US plans 'dramatic reductions' in nuclear weapons

ajtr

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Will Obama take the lead in reducing the usa's nuke weapons or is it just going to be just a lip service for his NPT lobby/nobel peace prize commitment to force countries like india to sign NPT/CTBT/FMCT ultimately rollback india's military nuke program.


US plans 'dramatic reductions' in nuclear weapons



All numbers are estimates because exact numbers are top secret.
Strategic nuclear warheads are designed to target cities, missile locations and military headquarters as part of a strategic plan.
Israel
Israeli authorities have never confirmed or denied the country has nuclear weapons.
North Korea
The highly secretive state claims it has nuclear weapons, but there is no information in the public domain that proves this.
Iran
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2003 there had been covert nuclear activity to make fissile material and continues to monitor Tehran's nuclear programme.
Syria
US officials have claimed it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons.

US President Barack Obama is planning "dramatic reductions" in the country's nuclear arsenal, a senior US administration official has said.
This would come as part of a sweeping policy review designed to prevent the spread of atomic weapons, he said.
He added that the new strategy will point to a greater role for conventional weapons.
Mr Obama was holding a meeting with his Defence Secretary Robert Gates to discuss the new nuclear strategy.
The review "will point to dramatic reductions in the stockpile, while maintaining a strong and reliable deterrent through the investments that have been made in the budget," the official said.

MARDELL'S AMERICA


All this is in line with President Obama's vision of a nuclear free world, set out in Prague a little less than a year ago
Mark Mardell

Mark Mardell's America
He said the review would go further than previous reviews in "embracing the aims of non-proliferation. "
Officials say thousands of nuclear weapons could be cut, in many cases by retiring weapons that are now kept in storage.
The new strategy will also seek to abandon plans put in place by the previous administration to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons for penetrating underground targets known as "bunker busters."
The officials say the strategy will be an important step towards Mr Obama's declared aim of reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking a world without them.
New partnerships
Last April, Mr Obama outlined his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons in a major speech in the Czech capital Prague.
He spoke of putting an end to Cold War thinking, a process in which, he insisted, the US was morally obliged to play a leading role.
He called for the forging of new partnerships to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and a global summit on nuclear security, which will take place next month.
Ahead of the summit, the Obama administration began a wide-ranging nuclear policy review, which was initially supposed to have been released in December.
The BBC's Jonathan Marcus says all the signs are that the first draft of the document has been rejected as being too wedded to the status quo and not sufficiently "transformational" to use the language favoured by the Obama administration.
He says the review will be read closely to see what it might say about the potential circumstances in which nuclear weapons would be used, an issue Mr Obama is to discuss with Mr Gates.
The review comes as the US and Russia appear close to a new deal to cut their nuclear arsenals, despite Moscow's concerns over Washington's missile defence plans.
On Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said negotiations with the US on a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which expired last December, had reached the stage of agreeing the nuances of the text.
"We are close to agreement on virtually all issues," Mr Medvedev said, but admitted that it was "not an easy subject".
The document will also set the tone for the next five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT agreement, to be held in May.
The Obama administration is hoping to bolster the NPT, amid growing concern over Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.
Jonathan Marcus says Mr Obama will want to prevent the weakening NPT regime from unravelling, and to do so he needs to have powerful evidence that the US is taking its disarmament responsibilities seriously.
 
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ajtr

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U.S. nuclear weapons policy at far-reaching crossroads

President Obama's top national security advisers within days will present him with an agonizing choice on how to guide U.S. nuclear weapons policy for the rest of his presidency.

Does he substantially advance his bold pledge to seek a world free of nuclear weapons by declaring that the "sole purpose" of the U.S. arsenal is to deter other nations from using them? Or does he embrace a more modest option, supported by some senior military officials, that deterrence is the "primary purpose"?

The difference may seem semantic, but such words, which will be contained in a document known as the Nuclear Posture Review, have deep meanings and could dramatically shift nuclear policy in the United States and around the world. The first option would scale back the arsenal's war-fighting role, potentially leading to a smaller U.S. stockpile and taking weapons off alert. The second option would be less of a change, holding out the nuclear threat but still permitting a reduction in weapons. The president was briefed on the document this week and requested additional intermediate options, officials say.

