Tri-Valley CAREs
Communities Against a Radioactive Environment

Back from the Brink
For immediate release: December 8, 1999
Contact: Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs (925) 443-7148 or Jackie Cabasso, Western States Legal Foundation (510) 839-5877

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Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), Western States Legal Foundation and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility are founding members of a new initiative seeking to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war through a nationwide public education effort on "de-alerting." Called "Back from the Brink," it aims to remove all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons from hairtrigger alert status.

"We find it intolerable that one of the major nuclear dangers facing the American people is not the focus of a national policy debate," said Marylia Kelley of Livemore's Tri-Valley CAREs. "We intend to change that through grassroots education and mobilization."

A new 15 minute video on the role of de-alerting in reducing nuclear dangers, produced by the Center for Defense Information, will be screened at house parties, college meetings, and on local cable around the country. "Back From the Brink" also has created an interactive website,, and has a toll free number, 1-877-55BESAFE, where the video and explanatory literature can be ordered. Website visitors can also sign an electronic petition to be sent to President Clinton.

Speaking at a National Press Club news conference in Washington, D.C. that launched the campaign, Dr. Bruce Blair, a former missile control officer who is now a MacArthur fellow based at the Brookings Institution said, "Today Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin have only a few minutes, at best, in which to evaluate reports of an apparent incoming missile strike and decide the fate of the world. This is an intolerably short time which needs to be lengthened because a single bad judgment will be fatal for all of us."

"Less than five years ago, on January 25, 1995, millions of people were minutes away from being killed in an inferno caused by a mistaken Russian nuclear launch after their radar detected a U.S.-Norwegian weather rocket that looked like a Trident missile," added Dr. Robert Gould of Bay Area Physicians for Social Reponsibility. "Next time we may not be so lucky. This was not an singular event. There have been other false alarms."

"President Clinton needs to take the leadership on this issue by taking the first step," said former Senator Dale Bumpers, the Director of the Center for Defense Information. "On that basis we will have the moral and political basis on which to ask Russia to reciprocate." Sen. Bumpers cited a 1991 precedent when President George Bush unilaterally deactivated thousands of tactical U.S. nuclear weapons and de-alerted all U.S. strategic bombers and thousand of missile warheads. President Gorbachev responded with similar measures in about a week.

A Congressional resolution advocating nuclear weapons de-alerting -- introduced by Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts -- currently has 84 sponsors including California Representatives Lois Capps, Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Sam Farr, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Henry Waxman, Bob Filner, Barbara Lee and George Miller.

"De-alerting nuclear weapons is a significant but simple step to secure the new millennium and leave the specter of accidental nuclear annihilation behind," Rep. Markey explained. "That is why H. Con. Res. 177 calls upon the U.S. immediately begin de-alerting our nuclear arsenal and to secure an agreement with the Russians to do likewise."

The "Back from the Brink" campaign is being launched in the midst of concerns that the Y2K computer problem will heighten the risk of a nuclear exchange. To minimize such risks, the European Parliament called on both the U.S. and Russia to de-alert their nuclear arsenals before the end of the year.

The U.S. and Russia have said that they are addressing these concerns by "detargeting" weapons and by operating a Joint Command Center where military personnel from both nations will monitor radar and satellite data through the New Year's period. Dr. Blair reacted, "These are laudable initiatives, but 'BandAids' that only partly address the most superficial symptoms. In a crisis, detargeting can be reversed in less than a minute. The Joint Command Center will not address the ongoing deterioration of the Russian command and control system. The need for dealerting will continue independent from the Y2K issue."

"At this moment, U.S. Trident submarines are patrolling the world�s oceans at the same rate as at the height of the Cold War, ready to instantly strike targets around the globe with the most sophisticated, deadly weapons ever produced." said Jackie Cabasso of Oakland's Western States Legal Foundation. "We support de-alerting as an essential immediate measure that can also kick-start the process of permanent nuclear disarmament. That's what it will take to end the real and growing danger of accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons."

"Back from the Brink" literature describes many possible ways to de-alert nuclear weapons. Measures that could be accomplished in a day or two include removing the keys from launch centers and pinning open missile motor switches. In the long term, warheads can be removed from missiles and stored separately subject to multilateral verification.

Marylia Kelley added: "We Californians can become a particularly potent force for de-alerting as the various political parties vie for our votes in the coming election year."

A briefing kit on de-alerting and the "Back from the Brink" campaign is available upon request.


Please see the flier posted on this website for more information about the "Radiation and Risk" series and expert speakers.

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