Former US Senator Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of defense on Capitol Hill January 31, 2013 in Washington, DC. Hagel was questioned over his support for the nuclear disarmament group Global Zero.
Credit: Alex Wong

Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday brought to light the Secretary of Defense nominee's support for the Global Zero nuclear disarmament movement.

Hagel faced opposition primarily from Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe who said his position on Israel, Iran and nuclear disarmament was "troubling."

Right-wing senators questioned a 2012 report co-authored by Hagel under the auspices of Global Zero, which advocated for sharp reductions in nuclear weapons and a review of US nuclear policy.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said he was "uneasy" about the conclusions in the report, reported the Guardian.

Hagel said that the report simply laid out options for nuclear disarmament.

He went on to say, "A strong, agile, safe secure, effective, nuclear arsenal for the United States is not debatable."

Hagel is a vocal supporter of Global Zero, a group formed in Paris in 2008 that promotes eliminating nuclear weapons.

Made up of political, civic, and military leaders, the group calls for deep cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Hagel has said that he does not believe in unilateral disarmament - a sticking point with right-wing policymakers.

He has also said he does not believe that eliminating the weapons will happen in the short-term.

In a press release on the Global Zero website, Hagel, with co-authors, wrote:

"We support bilateral, negotiated, verifiable U.S.-Russian arms reductions, to be followed by multilateral negotiations, bringing other key countries into a serious, verifiable process of reductions."

"...the suggestion that we naively believe that the elimination of nuclear weapons can be achieved easily or in short order is likewise false."

The Associated Press pointed out that Hagel would be the first Secretary of Defense to have publicly advocated for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Heritage Foundation criticized both Hagel's and President Obama's statements on nuclear disarmament, saying that a thorough review of US nuclear policy has not been done.

In the past, Obama has called for a "world without nuclear weapons" but said it would not likely happen in his lifetime, said the Associated Press.

He has also said the US has more nuclear weapons than it needs, reported the Telegraph.

The blog Arms Control Wonk pointed out that calls for nuclear disarmament is nothing new among US administrations.

They pointed out that many past presidents have spoke about limiting the use or reducing the number of nuclear arms.

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