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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/10/21

U.S. Led 2020 Nuclear Weapons Spending; Now Biden Going "Full Steam Ahead" on Trump's Nuclear Plans

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As President Biden prepares for the G7 and NATO summits and a meeting with Vladimir Putin, we look at how the United States, Russia and other nuclear-armed nations continue to spend billions on nuclear weapons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite President Biden's criticisms of the Trump administration's nuclear policies during his candidacy, his administration is continuing initiatives to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is seeking $43 billion for nuclear weapons in his new budget. This comes as a new report from the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons reveals global spending on nuclear weapons increased during the pandemic, and found the world's nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.6 billion on nuclear weapons in 2020, with the United States alone spending $37 billion.

"We've been seeing, from year to year, the spending on nuclear weapons has been increasing," says Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN's policy and research coordinator. "Despite Biden's campaign promises of wanting to work for arms control, wanting to work for disarmament, we're seeing that in reality he's going full steam ahead with Trump's legacy nuclear weapons programs and continuing to spend more money on these weapons of mass destruction."

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden has begun his first European trip as president. After meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, Biden will take part in the G7 leaders' meeting in Cornwall, then head to the NATO summit in Brussels. He'll end his trip in Geneva, where he'll meet Russian President Vladimir Putin June 16th. On Wednesday, President Biden addressed U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Britain.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We're not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship. Our two nations share incredible responsibilities, and among them ensuring strategic stability and upholding arms control agreements. I take that responsibility seriously. But I've been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities.

AMY GOODMAN: The Biden-Putin summit comes just weeks after the Biden administration announced it would not rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, a major international arms control deal signed by the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992. Vladimir Putin then announced Russia would withdraw, as well. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden criticized Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the treaty. In May 2020, Biden said, "Trump has doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership."

Biden is also continuing a number of Trump's initiatives to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In his new budget, President Biden is seeking $43 billion for nuclear weapons, including money to develop a new submarine-launched nuclear cruise missile, which, as a candidate, he described as a "bad idea."

Meanwhile, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, has just published a report revealing global spending on nuclear weapons increased by $1.4 billion last year despite the pandemic. The report found the world's nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.6 billion on nuclear weapons in 2020 that amounts to nearly $138,000 every minute. The United States spent by far the most $37 billion three times more than the next country, China, which spent $10 billion. Russia was next at $8 billion, followed by the United Kingdom, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. ICAN released this short video to accompany its new report.

ICAN VIDEO: $72.6 billion. That's how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on nuclear weapons in 2020, taxpayer money during the worst global pandemic in a century financing weapons of mass destruction. Although most countries support a global ban on nuclear weapons, these countries and companies spend billions to keep nuclear weapons in business -- $72.6 billion for government agencies and private companies that build nuclear weapons. These companies fund major think tanks that write about nuclear weapons and hire lobbyists to make sure policymakers approve enormous nuclear weapon budgets the next year. This is the nuclear weapon funding cycle, a shadowy interplay between governments, private companies, think tanks and lobbyists, all complicit in today's massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. It's time to stop the cycle. It's time for the ban.

AMY GOODMAN: That little report produced by ICAN.

We're joined now by Alicia Sanders-Zakre, policy and research coordinator for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Alicia is the co-author of the new report, "Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending."

So you have a world where the wealthiest countries cannot find the means to inoculate the world, to get the vaccines necessary for the world to be protected from COVID-19, but are spending billions on nuclear weapons. Talk about how the whole system works. Talk about your report, Alicia.

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