Peace Train: Money Pit Missile vs. Nuclear Ban Treaty

Activists have leverage to convince nuclear countries of disarmament because of ban treaty

The U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) — or what some are calling “the Money Pit Missile“ — is designed to replace the existing fleet of Minuteman III missiles. Like its predecessors, the 400 missiles of the GBSD fleet or ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) will be lodged in underground silos and widely scattered in three groups known as “wings” across five states: Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana.

The official purpose of American ICBMs goes beyond responding to nuclear assault. It is also intended to deter attacks and serve as targets in case of an attack — the concept of “nuclear sponge.”

The GBSD will also include a full set of test-launch missiles as well as upgrades to the existing launch facilities. The missile fields are also embedded in the local economies and have been since 1959 when the first ICBMs came into Wyoming. According to Elisabeth Eaves, a contributing editor for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said that local communities are nervous about the idea of a nuclear-free world. In the article, “Why Is America Getting a New $100 Billion Nuclear Weapon?” Eaves wrote that these communities depend on the lively exchange of goods and profit from the thousands of workers and their families who are well-established around the missile sites.

The New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) between Russia and the U.S. (that the countries have agreed to extend for five years) places limitations on both countries’ number of deployed nuclear warheads. It must be tricky for the Department of Energy, Northrop Grumman — which is the main contractor — and other military industrial companies involved, to say on one hand that the existing ICBMs are keeping us safe, but at the same time need replacing.

This is all in contrast to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that declares nuclear weapons to be illegal. On Jan. 22, 2021, yellow banners were unfurled across the U.S. at more than 50 sites celebrating the entry into force of the treaty.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Ban Treaty, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with an ultimate goal of total elimination. The treaty was adopted by the United Nations on 7 July 2017 (by a vote of 122 states in favor, with one vote against and one in abstention) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sept. 20, 2017.

It was agreed that once 50 countries had both signed and ratified the Nuclear Ban Treaty, it would become international law 90 days from that point. Currently, none of the countries with nuclear weapons have signed or ratified the treaty. But activists have much greater leverage in their ability to convince the nuclear countries of disarming because of the 50 countries that have both signed and ratified the treaty. They are now bound by the treaty as international law.

ICAN, the International Campaign for the Abolishment of Nuclear Weapons has been at the heart of the campaign since 2017 and has involved organizations around the world that culminated in the treaty becoming law.

Let’s rejoice and broaden the movement exponentially.