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U.S. election – views of Presidential candidates about nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons — they’re still out there. Presidential candidates have ideas on them,  San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Egelko Dec. 1, 2019 ,  One topic that’s gotten little attention during the presidential campaign is the high-stakes issue of nuclear weapons. That’s partly because campaigns tend to focus on bread-and-butter issues, like health care and taxes. They largely steer clear of foreign policy, especially an aspect that’s downright terrifying.

But it’s an issue that matters, to the nation and the world. And the candidates’ public statements, and responses to Chronicle queries, reveal divergent views.

One question that has surfaced is whether the United States, the only nation that has ever used atomic weapons, should reverse its policy and declare it would not strike the first nuclear blow in a future war.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has introduced legislation that would establish “no first use” of nuclear weapons as binding law. Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent-Vt., is a co-sponsor. Former Vice President Joe Biden told a public gathering in June that “I supported it 20 years before she introduced it.” Several other presidential hopefuls — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; spirituality author Marianne Williamson; billionaire Tom Steyer — have endorsed the concept.

The only Democratic candidate with a contrary view is Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who said in the second presidential debate in July that “I wouldn’t want to take that (first use) off the table.”

But others — Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro — have told interviewers in recent months that they hadn’t reviewed Warren’s proposal and weren’t ready to take a position on it.

The interviewers were from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which favors nuclear de-escalation and sent young people to campaign events to question the candidates.

One prominent candidate, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, appears to have come down on both sides…….

Besides no first use, The Chronicle asked candidates about the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by the United States in 1963 but never ratified by the Senate; the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a disarmament pact endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly and ratified by 33 nations so far, but not by the United States or any other nuclear powers; and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a 1988 agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States under President Ronald Reagan that banned land-based ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,400 miles. The Trump administration withdrew from that treaty in February.

Some candidates did not respond, including Warren, Harris and Booker. Among those who did, Sanders, Williamson and Steyer took the firmest positions in support of the weapons treaties……..

While Warren’s campaign did not reply to questions about the treaties, the senator has publicly opposed the nuclear buildup proposed by Obama and endorsed by Trump.

“No new nuclear weapons,” Warren said in a November 2018 speech on foreign policy. “We should not spend over a trillion dollars to modernize our nuclear arsenal, at a time when the president is doing everything he can to undermine generations of verified arms-control agreements.”

Perhaps some of those discussions will reach a public forum as the campaign continues.  Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter:@BobEgelko

December 3, 2019 - Posted by | politics, weapons and war

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