Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry Addresses Parliamentarians on Nuclear Threat and Relationship with Russia

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, an emeritus NTI Board member, addressed members of Parliament in London earlier this month on a variety of nuclear security issues, concerns about deteriorating relations with Russia, and plans for nuclear modernization. Perry concluded his trip with the European launch of his new memoir, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. Guardian journalist Julian Borger moderated a wide-ranging discussion of the events throughout Perry’s long career that shaped his thinking about nuclear weapons and brought him to the conclusion that these weapons endanger our collective security rather than protect it.

Perry’s trip, hosted by the European Leadership Network, included a special presentation to security experts at Chatham House, a London-based policy institute. Perry addressed the future of nuclear weapons in the United States and his concerns about current modernization plans. He noted that these plans are proceeding with virtually no public dialogue and argued that the United States should not rebuild its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) because they are the one component of the U.S. nuclear triad susceptible to a false alarm, not to mention tremendously costly.

Though the United States has made no measurable progress in nuclear nonproliferation since the ratification of the New START treaty early in President Obama’s tenure, Perry is urging Obama not to give up on ratifying the CTBT before the end of his presidency, saying it is obviously in the best interests of the United States to do so.

While in London, Perry also met in several private sessions at the House of Commons with senior UK leaders in defense and foreign affairs, members of the Top Level Group of Parliamentarians and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation. He engaged in open Q&A with Parliamentarians on the growing crisis in U.S. and NATO relations with Russia, advocating for the need to set aside animosities and get down to serious dialogue about the issues that unite the countries instead of those that divide them. He said that dialogue on topics such as stopping ISIS in Syria, nuclear nonproliferation, and preventing terrorism provide a platform for constructive, cooperative efforts and possibly open the door to improved relations in other areas.

Perry posited that the threat of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War, and he appealed to policymakers and citizens alike to learn about the issues and to get involved in solving them. He has formed the Perry Project to provide information to engage a younger generation so they will be better prepared to participate in guiding policy about the role nuclear weapons will play in the 21st century.

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