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Former Energy Secretary talks nuclear threat, need for dialogue in IU appearance



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Ernest J. Moniz, former United States Secretary of Energy and CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative, speaks about the nuclear arms race March 22 during the “America’s Role in the World” conference. Moniz said there is no political space for anyone who wants to carry on a constructive dialogue with Russia right now. Sarah Zygmuntowski Buy Photos

Ernest Moniz, former United States Secretary of Energy and CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative, discussed nuclear arms races at the “America’s Role in the World” conference Friday.

The conference is a free two-day annual conference organized by the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. It addresses foreign policy issues and their influence on the U.S.

This was the school’s fourth year organizing the event, which featured seven sessions spanning topics such as global hate speech, national security and Indiana’s relationship with the world. Panelists and speakers at the conference included foreign policy experts, diplomats, journalists and scholars.

“It allows our students to take part in conversations about global challenges, ask tough questions and see how people in different areas of expertise with different points of view can share platforms of discussion,” said Lee Feinstein, founding dean of HLS.

In his session titled “Averting the New Nuclear Arms Race,” Moniz focused on current nuclear forces and ways to avoid further escalation.

The risk of nuclear weapon use is higher now than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said, not because the U.S. and Russia are likely to launch attacks on each other, but because of the present political environment.

He said possible factors influencing that environment include military misunderstanding, cyber threats, short decision time for national leaders and lack of discussion.

“There is no political space right now for anybody who wants to carry on a constructive discussion with Russia to do so,” he said.

Moniz suggested steps to avoid nuclear arms races, including creating more opportunities for political leaders to discuss crisis management.

Feinstein said many of the panels are led as conversations between the students and panelists. He said he, along with the panelists, was impressed by the focus and curiosity of the students participating.

Following his speech, Moniz answered questions from moderator Carol Giacomo, a member of the New York Times editorial board, and students in the audience.

One student asked how to focus on issues like arms races amid other national challenges. Moniz urged the students to keep talking about all the issues after they left the conference.

“It’s about managing these risks in ways that make sense for us in our next generations,” he said. “But we can’t do it if you all don’t talk about it.”

To end the session, Feinstein and Giacomo recognized IU junior Tyler Combs as the winner of the conference’s student editorial writing contest.

Combs, studying political science with a focus on Russian and East European studies, won for his opinion piece titled “For America to save the liberal world order, we must admit that we broke it.”

“I firmly believe that we are a force for good in the world,” Combs said in an interview. “But I think we often get caught up in our hubris, and that causes us to make poor decisions.”

Combs said the conference motivated him to move forward in the field.

“We have all these problems that need to be fixed, and someone has to fix them,” he said. “And, like it or not, that is the responsibility of today’s generation of students of political science, of international studies, of public policy. We’re the ones with the knowledge and idealism to go forward and try to fix them.”

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