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Seventy-five years ago this coming August the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 140,000 human beings outright with thousands more over the next months and years. Just unthinkable.

This past August the United States withdrew from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, as it has been known. It was an arms control treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the treaty on December 8,1987. It has held the lid on nuclear arms escalation all these years and now it’s essentially gone.

It was an agreement that was unprecedented and eliminated all U.S. and Russian missiles between the ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The two countries destroyed a total of 2,692 ballistic and cruise missiles.

According to historians, the INF Treaty had enormous impact: It lowered the threat of nuclear war in Europe and paved the way for negotiations on tactical and chemical weapons. We have the INF to thank for the peaceful end of the Cold War and it became the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security in a time rife with extreme changes.

But now, 2020, “The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world today is one of the most dangerous situations ever faced by humanity,” according to Gary Spanovich, Executive Director of the Wholistic Peace Institute.

“Speaking of danger and destruction is never very easy, because if you speak the truth, people will not want to listen because it’s too awful,” former governor of California, Jerry Brown said at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist press conference in January, that announced the “Doomsday Clock” had been moved to within 100 seconds of “Doomsday.” But to be what Brown calls “a prophet of doom” today, when, in his words, “we live in a world of vast, deep and pervasive mass complacency,” is now more necessary than ever.

The time on the famous clock is based on the threats to international security posed by nuclear weapons, climate change, and what the Bulletin refers to as “cyber based disinformation,” which it sees as a “threat multiplier” that prevents the world from being able to respond effectively to the existential challenges we face as a global community.

Here is why the START treaty is such a big deal: it is the last crucial arms control treaty between the two superpowers and is set to expire in early 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December 2019 that Moscow is open to extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) unconditionally, but the Trump administration remains undecided about the future of the accord. It is up to us to convince him. Let’s do it!

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