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Former US defense secretary William Perry has warned that “there is the possibility of a nuclear disaster occurring now even more than during the Cold War. This situation is not well understood by either political leaders or the general public. If more citizens understand the situation, they may urge leaders to take action.

Even if the United States and Russia would use even a fraction of their arsenals in an exchange, that would be sufficient to simply destroy each other's countries. And in addition to that, because of the nuclear fallout and the so-called nuclear winter that will result from that, it would not just only destroy those two countries, but every country on Earth would be extremely seriously affected.”

Perry issued the warning in an interview with Masato Tainaka and Yoshiyuki Ito of the Asahi Shimbun on July 31, 2020. He recently published “The Button” along with Tom Collina, director of policy at The Ploughshares Fund, in which they state that the seriousness of the nuclear crisis exceeds that of any time during the Cold War.

“US nuclear policy is based on the wrong threat and as a result of that we are suffering more danger. In the US, the president has the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. It's dangerous because the president is a human being and he's subject to mood swings and he's subject to maybe having mental problems or stability problems.

President (Richard) Nixon, for example, during the last few months of his time in office was very heavily inebriated on a number of occasions. President (John) Kennedy had severe pain problems and he was taking heavy doses of medication. President (Donald) Trump is impulsive… The most common example of (computer error) is we've had false alarms on three different occasions. On one of them I actually received a phone call in the middle of the night telling me that the computers were showing 200 ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were on the way from the Soviet Union to the US. We learned it was a false alarm. This was during the Cold War. Given the tremendous consequences of the decision (the fate of the world) and the mind-crunching time pressure (10 minutes or less) to make such a decision, it is not worth the risk,” Perry said.

This, Perry stressed, has been worsened by the Trump administration when it released its Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018 which it stated it would increase its options by allowing the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in retaliation for an attack by conventional weapons. It has also not yet abandoned a first-use policy regarding nuclear weapons.

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