. He served as the Brazilian representative to several international organizations, focusing on disarmament issues.

Pugwash seeks a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We create opportunities for dialogue on the steps needed to achieve that end, focusing on areas where nuclear risks are present. Moving beyond rhetoric, we foster creative discussions on ways to increase the security of all sides in the affected regions.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Feb 2018.

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