hair trigger


Nuclear Weapons, President Trump, and General Mattis

, co-director and senior scientist

Many people trusted that Secretary of Defense Mattis would be able to rein in the dangerous impulses of his erratic boss who, as commander-in-chief, has the authority to order the use of military forces—including nuclear weapons.

Indeed, General Mattis may have privately assured some members of Congress that he would get into the loop to restrain President Trump if it looked like a nuclear crisis was brewing. So people are naturally worried that Mattis’ resignation will put Trump back in full control of US nuclear weapons.

But regardless of what Mattis may or may not have told members of Congress, the secretary of defense is not in the decision chain for a nuclear launch and has no ability to stop a launch order from going through. Perhaps Mattis could have talked Trump out of ordering an attack in the first place, assuming he knew the president was considering such an attack, but he had neither the legal authority nor the ability to prevent one from being carried out. Read more >

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Trump and the Nuclear Codes: How To Launch a Nuclear Weapon

, co-director and senior scientist

There has been a lot of talk about the fact that after his inauguration, Donald Trump will have his finger on the “button” used to launch nuclear weapons. But the president does not actually have a “button.”

Instead when he becomes president he will be given nuclear codes that enable him to launch a nuclear strike.

What does that actually mean? Read more >

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What is the Administration’s Rationale for Keeping Missiles on Hair-Trigger Alert?

, co-director and senior scientist

One of the sensible ideas the non-nuclear weapon states promoted at both the 2010 and 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences is the idea that the nuclear weapon states should take their missiles off high alert and eliminate the option to launch nuclear weapons on warning of an attack. This would reduce the risk of accidental, mistaken, and unauthorized launches while retaining deterrence by post-attack retaliation. Read more >

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Hair-Trigger Alert and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Fact-Checking the U.S. Fact Sheet

, analyst

In the lead up to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon, for those who enjoy acronyms), opening today, the U.S. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation released a fact sheet titled “Myths and Facts Regarding the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Regime.”

Judging by the selection of “myths” they chose to include, the United States seems to be feeling a bit defensive about its track record in making progress towards the main objective of the NPT—nuclear disarmament. That is the central bargain of the NPT: the five countries designated as nuclear weapon states—the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France—agree to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for all the other non-nuclear weapon states agreeing not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons of their own. Read more >

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