By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS | 30 January 2024 (IDN) — The annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit, scheduled to take place in Washington DC January 31-February 2, will focus on an ideology that has long triggered critical responses from anti-nuclear and peace activists.
The 2017 Nobel Peace laureate, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of non-governmental organizations in over 100 countries, says “deterrence is an unproven gamble—a theory on which the future of humanity is being risked—based on the implicit threat to use nuclear weapons that has brought the world close to nuclear war on a number of occasions.”
Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF), a non-profit, public interest organization which monitors and analyzes U.S. nuclear weapons programs, told IDN the annual summit is “a dangerous, deranged, and deceptive gathering, designed to celebrate and legitimize the endless preparation of military means to end life on earth—and to guard against the elimination of nuclear weapons”.
She argued that “deterrence” undergirds entire military-industrial establishments and the national security states and elites they serve.
“It is an elastic ideology which has outlived its Cold War origins and is used by nuclear-armed states to justify the perpetual possession and threatened use—including first use —of nuclear weapons.”
The participants in the Summit, hosted by the Exchange Monitor, are expected to include more than 60 speakers from the top ranks of the U.S. nuclear security enterprise.
According to the organizers, the Summit will bring together U.S. and international leaders, experts, and industry executives involved in the field of nuclear deterrence to discuss the management of the nuclear complex, the security of the stockpile, arms control negotiations, and strategic policy.
The Summit includes speakers from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, National Laboratories, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, and military contractors, among others.
The focus will be on the potential impact of Integrated Deterrence on the NNSA program, Department of Defense (DOD), and foreign policy.
Leading experts are expected to engage in an interactive dialogue covering a myriad of tactical aspects including: the need for continuation of recapitalization, the need for rapid technology insertion, and the need for workforce development and readiness.
“We will delve into the history and definition of Integrated Deterrence, explore the broader implications of multi-domain response, and identify implications to nuclear deterrence mission execution”, the organizers say.
The Executive Director of ICAN, Melissa Parke, was quoted as saying: “The condemnation of nuclear deterrence doctrine by the members of the TPNW (the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,) at their meeting at the UN in New York (last November) is a highly significant move”.
“Never before has a UN treaty laid out the threat that nuclear deterrence poses to the future of life on our planet. Deterrence is unacceptable. It is based on the threat to wage nuclear war, which would kill millions outright and lead to a nuclear winter and mass starvation that recent research shows would kill billions of people”, she declared.
Elaborating further, Cabasso said in the U.S., national security policy has been remarkably consistent in the post-World War II and post-Cold War eras.
“Nuclear Deterrence”—the threatened use of nuclear weapons—has been reaffirmed as the “cornerstone” of U.S. national security by every President, Republican or Democrat, since 1945, when President Harry Truman, a Democrat, oversaw the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Unfortunately, she said, Russia and other would-be superpowers have increasingly modeled their own national security policies (as well as their economies) on the U.S. model.
What does nuclear deterrence mean?
As described in a 2008 U.S. Department of Defense Report: “Though our consistent goal has been to avoid actual weapons use, the nuclear deterrent is ‘used’ every day by assuring friends and allies, dissuading opponents from seeking peer capabilities to the United States, deterring attacks on the United States and its allies from potential adversaries, and providing the potential to defeat adversaries if deterrence fails.”
In a 2021 article titled, “Forging 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence,” U.S. Navy Admiral Charles Richard, then-Chief of U.S. Strategic Command, wrote: “We must acknowledge the foundational nature of our nation’s strategic nuclear forces, as they create the ‘maneuver space’ for us to project conventional military power strategically.”
With Russian leaderships’ and some Israeli officials’ veiled and not-so-veiled nuclear threats, Cabasso said, Russia and Israel have both been using their nuclear deterrents in this way—so far.
But it is undeniable, she said, that the longer these wars go on, the greater the threats of wider regional conflict and the potential for nuclear escalation become.
Over half the world’s population lives in countries whose national security postures explicitly depend on nuclear weapons and the doctrine of nuclear deterrence.
In my view, “nuclear deterrence” is the Gordian knot blocking the path to nuclear disarmament, Cabasso declared. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Image credit: U.S. Department of Defense