hair-trigger alert


President Biden, Nuclear Weapons, and US Security: The First 100 Days

, Washington representative and senior analyst

As President-elect Biden prepares for the enormous responsibility of becoming president of the United States, there is one question I want to ask him: Sir, are you a fan of a nuclear arms race? Because you are being handed one, a burgeoning nuclear and technology arms race waged by Russia, China, and the United States.

The Trump administration has embraced this race, with the president’s chief arms control negotiator declaring that the United States knows “how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.” (Oblivion? Seriously?) And yet, perhaps surprisingly, it was President Barack Obama who started the wheels churning on all this; his administration lay plans to build new versions of every piece of the oversized US nuclear force structure—new long-range bombers, new land-based missiles, new nuclear-armed submarines, new nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and new versions of the nuclear warheads they carry. Since coming to office, President Trump added to the list a new, lower-yield nuclear warhead, a new submarine-launched cruise missile, and one more new nuclear warhead for submarine-based missiles.

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China Holds Firm on No First Use of Nuclear Weapons

, China project manager and senior analyst

“Enthusiastically celebrate our country’s successful test launch of a nuclear missile” (1966)

Ever since I took this job 17 years ago US colleagues of all political and intellectual persuasions have been telling me that sooner or later China would alter, adjust, amend or qualify the policy that China will never, under any circumstances, use nuclear weapons first. Yesterday, the Chinese Ministry of Defense released a much-anticipated new white paper on China’s national defense policies. Here’s what it says about nuclear weapons: Read more >

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Whose Finger Is on the Button? Nuclear Launch Authority in the United States and Other Nations

, analyst

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, and perhaps even more since Trump’s election, the media discovered a newfound interest in the minutiae of US nuclear policy. One question in particular has been asked over and over—can the president, with no one else to concur or even advise, order the use of US nuclear weapons? Most people have been shocked and somewhat horrified to find that there is a simple answer—yes. Read more >

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No President Should Be Able to Start a Nuclear War Single-Handedly

, analyst

Among the general craziness of the 2016 presidential campaign, you can be forgiven if you missed one particular crazy piece of information: the president of the United States currently has the authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons without input from anyone. This has actually been the case for decades, but the campaign brought it to the attention of the general public, many of whom were hearing it for the first time and were understandably surprised, and even somewhat alarmed, at the idea. Read more >

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

, former co-director

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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