In a whirlwind two-day trip to London, former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry met with Parliamentarians to discuss current issues of nuclear security, 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” at The Guardian. Guardian World Affairs Editor Julian Borger moderated a wide-ranging discussion of the events in Perry’s long career that shaped his thinking about nuclear weapons bringing him to conclude that these weapons endanger our security rather than secure it.
Perry’s trip, hosted by the European Leadership Network, included a special presentation to security experts at Chatham House, where Perry addressed the future of nuclear weapons in the US and his concerns about the current modernization plans. He noted that these plans are proceeding with virtually no public dialogue, and argues that the US should not rebuild its ICBMs, not just because of their expense but because they are the one component of the US nuclear triad susceptible to a false alarm.
Though the U.S. has made no measurable progress in nuclear nonproliferation since the ratification of the New Start treaty early in Obama’s tenure, Perry is still urging Obama not to give up on ratifying the CTBT before the end of his term, saying it is obviously in the best interests of the US to do so.
Perry also met in several private sessions at the House of Commons with UK’s top leaders in defense and foreign affairs–the Top Level Group and the APPG on Global Security and Non-Proliferation. He engaged in open Q&A with Parliamentarians on the growing crisis in US 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 believes that dialogue on topics such as stopping ISIS in Syria, nuclear nonproliferation, and preventing terrorism provide a platform for constructive, cooperative effort, possibly opening the door to an improvement in other areas of concern.
Though Perry posited that the threat of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War, 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 in these issues so that they will be better prepared to participate in guiding policy about the role nuclear weapons will play in the 21st century.