The National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently sent a joint letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, asking them to include language supporting the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The treaty, which the U.S. Senate ratified in 2010, limits the number and types of nuclear weapons that Russia and the United States may deploy, and provides for inspection visits to verify treaty compliance.  Unless extended, the treaty will expire on February 4, 2021.

The United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. The New START has led to modest reductions in both countries’ arsenals and has helped prevent further escalation of the nuclear arms race. The inspection protocols increase the confidence of Pentagon planners in their assessment of Russian capabilities, reducing the need for an arms buildup based on hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Given other instabilities in relations between the two countries, it is important to move forward now with negotiations on extending the treaty for an additional five years, as provided in the treaty text.

In 2011, the NAE board adopted a resolution on nuclear weapons addressing biblical, pastoral and policy issues raised by these uniquely destructive weapons, which inevitably target civilians and threaten the annihilation of whole countries and even of life itself. It states, “With their unique destructive potential, nuclear weapons profoundly threaten the lives and prosperity of future generations, and of all God’s creatures.” The resolution also warns that “nuclear weapons may encourage human hubris and lead to an overreaching power beyond God’s will for any fallen human government to wield.”