PONI Debates the Issues: Unilateral Nuclear Arms Reductions

February 27 – 28, 2013

Resolved: The United States should make additional unilateral nuclear arms reductions.


Dr. Hans Kristensen
Director, Nuclear Information Project, the Federation of American Scientists


Mr. Stephen Rademaker
Principal, the Podesta Group, & former Assistant Secretary of State

The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) is pleased to invite you to a debate about whether the United States should undertake additional unilateral nuclear arms reductions. With the Obama administration expected to release its Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study soon, the desirability and feasibility of U.S. nuclear reductions will be front and center. As a recent report issued by the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board observed, “Treaties are an important, but not always necessary, method for reducing nuclear arsenals. The United States has reduced its nuclear arsenal without negotiating a new treaty in the past – both unilaterally and reciprocally with Russia.”

Two features of today’s political climate may force the issue: intense pressure to cut the defense budget and Senatorial resistance to another arms control treaty. Proponents of unilateral reductions argue that the U.S. maintains more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet deterrence and assurance goals, and unilateral action could both save money and build goodwill in the international community. Opponents argue, however, that reducing nuclear warheads and/or delivery vehicles below START levels may put U.S. objectives at risk, especially if those reductions are not verifiably taken in tandem with Russia. These questions will be debated by two experts on the issue:

Dr. Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, will present his argument, based on his recent report, that the United States could make more unilateral nuclear arms reductions in the future, as it has safely done in the past, in addition to pursuing arms control agreements. Mr. Stephen Rademaker, Principal of the Podesta Group and former Assistant Secretary of State (2002-2006), will argue against unilateral reductions in favor of reciprocal or negotiated ones.

This event is the 18th installment of PONI's ongoing live debate series, which is an extension of the PONI Debates the Issues blog. The objective of the series is to provide a forum for in-depth exploration of the arguments on both sides of key nuclear policy issues. Please join us for what promises to be an exciting debate on a crucial issue for the arms control and nonproliferation community.

A cocktail reception with appetizers will begin at 6:00pm. The debate will commence at 6:30pm.

Please RSVP to Sarah Weiner.