Senior administration officials have already indicated the review is likely to roll back some Bush policies, such as threatening the use of nuclear weapons to preempt or respond to chemical or biological attacks. The review will also point to new ways to cut the Pentagon's stockpile of roughly 5,000 active nuclear warheads, they say.

The review will "reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," Obama said in a statement Friday marking the 40th anniversary of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.



But, officials say, after lengthy debate, Obama's aides have rejected some of the boldest ideas on the table, such as forswearing the option to use nuclear arms first in a conflict, or dropping one leg of the "triad" of bombers, submarines and land-based missiles that carry the deadly weapons.

Obama's decision on the sensitive issue of U.S. "declaratory policy," U.S. officials and outside experts say, will help determine whether the document is regarded as a far-reaching shift from the Bush administration's version released in 2001. Lower-level officials trying to craft the language engaged in fierce discussions about how far and fast the administration could alter course without alarming allies.

The Nuclear Posture Review is done at the start of each administration, and influences budgets, treaties and weapons deployments and retirements for five to 10 years. Expectations for this one have been raised because of Obama's pledge last year to "put an end to Cold War thinking" and move toward global disarmament -- a vision that helped win him a Nobel Peace Prize.

The review, more than a month overdue, reflects the tension in seeking to advance the president's sweeping agenda without unnerving allies who depend on the U.S. nuclear "umbrella." The Pentagon is also wary of losing options in a world with emerging nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, officials say.

Until recently, Obama generally has not intervened in the Pentagon-led process, which also involves officials from the State Department, the Energy Department and other agencies. That has raised concerns among arms-control advocates that the final product will be a cautious bureaucratic compromise.

"This NPR will be sort of the bell toll," said Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It will signal the direction. Will the president try to push that agenda?"

U.S. diplomats hope the final document will establish the Obama administration's credibility before a nuclear security summit in April and a crucial meeting in May on the fraying nonproliferation treaty. That treaty is at the heart of Obama's strategy to combat the most urgent threat today: the spread of nuclear weapons to unstable states and to terrorists. The last such session in 2005 ended in failure, with many countries accusing the Bush administration of trying to scotch their nuclear programs while maintaining one of the world's most massive stockpiles."The United States can't go around and ask others to give up their nuclear weapons while we maintain a list of official purposes for our nuclear weapons" that necessitates a large arsenal, said Jan Lodal, a senior Defense Department official in the Clinton administration.

The review comes as the U.S. military's precision-guided, conventional weapons have gained such accuracy that they can handle many threats assigned to nuclear weapons in the past.

But U.S. allies are divided about Obama's vision. New governments in Germany and Japan have embraced it, but some nations are more skeptical. "A country like ours, with a very special experience with its own history, we are maybe more cautious than some other countries," said Petr Kolar, the Czech ambassador, referring to past Soviet domination.

Kolar said big policy changes -- like promising not to use nuclear weapons first in a crisis -- could embolden other nuclear-armed powers. "My personal perspective is . . . we shouldn't actually lose the instruments we so far have," he said. "What's the change that would be gained by that?"

Another European ambassador said the nuclear review broke ground in even contemplating such a pledge. But he said it was unlikely while NATO was engaged in a major study of its strategy, due out this fall.

Pentagon officials worry that allies like Japan or Turkey could decide to develop their own nuclear weapons if they believed U.S. protection wasn't assured. Skeptics -- both Democrats and Republicans -- also question whether pledges to limit the U.S. nuclear role would have the impact claimed by proponents , since foes probably wouldn't believe such assertions. "We're better off when we communicate that all options are on the table," said Thomas Mahnken, a senior Defense Department official in the Bush administration. "As a practical matter, they are."



More than two dozen Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, have pressed Obama to adopt language saying the "sole" or "only" purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is deterrence. It would not prevent the U.S. government from using a weapon first but would de-emphasize that option in planning.

