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The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is part of a global coalition of anti-nuclear groups which has today welcomed President-Elect Obama’s pledge to work with Russia to take nuclear weapons off high alert. The coalition calls on Obama to fulfil his campaign promise in full, reducing the chances of catastrophic war breaking out as a result of accidents or miscalculations. Nuclear disarmament groups have greeted President-Elect Obama’s nuclear weapons policies with a good deal of hope.

A resolution passed at the end of October in the United Nations General Assembly First Committee, by 134 votes to 3, called on the US and Russia to lower the operational readiness of its nuclear weapons systems. The US and Russia commenced talks on the successor to the START nuclear arms limitation treaty this Tuesday in Geneva. The START successor talks will provide a space for both this and other measures to be discussed between the two largest nuclear powers.

The lowering of nuclear weapons operational readiness has been urged for over a decade by a series of high – level commissions, and most recently has been urged as a first step toward nuclear disarmament by Kissinger, Nunn, Lugar, and Perry. Obama himself in a recent interview with ‘Arms Control Today’, said that the operating status of nuclear weapons systems should be lowered.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “When Barack Obama takes office as President, one of the less agreeable – but apocalyptically significant – perks of the job is that at all times he will be within metres of a CIA agent handcuffed to the nuclear briefcase. With it he can now launch up to 2000 nuclear warheads, basically within two minutes, ending civilisation and much else.”

“There is a frighteningly large number of occasions when the launch of a huge nuclear attack has been within minutes of happening as a result of miscalculation, computer error, system failure or just plain panic. Each year that we maintain large numbers of missiles on rapid launch alert, we play Russian or American Roulette with everyone and everything. Taking nuclear missiles off alert is an essential step toward nuclear disarmament. It cannot happen soon enough.”

The following quote is from an Obama policy statement: ‘Obama Will Work with Russia to Take Nuclear Weapons off Hair-Trigger Alert: The United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that we should take our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert – something that George W. Bush promised to do when he was campaigning for president in 2000. Maintaining this Cold War stance today is unnecessary and increases the risk of an accidental or unauthorised nuclear launch. As president, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with Russia to find common ground and bring significantly more weapons off hair-trigger alert.’

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Notes to Editors:For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
Supporting organisations:
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
Abolition 2000,
People For Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints Project, Sydney Australia
Association Of World Citizens, San Francisco, USA
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, New York
Marrickville Peace Group
Peace Organisation Of Australia
Disarmament And Security Centre Christchurch, New Zealand
Physicians For Social Responsibility, Kenya,
World Court Project, UK,
British – American Security Council (Basic) London / Washington,
International Association Of Peace Messenger Cities,
Action Des Citoyens Pour Le Desarmement Nucleaire (ACDN),
American Friends Service Committee
Following is the text of the resolution that passed the United Nations General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security by 134 yes votes to 3 no votes, with 32 abstentions:
Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden and Switzerland
Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems
Recalling its resolution 62/36 of 5 December 2007,
Recalling that the maintenance of nuclear weapons on high alert was a feature of cold war nuclear postures, and welcoming the increased confidence and transparency since the cessation of the cold war,
Concerned that, notwithstanding the end of the cold war, several thousand nuclear weapons remain on high alert, ready to be launched within minutes,
Noting the increased engagement in multilateral disarmament forums in support of further reductions to the operational status of nuclear weapons systems,
Recognizing that the maintenance of nuclear weapons systems at a high level of readiness increases the risk of the use of such weapons, including the unintentional or accidental use, which would have catastrophic consequences,
Also recognizing that reductions in deployments and the lowering of operational status contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as to the process of nuclear disarmament, through the enhancement of confidence-building and transparency measures and a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies,
Welcoming bilateral initiatives, such as the proposed United States/Russian Federation Joint Centre for the Exchange of Data from Early Warning Systems and Notification of Missile Launches, which can play a central role in operational status reduction processes,
Also welcoming the steps taken by some States to reduce the operational status of their nuclear weapons systems, including de-targeting initiatives and increasing the amount of preparation time required for deployment,
1. Calls for further practical steps to be taken to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems, with a view to ensuring that all nuclear weapons are removed from high alert status;
2. Urges States to update the General Assembly on progress made in the implementation of the present resolution;
3. Decides to remain seized of the matter.