Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Legislative Summary
Legislative Action on Stopping Nuclear Proliferation


  • There are 60 to 70 million landmines in the ground in at least 70 countries.
  • Civilians account for 70 to 85 percent of landmine casualties

Anti-personnel mines, commonly known as landmines, are explosive weapons designed to injure or kill people. They can lie dormant for years and even decades under, on or near the ground until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism. Unlike conventional weapons, landmines cannot be aimed at a specific target, and can be activated by direct pressure from above, radio signal, or merely the proximity of an individual to its location. Thus, landmines indiscriminately kill or injure civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers and aid workers alike.[1]

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines found that mines remain planted in the earth in more than 70 countries and killed at least 1,266 people and wounded 3,891 in 2009. More than 2.2 million anti-personnel mines, 250,000 anti-vehicle mines and 17 million other explosives left over from wars have been removed since 1999.[2]According to a UNICEF estimate, 30-40 percent of mine victims are children under 15 years of age.Landmines can cost as little as $3 to produce and as much as $1,000 per mine to remove.[3]


In 1997, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the "Ottawa Convention") was opened for signature at Ottawa, Canada. The Ottawa Convention entered into force on March 1, 1999 after the requisite number of states ratified the convention.[4]  156 nations are party to the treaty, and 39 nations, including the U.S., Israel, Russia, and China, are not party to the treaty. The following is required of countries that have ratified the treaty:

  • never use antipersonnel mines, nor to "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer" them;
  • destroy mines in their stockpiles within four years of the treaty becoming binding;
  • clear mines in their territory, or support efforts to clear mines in mined countries, within 10 years;
  • in mine-affected countries, conduct mine risk education and ensure that mine survivors, their families and communities receive comprehensive assistance;
  • offer assistance to other States Parties, for example in providing for survivors or contributing to clearance programmes;
  • adopt national implementation measures (such as national legislation) in order to ensure that the terms of the treaty are upheld in their territory.[5]

In Fall 2009, President Obama affirmed the Bush Administration’s stance against the U.S. becoming party to the Ottawa Treaty. A spokesperson for the Obama Administration stated that the United States would not be able to meet its national defense commitments or the security needs of its allies if the U.S. acceded to the Ottawa Treaty.[6] However, the U.S. continues to take an active role in humanitarian mine action, beginning with a demining program in Afghanistan initiated in 1988, and broadened with the establishment of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program in 1993. Since that time, the U.S. has provided over $1.5 billion to aid nations throughout the world to reduce the threat of landmines.[7]


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The CTBT would prevent the global community from conducting explosive nuclear tests and would create an extensive global array of monitoring stations, which would be able to detect nuclear explosions of significance. It would guard against the renewal of the nuclear arms race because a ban on testing would impede the nuclear powers from creating new and more sophisticated weapons. It would also curb the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that do not yet have the technology to develop them. Furthermore, it would protect the world from the radioactive fallout that comes from the testing of nuclear weapons. A 1992 U.S. law already prohibits the U.S. from conducting any nuclear tests unless another nation does so first, so the CTBT would not affect the United States' military strength.

On October 13, 1999, the Senate voted not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by a sharply partisan 51 to 48 vote. This defeat was much more convincing since 67 votes were necessitated to ratify the treaty. According to Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, "the failure of the Senate to ratify the CTBT is a damaging blow to the national security of the United States that will be felt for years to come. The rejection of the treaty contradicts the will of the American people, our nations' leading military and scientific officials, and the views of our closest allies.

As of July 2009, 181 states have signed and 148 have ratified the CTBT. The Obama Administration has stated that it is committed to pursuing ratification of CTBT; in his 2009 speech in Prague, the President stated, ““To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”

START Treaty

On April 8, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that will reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons in both countries. The U.S. and Russia signed the START treaty in the Czech Republic on the one year anniversary of a speech President Obama delivered in Prague on the subject of nuclear non-proliferation. This landmark address included bold commitments to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and made “a world without nuclear weapons” the goal of American nuclear policy. In the view of the arms control community and beyond, START is both a concrete and symbolic accomplishment, in that it has the potential to create political momentum for other countries effort that follows their lead regarding nuclear non-proliferation.

This treaty between the United States and Russia is one of the most significant arms control agreements in the last two decades. The U.S. and Russia have signed arms control in the past, but this new treaty represents a major constructive step forward in the goals of advancing U.S. security and moving toward ridding the world of the threat of nuclear weapons.

As with all international treaties, now that Presidents Obama and Medvedev have signed the new START agreement, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds majority for the treaty to enter into force. As of June 2010, the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees have been holding hearings on START. The Foreign Relations Committee bears the responsibility for voting to send the treaty to the full Senate for consideration, and Chairman John Kerry is planning for a vote in September 2010.

Missile Defense

In 1972, President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and agreed to abandon their pursuits of national defense systems against long-range, strategic ballistic missiles. The ABM Treaty did not prohibit the development of theatre (nonstrategic) missile defenses against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

In June 2002, President Bush unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty so that the United States could move forward on the development of strategic missile defense, including ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, mounting chemical lasers on Boeing 747 aircrafts, launching satellites to provide tracking data on missiles in flight, and deploying armed satellites in space.

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