The Bush administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review pledged to reduce the Cold War role of nuclear weapons. But it discussed planning to build new types of "bunker-buster" warheads. It also proposed developing the U.S. nuclear stockpile based not on potential enemies' actual threat but their future capability to carry out nuclear, chemical or biological attacks.

As part of his "declaratory policy," Obama will have to consider whether to break with the Bush and Clinton administrations' studied ambiguity about whether the United States would use nuclear weapons to respond to chemical or biological attacks planned by non-nuclear countries.

The president is expected to adopt that change, but with an important caveat, officials said. The new policy would drop that threat only for countries in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus not working on their own bomb.

The immediate effect of such a policy would be limited, since the potential aggressors that most concern the United States are nuclear powers or accused treaty violators like Iran. But the move could encourage other countries to stick to the rules of that pact, officials said.

"It would be a significant pulling back of the reach of the nuclear sword," said Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

One senior official said the review will "point to dramatic reductions in the stockpile" in coming years.

In particular, the review will push for beefing up America's deteriorating weapons complex and nuclear labs so that the Pentagon can be more certain of its weapons' effectiveness, officials said. That shift will allow the Defense Department to get rid of some of the roughly 2,000 nuclear warheads it keeps as backups, in addition to its nearly 3,000 deployed weapons, officials said. There are also more than 4,000 older, inactive warheads in the queue for dismantlement.

It is not yet clear whether such reductions would be part of a formal treaty with Russia, one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
 

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White House Is Rethinking Nuclear Policy

WASHINGTON — As President Obama begins making final decisions on a broad new nuclear strategy for the United States, senior aides say he will permanently reduce America’s arsenal by thousands of weapons. But the administration has rejected proposals that the United States declare it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons, aides said.

Mr. Obama’s new strategy — which would annul or reverse several initiatives by the Bush administration — will be contained in a nearly completed document called the Nuclear Posture Review, which all presidents undertake. Aides said Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will present Mr. Obama with several options on Monday to address unresolved issues in that document, which have been hotly debated within the administration.

First among them is the question of whether, and how, to narrow the circumstances under which the United States will declare it might use nuclear weapons — a key element of nuclear deterrence since the cold war.

Mr. Obama’s decisions on nuclear weapons come as conflicting pressures in his defense policy are intensifying. His critics argue that his embrace of a new movement to eliminate nuclear weapons around the world is naïve and dangerous, especially at a time of new nuclear threats, particularly from Iran and North Korea. But many of his supporters fear that over the past year he has moved too cautiously, and worry that he will retain the existing American policy by leaving open the possibility that the United States might use nuclear weapons in response to a biological or chemical attack, perhaps against a nation that does not possess a nuclear arsenal.

That is one of the central debates Mr. Obama must resolve in the next few weeks, his aides say.

Many elements of the new strategy have already been completed, according to senior administration and military officials who have been involved in more than a half-dozen Situation Room debates about it, and outside strategists consulted by the White House.

As described by those officials, the new strategy commits the United States to developing no new nuclear weapons, including the nuclear bunker-busters advocated by the Bush administration. But Mr. Obama has already announced that he will spend billions of dollars more on updating America’s weapons laboratories to assure the reliability of what he intends to be a much smaller arsenal. Increased confidence in the reliability of American weapons, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a speech in February, would make elimination of “redundant” nuclear weapons possible.

“It will be clear in the document that there will be very dramatic reductions — in the thousands — as relates to the stockpile,” according to one senior administration official whom the White House authorized to discuss the issue this weekend. Much of that would come from the retirement of large numbers of weapons now kept in storage.

Other officials, not officially allowed to speak on the issue, say that in back-channel discussions with allies, the administration has also been quietly broaching the question of whether to withdraw American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, where they provide more political reassurance than actual defense. Those weapons are now believed to be in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Turkey and the Netherlands.

