The next Democratic Presidential Debate is December 19, 2019. Previous debates have devoted mere minutes to the topic of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons seem to get less attention than other critical issues like climate change and healthcare. But, given the President's sole authority over nuclear weapons, we really should be hearing more from the candidates.
Before diving into what the candidates have said, here's a few definitions to keep in mind:
- A No First Use policy is a commitment never to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
- The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) expires in February 2021. If it is not extended for 5 more years, there will no longer be any legal constraints on the number of nuclear weapons the U.S. and Russia can build and deploy.
- Low Yield Nuclear Weapons are weapons with much less explosive power than our current nuclear weapons. Critics say the smaller size makes their use in a conflict more likely.
- Sole Authority refers to the fact that the President can order the use of nuclear weapons without any checks and balances on that authority.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Biden says he has supported a No First Use policy for years and that we don’t need more nuclear weapons. He wants to continue to reduce nuclear weapons, thinks we should extend New START, and does not support the development of new low yield nuclear weapons.
Biden Answers Questions About Nuclear Weapons
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg believes we need to maintain a credible deterrent. He has said he can’t imagine a scenario where we would need to use nuclear weapons first, but he worries that a No First Use declaration could lead to more nuclear proliferation. Buttigieg wants to renew a U.S. commitment to arms control. He supports New START extension and supports the President’s sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.
Buttigieg Answers Questions about Nuclear Weapons
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar supports New START extension and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). She doesn’t support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and thinks we need to maintain a deterrent while reducing stockpiles bilaterally and multilaterally.
Klobuchar Answers Questions About Nuclear Weapons
Senator Bernie Sanders
Sanders is co-sponsoring Senator Warren’s No First Use legislation. He believes we should extend New START. He opposes the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons and supports the ratification of the CTBT. He says the goal is to move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons and that we have better things to spend our money on.
Sanders Answers Questions About Nuclear Weapons
Steyer has not said much about nuclear weapons. He has publicly said he supports a No First Use policy, and he thinks we should continue to reduce existing stockpiles.
Steyer Answers Questions About Nuclear Weapons
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Warren has outlined her views on nuclear weapons as having three simple components: no new nuclear weapons, more international arms control, and No First Use. On the topic of No First Use, Warren has introduced a bill in the Senate that would formalize a U.S. policy of No First Use. She believes the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is deterrence. She has also said that the U.S. should not spend over a trillion dollars to replace its entire nuclear arsenal.
Warren Answers Questions About Nuclear Weapons
Yang supports a No First Use policy and does not believe the President should have sole authority over nuclear weapons. He also supports taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.