While the world’s attention is occupied by Brexit, Venezuela, and a hundred other concerns, an almost forgotten monster is raising its head: the threat of nuclear war.
Nuclear war gets surprisingly little attention considering there are enough nukes to end human civilization in hours. It feels like a relic of another era—of perestroika and glasnost and that famous walk in the woods. We’ve moved on to other concerns. Besides, what can anyone really do?
The reason to pay attention is that arms control— especially between the U.S. and Russia—has broken down. A fresh nuclear arms race appears to be taking shape. As for what anyone can do: Arms control moves forward in response to public pressure, when humanity speaks louder than arms merchants and bellicose world leaders. Sanity can prevail. It’s been more than 70 years since the U.S. detonated the first two atomic weapons in war, and not one has been used in combat since.
Feb. 2 is when the Trump administration has said it could suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. If it announces a full withdrawal, the treay will die in six months. A treaty controlling antiballistic missiles was allowed to expire in 2002. That would leave just one binational treaty: New Start, which covers longrange missiles. Up for renewal in 2021, it has grim prospects. Trump has called it “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Ob