At the same time, the new document will steer the United States toward more non-nuclear defenses. It relies more heavily on missile defense, much of it arrayed within striking distance of the Persian Gulf, focused on the emerging threat from Iran. Mr. Obama’s recently published Quadrennial Defense Review also includes support for a new class of non-nuclear weapons, called “Prompt Global Strike,” that could be fired from the United States and hit a target anywhere in less than an hour.

The idea, officials say, would be to give the president a non-nuclear option for, say, a large strike on the leadership of Al Qaeda in the mountains of Pakistan, or a pre-emptive attack on an impending missile launch from North Korea. But under Mr. Obama’s strategy, the missiles would be based at new sites around the United States that might even be open to inspection, so that Russia and China would know that a missile launched from those sites was not nuclear — to avoid having them place their own nuclear forces on high alert.

But the big question confronting Mr. Obama is how he will describe the purpose of America’s nuclear arsenal. It is far more than just an academic debate.

Some leading Democrats, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have asked Mr. Obama to declare that the “sole purpose” of the country’s nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attack. “We’re under considerable pressure on this one within our own party,” one of Mr. Obama’s national security advisers said recently.

But inside the Pentagon and among many officials in the White House, Mr. Obama has been urged to retain more ambiguous wording — declaring that deterring nuclear attack is the primary purpose of the American arsenal, not the only one. That would leave open the option of using nuclear weapons against foes that might threaten the United States with biological or chemical weapons or transfer nuclear material
to terrorists.Any compromise wording that leaves in place elements of the Bush-era pre-emption policy, or suggests the United States could use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear adversary, would disappoint many on the left wing of his party, and some arms control advocates.
“Any declaration that deterring a nuclear attack is a ‘primary purpose’ of our arsenal leaves open the possibility that there are other purposes, and it would not reflect any reduced reliance on nuclear weapons,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It wouldn’t be consistent with what the president said in his speech in Prague” a year ago, when he laid out an ambitious vision for moving toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama’s base has already complained in recent months that he has failed to break from Bush era national security policy in some fundamental ways. They cite, for example, his stepped-up use of drones to strike suspected terrorists in Pakistan and his failure to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility by January as Mr. Obama had promised.

While Mr. Obama ended financing last year for a new nuclear warhead sought by the Bush administration, the new strategy goes further. It commits Mr. Obama to developing no new nuclear weapons, including a low-yield, deeply-burrowing nuclear warhead that the Pentagon sought to strike buried targets, like the nuclear facilities in North Korea and Iran. Mr. Obama, officials said, has determined he could not stop other countries from seeking new weapons if the United States was doing the same.

Still, some of Mr. Obama’s critics in his own party say the change is symbolic because he is spending more to improve old weapons.

At the center of the new strategy is a renewed focus on arms control and nonproliferation agreements, which were largely dismissed by the Bush administration. That includes an effort to win passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was defeated during the Clinton administration and faces huge hurdles in the Senate, and revisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to close loopholes that critics say have been exploited by Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Obama’s reliance on new, non-nuclear Prompt Global Strike weapons is bound to be contentious. As described by advocates within the Pentagon and in the military, the new weapons could achieve the effects of a nuclear weapon, without turning a conventional war into a nuclear one. As a result, the administration believes it could create a new form of deterrence — a way to contain countries that possess or hope to develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, without resorting to a nuclear option.
 

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U.S. allies pressure Obama over nuke plans

In an unprecedented display of Japanese concern about U.S. nuclear plans, more than 200 Japanese parliamentarians have written to President Obama asking him to drastically alter the U.S. approach to nuclear weapons.

The letter comes as the Obama administration is putting the final touches on its wholesale review of nuclear weapons policy, called the Nuclear Posture Review.

"As members of the Diet of the only country to have experienced nuclear bombings ... We strongly desire that the United States immediately adopt a declaratory policy stating that the ‘sole purpose' of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter others from using such weapons," said the letter, which Japanese lawmakers hand delivered to U.S. Ambassador John Roos on Feb. 19.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, however, administration officials have told The Cable that although the final version of the NPR isn't finished, no fundamental change in the role of nuclear weapons is expected to be announced.

The letter also contained a thinly veiled reference to the concern that Japan could consider a nuclear program of its own.

