Of the frightening moments in “Nuclear Tipping Point,” a 55-minute documentary on nuclear proliferation, perhaps one point, made by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, drives home the threat in the clearest terms.
“If the existing nuclear countries cannot develop some restraints among themselves — in other words if nothing fundamental changes — then I would expect that a huge nuclear weapons (attack) in some 10-year period is very possible.”
Kissinger is one a group of “Cold Warriors” leading the charge to round up nuclear material and make sure a potential nuclear doomsday is averted. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has joined the cause. So too has George Schultz, Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan.
Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the fourth teammate. Nunn left the Senate in 1996, but is far from retired.
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Nunn spoke to The Telegraph last week from his family home in Lake Burden about his current campaign. He and media mogul Ted Turner founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2000 to call attention to the new nuclear threat. In recent months, with the signing of the New-Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States, the subject has garnered renewed interest.
Recently Kissinger, Schultz and Perry teamed up with Nunn to form the NTI’s Nuclear Security Project, which produced “Nuclear Tipping Point.”
Taking a page from former Vice President Al Gore and his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” the four statesmen are largely devoting their post-Washington careers to raising awareness of one issue, and helping their cause with the documentary.
“We are trying to convince the country and indeed the world that the threat has fundamentally changed,” Nunn said. “We have to have a vision moving toward a world without nuclear weapons. ... Without the vision, we’re not going to get the cooperation we need to take the essential steps to protect America’s security.”
The Nuclear Threat Initiative board of directors includes representatives from all of the declared nuclear powers, as well as Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. It has offices in Washington and Russia.
“More than half the nuclear material in the world is in the U.S. and Russia,” Nunn said. “Without cooperation, you cannot secure the material and without securing the material, you cannot protect America from catastrophic nuclear terrorism.”
The statesmen have written several op-eds in national newspapers on the subject. They appeared at the U.N. Security Council last year alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama. Nunn even appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” last month.
He has been an informal adviser to Obama on nuclear issues and was even mentioned as a possible running mate during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in an op-ed published in Tuesday’s Washington Post, called the New-START treaty Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake yet” and urged the Senate to reject the agreement.
“New-START gives Russia a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States,” Romney wrote. “By all indications, the Obama administration has been badly out-negotiated.”
Romney’s op-ed was quickly criticized by fellow Massachusetts politician Sen. John Kerry and even fellow Republican Sen. Lugar of Indiana. Nunn also dismissed Romney’s logic.
“I didn’t see a single reference in the Romney article ... to catastrophic terrorism, I didn’t see a single reference to U.S.-Russia cooperation required to keep materials out of the hands of terrorists,” Nunn said. “It could be captioned: ‘I’d rather run for President than learn about national security.’ Very little in that article was either accurate or relevant.”
The irony of Nunn campaigning for arms reduction is lost on few, least of all Nunn himself. “As much as I’m in favor of a strong military, this is not a matter of tanks and ships and planes, this is a matter of cooperating with people,” Nunn said.
Nunn’s next media blitz could come next month. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has pledged to push ratification of the New-START treaty to a committee vote before the Senate’s August recess.
While cautioning that the treaty isn’t the “be-all, end-all” for nuclear material reduction, Nunn has endorsed the treaty.
“If it were to be defeated, I think it would be a very substantial setback for U.S. security, Russian security, and world security,” Nunn said. “We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. And I don’t think the world has come to that realization yet.”
To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.