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How to Reduce Nuclear Risks in Helsinki

The Trump-Putin summit is an opportunity to stop this dangerous drift. Reaffirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, the United States and Russia could agree to specific steps at Helsinki to reduce nuclear risks.

First, begin discussions on how to increase decision time for leaders to reduce the risk of a false warning of a nuclear attack or a nuclear accident or miscalculation. Right now, both the US and Russian presidents may have only a few minutes to assess whether warning of a possible nuclear attack is real, and to decide whether to use nuclear weapons in response. Both the United States and Russia—and Europe—would be much safer if we could agree on steps to increase decision time to a few hours or a few days. A clear directive by the two presidents to their military leaders to work to develop options to achieve this goal would be a powerful signal to the American people, to the Russian people and to the world.

Second, begin discussions on reducing and managing cyber nuclear risks. The threat of a cyber intrusion to nuclear facilities, strategic warning systems, and nuclear command and control increases the probability of accidents, miscalculations, or blunders. Possible cyber-attacks leading to the theft of nuclear materials, nuclear sabotage, or false warning of a missile attack are the most frightening and potentially consequential aspect of the cyber threat. Developing clear “rules of the road” to reduce cyber nuclear risks is imperative.

Third, work jointly to restart bilateral crisis management dialogue, including among uniformed military leaders in charge of nuclear forces, and multilateral crisis management dialogue throughout the Euro-Atlantic region, to reduce military risks. Continuing curtailment of military-to-military and crisis management dialogue increases the risk of the ultimate “lose-lose” scenario:  a military conflict. We must work together, including our militaries, to increase transparency and trust.

Fourth, work jointly to preserve and extend existing agreements and treaties, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and New START Treaty. These two agreements are crucial to sustaining transparency and predictability.  In the absence of these agreements, there will be no regulations on nuclear forces, exacerbating today’s already high risks.

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July 12, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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