"We are firmly convinced that Japan will not seek the road toward possession of nuclear weapons if the U.S. adopts a "sole purpose" policy," the letter stated.

The Japanese aren't the only allies calling for quick action on Obama's pledge to move toward a nuclear free world, as promised in his April speech in Prague. On Feb. 20, Belgian officials announced they would spearhead a call by Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway for the U.S. to remove all of its nuclear warheads from Europe.
 

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Facing nuclear reality

On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden clearly articulated the contradiction that lies at the heart of the Obama administration's nuclear weapons policy in an address to the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. On the one hand, President Obama has advocated nuclear disarmament; on the other, his administration has just requested $7 billion to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal and modernize the U.S. nuclear infrastructure. In Biden's words, "We will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons, while retaining a safe, secure, and effective arsenal as long as we still need it."

The United States has greatly reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons in recent years, and it has drastically cut the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal: Today's nuclear force is roughly one-quarter the size it was at the end of the Cold War. Precision-guided conventional munitions are today able to perform many of the missions that in years past would have required nuclear weapons. Moreover, ballistic missile defenses today offer options to enhance deterrence without threatening nuclear retaliation.

Although the utility of nuclear weapons has decreased for the United States, their value for potential adversaries, and those of our allies and friends, has grown. The U.S. nuclear arsenal remains the ultimate guarantee of U.S. security against a nuclear attack. Similarly, U.S. nuclear commitments have dissuaded allies such as Japan from acquiring their own nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons have served as a brake on war; eliminating them would once again make the world safe for large-scale conventional war.

Given the enduring importance of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security, the administration's request for additional funding for the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure is a welcome development. Unfortunately, the Bush administration's efforts to fund the nuclear complex offer a cautionary tale. Under Bush, Congressional Democrats cut a Senate-approved funding increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration and cut or eliminated a number of Bush administration nuclear programs and initiatives. One hopes that the Obama administration will fare better.

In the end, however, the administration's budget request is but a partial solution. The United States is the only nuclear power that is not modernizing its arsenal, and neither the administration nor Congress shows any inclination to change that fact. The newest weapons on the U.S. arsenal were designed decades ago, and the expertise to design new ones represents a critical shortfall. Absent modernization, the United States will eventually face the prospect of unilateral nuclear disarmament.
 

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The Obama disarmament paradox

Article Highlights
The latest federal budget request includes a large increase in spending for nuclear weapons.
Such an increase contradicts President Obama's speech in Prague last April, during which he seemed to signal a commitment to significant nuclear disarmament.
Now it's a question of whether Congress will reject the Obama budget request--a strategy it used to keep President George W. Bush from pursuing new nuclear weapon programs.
Last April in Prague, President Barack Obama gave a speech that many have interpreted as a commitment to significant nuclear disarmament.

Now, however, the White House is requesting one of the larger increases in warhead spending history. If its request is fully funded, warhead spending would rise 10 percent in a single year, with further increases promised for the future. Los Alamos National Laboratory, the biggest target of the Obama largesse, would see a 22 percent budget increase, its largest since 1944. In particular, funding for a new plutonium "pit" factory complex there would more than double, signaling a commitment to produce new nuclear weapons a decade hence.

So how is the president's budget compatible with his disarmament vision?

The answer is simple: There is no evidence that Obama has, or ever had, any such vision. He said nothing to that effect in Prague. There, he merely spoke of his commitment "to seek . . . a world without nuclear weapons," a vague aspiration and hardly a novel one at that level of abstraction. He said that in the meantime the United States "will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies."

Since nuclear weapons don't, and won't ever, "deter any adversary," this too was highly aspirational, if not futile. The vain search for an "effective" arsenal that can deter "any" adversary requires unending innovation and continuous real investment, including investment in the extended deterrent to which Obama referred. The promise of such investments, and not disarmament, was the operative message in Prague as far as the U.S. stockpile was concerned. In fact, proposed new investments in extended deterrence were already being packaged for Congress when Obama spoke.

