By Will Hopkins and Arnie Alpert
[Published in the NH Union Leader on April 7, 2016]
As US-Soviet relations heated to the boiling point during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Captain Vasili Arkhipov, second-in-command of a Soviet submarine, refused to authorize a nuclear missile launch when his ship was cut off from communications with Moscow and under fire from US depth charges. We have him to thank for avoidance of nuclear war.
Nuclear war was narrowly avoided again in 1980, when faulty US alarm systems signaled incoming Soviet missiles. The Pentagon later put the blame on a failed computer chip. In 1983, Soviet satellites mistook unusual sunlight glinting off clouds as incoming missile fire, and once more a cool-headed commander narrowly stopped nuclear exchange. In 1995, a Norwegian scientific rocket was mistaken for a US nuclear missile, and again Russian leaders were able to recognize a false alarm before it was too late.
We have been lucky, but at some point, if we don’t change course and if the US and Russia keep our missiles on high alert status, our luck is liable to run out.
Yet instead of pursuing negotiations with the Russians and other nuclear powers for worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons, or taking steps to de-alert our existing missiles, the US is planning a total overhaul of its nuclear weapons program, including new generations of nuclear warheads, bombers, land-based missiles, air-launched missiles and submarines.
The projected price tag? About $1 trillion over the next thirty years!
If the United States and Russia exchanged 1000 nuclear warheads (less than 1/12 of our combined arsenals), the resulting impact on the climate would render the planet uninhabitable. Even an exchange of 50 to 100 nuclear warheads would result in global famine capable of killing off one third of humanity.
From rising wealth inequality and poverty, to ISIS and Al Qaeda, and to our crumbling infrastructure, nuclear weapons do nothing to protect us from the real threats we face. Spending a trillion dollars for more or “better” ones makes us less safe and diverts precious funds from what we need. It also defies our obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and creates tremendous obstacles to any efforts aimed at preventing new countries from acquiring their own weapons of mass destruction.
You pick: veterans’ health care, reducing the cost of higher education, repairing roads and bridges, assuring that no one is poisoned by our public water supplies, there are multiple better places to invest our public resources.
On April 18, Tax Day 2016, please join us in calling on our elected leadership to oppose the trillion dollar nuclear weapons plan, push for deep cuts and de-alerting of our nuclear stockpile, and for putting our tax dollars to work in ways that will make us more secure.
Will Hopkins is Executive Director of NH Peace Action and an Iraq War veteran. Arnie Alpert is Co-Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program.