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Arms Control Association Praises Obama's Commitment to a Nuclear Weapons Free World

For Immediate Release: April 5, 2009

Press Contacts: Daryl G Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107.

(Washington, D.C.): In a stirring speech delivered in Prague today, President Barack Obama delivered a major address in which he outlined his vision for strengthening the global effort to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, moving forward on long-overdue disarmament measures, preventing nuclear terrorism, and he stated "clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

"Obama is right: the U.S. nuclear-weapons policy can and must change and the United States must lead by example, or else the global effort to reduce the risk of nuclear war, curb proliferation, and prevent catastrophic terrorism will falter," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director the Arms Control Association, a leading nongovernmental organization that advocates for practical solutions to address and eliminate weapons-related security threats.

"This represents a fundamental and important transformation in U.S. thinking about nuclear weapons. Obama is not just pledging to 'pursue' nuclear disarmament--as past U.S. presidents have done--but to make it the strategic goal of U.S. policy to eliminate all the world's nuclear weapons," Kimball observed.

"The cynics and supporters of the nuclear status quo believe action toward a nuclear weapons-free world is an exercise in wishful thinking. They're wrong. The real fantasy is to expect nuclear restraint and greater commitment to nonproliferation from other states in the absence of bold U.S. action on disarmament," Kimball said.

To move forward, Obama pledged that he will pursue "concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons." He reiterated his intention to negotiate a new strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia this year, to "immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," and to "seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons."

"These are all practical, much needed steps that are all in the United States' national security interest to achieve. We especially applaud Obama's focus on the importance of ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)," Kimball said.

By banning the "bang," the CTBT limits the ability of established nuclear-weapon states to field new and more sophisticated warheads and makes it far more difficult for newer members of the club to perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads. The CTBT is one of the key disarmament commitments made by the nuclear-weapon states at the 1995 and 2000 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conferences.

The CTBT now has 180 signatories but has not entered into force because the United States and eight other CTBT states, including China, Egypt, India, Iran, and Israel, have failed to ratify.

"Given the 16-year-old U.S. nuclear test moratorium and 1996 decision to sign the treaty, the United States bears most CTBT-related responsibilities. Yet, Washington's inaction diminishes its ability to prod other nations to join the treaty and refrain from testing, to improve capabilities to detect and deter clandestine testing, and it has severely undermined efforts to repair the battered NPT system," Kimball said.

"At the same time, there is neither the need nor any political support for renewed U.S. testing for new nuclear warhead design purposes or for any other reason. The 2010 NPT review conference is fast approaching. Quite simply, it is time to ratify the CTBT," he added.

"The political conditions for the ratification of the CTBT are more favorable than at any time since the Treaty was opened for signature in 1996. As a result of the 2008 election, roughly 60 Senators already likely support the CTBT. The technical and security case for the test ban are stronger than ever. With consistent and smart presidential leadership, securing the necessary 67 Senate votes for ratification before the end of 2010 is possible--and necessary," said Kimball, who led NGO efforts in the run-up to the Senate's brief debate and highly partisan "no" vote on the CTBT in 1999.

"Just as President John F. Kennedy did in 1963 with the Limited Test Ban Treaty, Obama should tap into the deep reservoir of public support for a complete end to testing and enlist the support of the growing bipartisan group of foreign policy experts, including George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and dozens more, who have signaled their support for the treaty," Kimball said.

In his Prague speech, Obama also said that "to put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same."

"To effect real nuclear policy change, we hope that the president will direct the Pentagon and other cabinet agencies to conduct a nuclear posture review based on the principle that, so long as nuclear weapons exist, they shall only serve the role of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by others," Kimball urged.

"We also call on the world's other nuclear-armed states in joining President Obama to pledge not to develop new types of nuclear weapons," he added.

"Two decades after the end of the Cold War, there is no plausible reason for U.S. and Russian leaders to maintain thousands of strategic nuclear weapons, many of which are on high alert. Besides the United States and Russia, no state possesses more than 300 nuclear warheads. China currently has about 20 nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking the continental United States," Kimball said.

"In the age of terrorism, nuclear weapons are more of a liability than an asset. The U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals can and must be reduced--to 1,000 or below--within the next five years and the other nuclear-armed states must join President Obama's push for verifiable nuclear weapons reduction and elimination," Kimball said.

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