To fulfill his supposed "disarmament vision," Obama offered just two approaches in Prague, both indefinite. First, he spoke vaguely of reducing "the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy." It's far from clear what that might actually mean, or even what it could mean. Most likely it refers to official discourse--what officials say about nuclear doctrine--as opposed to actual facts on the ground. Second, Obama promised to negotiate "a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [START] with the Russians." As far as nuclear disarmament went in the speech, that was it.

Of course, Obama also said his administration would promptly pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an action not yet taken and one entirely unrelated to U.S. disarmament. The rest of the speech was devoted to various nonproliferation initiatives that his administration planned to seek.

On July 8, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced their Joint Understanding, committing their respective countries to somewhere between 500 to 1,100 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,500 to 1,675 deployed strategic warheads, very modest goals to be achieved a full seven years after the treaty entered into force. Total arsenal numbers wouldn't change, so strategic warheads could be taken from deployment and placed in a reserve--de-alerted, in effect. The treaty wouldn't affect nonstrategic warheads. It wouldn't require dismantlement. As Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists has explained, the delivery vehicle limits require little, if any, change from U.S. and Russian expected deployments.

Ironically, it's possible that the retirement PDF of 4,000 or more U.S. warheads under the Moscow Treaty and other retirements ordered by George W. Bush may exceed anything Obama does in terms of disarmament. As for the stockpile and weapons complex, Bush's aspirations were far more hawkish than Congress ultimately allowed. Real budgets for warheads fell during his last three years in office. Now, with the Democrats controlling the executive branch and both houses of Congress, congressional restraint is notable by its absence. What Obama mainly seems to be "disarming" is congressional resistance to variations of some of the same proposals Bush found it difficult to authorize and fund.

Last May Obama sent his first budget to Congress, calling for flat warhead spending. At that time, the administration was still displaying a measured approach toward replacement and expansion of warhead capabilities.

That said, in last year's budget the White House did acquiesce to a Pentagon demand to request funding for a major upgrade to four B61 nuclear bomb variants--one of which had just completed a 20-year-plus life-extension program. Just one day before that budget was released a grand nuclear strategy review previously requested by the armed services committees was unveiled. It was chaired by William Perry, a member of the governing board of the corporation that manages Los Alamos, and recurrent Cold War fixture James Schlesinger. [Full disclosure: Perry is also a member of the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors.]

The report's recommendations for increased spending and weapons development quickly began to serve as a rallying point for defense hawks--surely the point of the exercise. Overall, it was largely a conclusory pastiche of recycled Cold War notions, entirely lacking in analysis and often factually wrong. But neither the White House nor leading congressional Democrats offered any public resistance or rebuttal to its conclusions.

More largely, opposition to nuclear restraint within the administration quickly emerged from its usual redoubts at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Pentagon, STRATCOM, and interested players in both parties in Congress. Plus, Obama left key Bush appointees in place at NNSA while the Pentagon added some familiar faces from the Clinton administration, leaving serious questions about the ability of the White House to develop an independent understanding of the issues, let alone present one to Congress.

Either way, potential treaty ratification is surely a major factor in White House thinking. Senate Republicans, as expected, are demanding significant nuclear investments prior to considering ratification of any START follow-on treaty. Democratic hawks, especially powerful ones with pork-barrel interests at stake such as New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, also must be satisfied in the ratification process. All in all this makes the latest Obama budget request a kind of "preemptive surrender" to nuclear hawks. So whether or not the president has a disarmament "vision" is irrelevant. What is important are the policy commitments embodied in the budget request and whether Congress will endorse them.

Investments on the scale requested should be flatly unacceptable to all of us. The country and the world face truly apocalyptic security challenges from climate change and looming shortages of transportation fuels. Our economy is very weak and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The proposed increases in nuclear weapons spending, embedded as they are in an overall military budget bigger than any since the 1940s, should be a clarion call for renewed political commitment in service of the fundamental values that uphold this, or any, society.

Those values are now gravely threatened--not least by a White House uncertain about, or unwilling or unable to fight for, what is right.
 

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