14,500 nukes and counting

A while back, President Donald J. Trump confirmed that the U.S. will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the Cold War that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades. He also said that, “We’ll have to develop those weapons after we pull out of that treaty.” With that treaty long gone, and others on the chopping-block, history reports that these treaties have been instrumental in saving humankind from total destruction.

Much in the way of protections against use of nuclear weapons goes back to 1987 and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Fast forward and we find Trump with John Bolton as his national security adviser. Bolton is a longstanding opponent of arms control treaties who has been pushing hard for U.S. withdrawals since he worked for President George W. Bush. 

U.S. war hawks like Bolton now argue in Trump’s ear to end the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, terminating what will become former limits on warheads by both sides.

All these arms-control treaty terminations mean that the world will be left without any limits on nuclear arsenals for the first time in five decades. As usual for Trump, he places the blame for his administration having to end these treaties on President Obama who, Trump says, “should have negotiated new limits or pulled out.” All matters of grave consequence end up in Trump world as the fault of some other person, usually a former Democratic president or Hillary Clinton.

What befuddles is that we have a president who regularly tells us that he is a deal-maker but has completely failed to save Reagan’s nuclear legacy. Trump also has had an opportunity several times through his frequent talks with Vladimir Putin to negotiate arms-control treaty adjustments. However, those buddy-buddy meetings have always digressed from the opportunity for arms control diplomacy into working out details on how a Trump luxury hotel will be built in downtown Moscow and other sites in Russia for Trump investments.

We live under nightmarish conditions. By way of Trump’s “America First” disengagement idea, we are withdrawing from all world treaties and agreements that have kept the world from a nuclear holocaust and a planet covered with radioactive isotopes.Without agreements that maintain checks for control, anything can happen, happen quickly and happen all the way to Armageddon. The U.S. has been the keeper of the lid of nuclear weapons, preventing world war. That lid has been removed by the Trump administration.

There are nine nations in the world’s nuke club, including China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. There are others surmised to be on the verge of membership. In the most recent, verifiable count, there are 14,500 weapons on Planet Earth. 

With tensions easily provoked, what’s expected next? Easily imagined is something like the start of World War I in which a prominent leader is murdered. Or, a comparable World War II, where one nuclear power attacks another nuclear or non-nuclear nation with multiple retaliations into a WW III. Ultimately, should all-out nuclear war be our fate, converting Earth into huge fireball, it would reduce our planet to a carbon-black cinder ball with a few surviving insects left to rule.

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion regularly in the Keizertimes.)