On 25 April 2017, in the light of the risks of the conflict about North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, William Perry, former Secretary of Defense for the United States, contributed this statement to newsletter “The Hill”:
BY WILLIAM J. PERRY, opinion contributor, The Hill, 25 April 2017
I lived most of my adult life during the Cold War, and, throughout, I never lost sight of one overwhelming reality — at any time, the Cold War could turn hot, resulting in the extinction of our civilization. Now, inexplicably, we are recreating many of the conditions of the Cold War. In fact, I believe that, today, the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe is actually greater than it was during the Cold War.
The relations between the United States and Russia are as hostile as they were during the Cold War. Russia has dropped its long-term policy of “No First Use” of nuclear weapons and is rebuilding its nuclear arsenal. It is threatening its neighbors with these deadly weapons and indirectly threatening the U.S.
Responding to this challenge, the U.S. has begun rebuilding its nuclear arsenal. We seem determined to replay the Cold War arms race, with costs estimated at more than $1 trillion — with predictably terrible dangers.
Have we simply forgotten the immense dangers of the Cold War? Several times during the Cold War, we faced the prospect of a nuclear war by miscalculation, most dramatically during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. After that crisis, President Kennedy said that he believed we had a one-in-three chance of nuclear war….
North Korea routinely makes threats to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire,” and boasts that they are nearly ready to launch a nuclear-tipped ICBM at the U.S. I believe these threats are bluster. North Korea does have 15 to 20 nuclear weapons, a large arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles and a program to develop an ICBM, but while the North Korean leaders are ruthless and reckless, they are not crazy.
–- They know that if they launch a nuclear attack, the American response would bring death to them, an end to the Kim regime and devastation to their country. Their nuclear weapons have value only if they do not use them.
A chilling return to Cold War nuclear dangers in addition to the more recent possibilities of nuclear terrorism and regional nuclear conflicts lead me to conclude that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War. One thing is very clear: our policies are totally inadequate for dealing with these existential dangers.
It should be the highest priority for this administration to develop policies that recognize this new reality, and then to devise new, robust programs that can mitigate them.