Rally rips new warheads pact

Agreement between United States and Russia criticized.

By: Jeff Milgram
   On a beautiful, sunny Wednesday afternoon, 40 people gathered near the Peace Pole on the lawn in front of Princeton Borough Hall to criticize the agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce strategic nuclear warheads by two-thirds.
   "My bottom line is that it’s better than nothing, and Bush wanted nothing," said Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University physicist and professor of public and international affairs.
   The rally, sponsored by the Princeton Coalition for Peace Action, was held on the eve of a summit meeting between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two are scheduled to sign an agreement to reduce deployed long-range warheads by two-thirds to a level of between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years.
   Speakers at the rally said the agreement does not go far enough; permits both sides to mothball the warheads, not destroy them; does not limit small, tactical warheads that could be stolen by terrorists; and takes too long to go into effect.
   "To allow about 2,000 deployed nuclear warheads on each side is still overkill, more than enough to kill every person on earth," said the coalition’s executive director, the Rev. Robert Moore. "It is time for the nuclear ‘haves,’ led by the two remaining nuclear superpowers, to take seriously their commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for an unequivocal undertaking to eliminate their arsenals at the earliest possible date."
   Before the rally, members of the coalition passed out anti-nuclear weapons literature at the intersection of Stockton and Nassau streets.
   Speakers urged the crowd to write New Jersey’s two senators, Robert Torricelli and Jon Corzine, to block the United States from withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and to oppose funding for new "bunker-buster" nuclear warheads and the missile defense system.
   "Another problem with the treaty is with excessive flexibility, which the U.S. also pressed for," the Rev. Moore said. "The proposed treaty allows so much flexibility that Russia would be permitted to redeploy multiple warheads on its most threatening missiles, such as the SS-18, which had been banned under provisions negotiated by the administration of George H.W. Bush. In that regard, this treaty represents regression rather than progress."
   The Rev. G.P. Mellick Belshaw, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and chair of the Coalition for Peace Action, challenged the two world leaders to use their relationship to fight poverty, "to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
   "What a wonderful thing it would be if the Bush-Putin summit would be a wake-up call," the Rev. Belshaw said.
   "I hope it will make that kind of beginning, but I have my doubts," he said.
   Professor von Hippel, a former assistant director for national security in the White House’s science adviser’s office, said "It’s a weak treaty. I don’t think you design a weaker treaty."
   Both Professor von Hippel and the Rev. Moore praised President Bush’s father for going further.
   ‘Why can’t President Bush talk to his father?" Professor von Hippel asked. "Why not destroy some of the warheads? Why don’t we reduce the non-strategic (tactical) warheads?"
   Robert Nelson, a physicist on the research staff of Princeton University’s Program in Science and Global Security, criticized the development of "mini-nukes."
   "America and the world learned in 1945 the truly horrific consequences of a single nuclear explosion used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — so horrific that since then nuclear weapons have been considered as weapons of last resort," Dr. Nelson said.
   "Now, 10 years after the end of the Cold War, there is a growing movement within the Bush administration, the Pentagon and the nuclear weapons laboratories to build a new generation of smaller and more useable nuclear weapons. These so-called mini-nukes have explosive strengths less than 10 percent of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki weapons, but still hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than the largest conventional bombs," Dr. Nelson said. "Perhaps most frightening, mini-nuke proponents contemplate using these smaller nuclear weapons in otherwise conventional conflicts against third-world tyrants."
   He said the development of mini-nukes threatens the current moratorium on underground nuclear testing, "a moratorium established by George Bush Sr. and Mikhail Gorbachev."
   Zia Mian, a Pakistani physicist who is a lecturer at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, said the agreement sends the wrong message to other countries who have nuclear weapons.
   "What happens here is what happens everywhere," Dr. Mian said. "And the lesson of Sept. 11 is that what happens everywhere happens here."