Atomic Pulse

What We’re Reading and Watching in the Run-Up to Inauguration Day

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It’s been
hard to keep up with the rush of news in the run-up to Inauguration Day – from
President-elect Trump’s tweets about a nuclear arms race to his battles with
the intelligence community, from testy confirmation hearings in Congress to a
chorus of concerns about how to manage U.S.-Russia relations.

The team at
NTI has identified several articles, op-eds, blog pieces, and videos as among the
smartest, most interesting or most entertaining pieces out there related to some
of the key the issues around nuclear and global security.

So – with the
usual disclaimer that the views expressed may not
necessarily reflect those of NTI, members of our Board or our imaginary mascot
– may we suggest the following as we all try to make sense of the promise and
the peril ahead:

Vice
President Biden’s
recent speech on nuclear security
at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace (CEIP) is a must. In it, he previewed the security challenges facing the
Trump administration and highlighted the nuclear security successes during the
Obama administration. His comments on no-first-use policy and modernization are
particularly interesting.

Speaking
of Carnegie, if you missed the New York
Times
op-ed by CEIP President and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia William
J. Burns, titled “How We Fool Ourselves on Russia,” go back and read
it
. It’s an important take from one of the world’s great diplomats.

Another good read: former
U.S. Secretary of Defense William
J. Perry’s take
on how to handle North Korea’s claim that it is prepared to
test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

 And for
those who are curious about the transfer of the Briefcase and the Biscuit,
these pieces should bring you up to speed:

  • Smithsonian magazine’s fascinating
    piece
    on the so-called “nuclear football” that follows the president everywhere
    he goes.
  • Discovery’s video on the passing of the
    football
    – with recollections from former Vice President Dick Cheney of
    watching the briefcase passed from the military aide assigned to carry it for
    President Clinton to the aide assigned to carry it for President George W. Bush
    at “high noon” on inauguration day. “Nobody says a word,” he remembers, “but I
    knew what to look for” even as the inaugural ceremony was underway.
  • The football is carried by a military
    aide, but the “biscuit” – or the card with the personal ID code any president
    needs to confirm his identity before a nuclear launch – is carried by the
    president. And just as the rest of us misplace our wallets or our keys on
    occasion, presidents also have misplaced the biscuit. Jimmy Carter reportedly left it in his jacket and sent it to the dry cleaners once, and Bill
    Clinton misplaced it for months
    without telling anyone. It also was briefly AWOL after Ronald Reagan was shot when it was apparently scooped up with a bunch of other belongings and handled by hospital personnel.
  • For more on the briefcase and the
    biscuit – and how there really is no “nuclear button” – read this
    Washington Post explainer
    and this
    blog piece from the Union of Concerned Scientists
    .

Finally, for a stark reminder of how little time a president
has to decide whether to launch a nuclear strike, take a look at NTI’s Launch
Under Attack timeline
.

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