As the Syrian and Russian governments accuse the United States of trying to invent reasons to launch an attack in the Middle East, an international group of former military and diplomatic leaders is warning of an “unacceptably high” risk of global nuclear war if cooler heads don’t prevail.
In an 11-page report from the Nuclear Crisis Group (NCG) — a subcommittee of Global Zero, an organization that supports the total abolition of nuclear weapons — the former officials make recommendations to governments on ways to de-escalate tensions around the world.
“The Nuclear Crisis Group assesses that the risk of nuclear weapons use, intended or otherwise, is unacceptably high and that all states must take constructive steps to reduce these risks,” NCG asserted. NCG is a committee made up of individuals from 10 different countries, including Russia, China, and the United States.
NCG continued in its overview before getting to the specific recommendations. The group echoed the stance of its mother organization, Global Zero:
“The only way to eliminate fully the risks of nuclear weapons use is through their abolition. To achieve this, states with nuclear capabilities need, at a minimum, to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons in their national defense plans, cease expansion of their nuclear arsenals, and reduce the number of weapons.”
On the deteriorating situation with North Korea, which NCG considers a primary concern, the group said a true de-escalation of tensions will take some time but that sanctions have clearly failed and that genuine diplomacy is the only avenue:
“To reduce immediate nuclear risks, the United States and North Korea should resume bilateral discussions immediately without preconditions.”
To get both sides to the table, the group suggested an immediate first step is for the U.S. to knock off the military aggression in the region. Specifically, NCG said the United States should “suspend flights of strategic bombers and visits by strategic submarines” and “refrain from provocative military actions that could escalate to nuclear conflict.”
On Russia, NCG again said diplomacy is the answer. The group recommended that the “United States, Russia and NATO states commit not to issue public threats of nuclear first use” and “rapidly launch US-Russia strategic stability talks focusing on potential dangers flowing from existing and potential nuclear deployments, doctrines and modernization programs.”
When it comes to China, NCG found that while its relationship with the U.S. is improving in some areas, true progress has been hindered by a “changing balance of forces” and a “deep-seated lack of trust.”
“China’s growth in power and influence comes into tension with America’s global power and status. If not wisely managed on both sides, an incident in the region runs the serious risk of escalation,” the group wrote in its report.
And if an incident does occur in the region, chances are good it will take place in the South China Sea, where China has built and begun militarizing artificial islands. On that front, NCG recommends that China cease such activity and that all state actors in the region — including the U.S. — should jointly agree to protect shipping lanes and air transit routes and come up with guidelines that would allow all to prosper from trade.
As for the nuclear states of India and Pakistan, NCG found the biggest threat comes from those countries’ lack of security features in their programs. In speaking to Politico about the NCG report, Global Zero co-founder and former nuclear missile officer Bruce Blair said those programs lack the sophistication of those of other nuclear states:
“They lack safety features and the risk they would detonate from an accident is uncomfortably high. They have not developed the safety features that the U.S. and Russia have.”
The report further recommends that all nuclear states adopt no-first-use policies, greatly improve methods of communication to reduce confusion among nations should a crisis erupt, and develop cybersecurity measures to guard against the hacking of nuclear operations.