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U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies, Ballistic Missile Defense, and the Quest for Weapons in Space


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U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies, Ballistic Missile Defense, and the Quest for Weapons in Space: Military Research and Development and the New Arms Race

        As we enter a new century, it appears that we have learned little from the past. Having thus far escaped catastrophe despite a half century on the nuclear precipice, the United States not only is continuing the arms race of the last century, it is initiating a new arms race for the next.

        The official image of the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex is of an enterprise whose role is to sustain Cold War vintage warheads while the nation fulfills its thirty year old promise, embodied in Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” (Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Article VI, Signed at Washington, London, and Moscow July 1, 1968, Entered into force March 5, 1970.) At the NPT 2000 Review Conference, the U.S. delegation distributed a glossy public relations portfolio, stating that “As the United States reduces the numbers of its nuclear weapons, it is also transforming the means to build them. Over the past decade, the United States has dramatically changed the role and mission of its nuclear-weapon complex from weapon research, development, testing, and production to weapon dismantlement, conversion for commercial use, environmental remediation, and stockpile stewardship.” (U.S. Department of State, The United States of America Meeting its Commitment to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, April 2000, p.5.)

        While the U.S. is making these declarations in a forum where it has made a binding commitment to “good faith” disarmament efforts, its nuclear weapons laboratories and production plants are modernizing thousands of nuclear weapons, providing many of them with upgraded military capabilities. At the same time, the U.S. weapons research and development establishment is working to develop new weapons which will operate through and from space, ranging from ground-based ballistic missile defenses for the near term to space-based weapons for the decades to come. And as the quest for a new generation of high technology weapons intensifies, the role of the nuclear weapons laboratories in their development grows, further entwining these Cold War institutions in the renewed military-industrial complex and dimming the prospects for the elimination of nuclear arsenals.

        Western States Legal Foundation is exploring the relationship between these high technology weapons programs and the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and the impact of these programs on existing and proposed arms control regimes.

Selected WSLF information and analysis:

Vandenberg Air Force Base: Where the Present and Future of U.S. Warmaking Come Together Andrew Lichterman, Western States Legal Foundation Information Brief, Spring 2006 pdf download

Missiles of Empire: America's 21st Century Global Legions Andrew Lichterman, WSLF information Bulletin, Fall 2003 pdf download

The Military Space Plane, Conventional ICBM's, and the Common Aero Vehicle: Overlooked Threats of Weapons Delivered Through or From Space WSLF Information Bulletin, Fall 2002 pdf download

The Shape of Things to Come: The Nuclear Posture Review, Missile Defense, and the Dangers of a New Arms Race, WSLF Special Report, April, 2002 pdf download

Beyond Missile Defense, International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation and Western States Legal Foundation Briefing Paper, by Andrew M. Lichterman, Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana, and Juergen Scheffran, January, 2002 pdf download

A new edition of Beyond Missile Defense has been issued, with a preface by UN Undersecretary General on Disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala. Click here to download the report in pdf format. Graphics, printing, and distribution for this publication were provided by the Global Resource Center for the Environment.

Moving Beyond Missile Defense: Petition for a Missile Freeze

Press Release

Petition
U.S. Ballistic Missile Defenses, Other High Tech Weapons Programs, and Prospects for Disarmament after September 11, by Andrew M. Lichterman. Paper presented at the Moving Beyond Missile Defense Project Workshop, Shanghai, China, November 30-December 2 2001. pdf download

Banning Ballistic Missiles: In the Long Run, It may be Easier than Shooting Them Down, WSLF Issue Brief, Summer 2001pdf download

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies, Ballistic Missile Defense, and the Quest for Weapons in Space: Military Research and Development and the New Arms Race, WSLF Information Bulletin, Summer 2000 pdf download

Military Space Documents

Towards a Ballistic Missile Control Regime

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