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Kinnamon praises American and Russian
accord to reduce their nuclear arsenals

New York, July 7, 2009 Nearly 46 years after the United States and the Soviet Union signed the first limited nuclear test ban treaty, a new generation has agreed to continue the agonizingly slow process of reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

President Obama, on his first visit to Russia since taking office, and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev agreed Monday to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in each country by at least 25 percent.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, praised the agreement. "So long as there are nuclear weapons in the world," Kinnamon said, "no one's safety can ever be assured."

Although the focus on disarmament has been less intense since the end of the Cold War,  the need to eliminate nuclear weapons has never been greater," Kinnamon said. "At least nine nations have nuclear arsenals: the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and -- though it has not been officially acknowledged -- Israel."

In addition, there are widespread fears that fissionable material or weapons formerly under control of Soviet satellite states are not adequately secured, and may be attainable by terrorist organizations, Kinnamon said.

In an address Tuesday to the graduation of the New Economic School in Russia, President Obama expressed the same sentiments.

"Without fundamental change, do any of us believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of these nuclear weapons?" the President asked. "That's why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons ... And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons."

Earlier, Kinnamon had observed that neither the NCC nor the World Council of Churches has issued a major statement on nuclear weapons in more than two decades. He said he was renewing his personal commitment to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons, "and I pledge to raise this call, with urgency, within the NCC community."

The NCC's last resolution on nuclear weapons, passed by the Governing Board in November 1977 during the Carter Administration, called for a halt in the production of nuclear weapons "toward the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the arsenals of all nations which have them or could produce them." The resolution also called upon the U.S. to halt production of fissionable material for weapons.

Kinnamon cited a bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) to recognize the need to address the threat of international terrorism and protect the global security of the U.S. by reducing the number and accessibility of nuclear weapons and preventing their proliferation.

The bill, called the "Global Security Priorities Resolution," would direct a portion of the resulting savings to child survival, hunger and universal education. It calls on the President to move toward these goals.

"The bill is certainly a step in the right direction," Kinnamon said, "and it prompts us to reevaluate our standards of national safety. The old arguments that nuclear weapons are necessary for national security ring hollow," he said.

"Both political parties tend to think of security in terms of unilateral defense," Kinnamon said,. "But people of faith begin with the truth of human inter-dependence -- which teaches us that security is never won through weapons and walls but through attentiveness to the injustice that affects other children of God."


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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