Obama narrows the role of nuclear weapons

Almost one year to the day after the President outlined his vision for a nuclear weapon-free future in a speech in Prague, the Obama Administration released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) today.

The congressionally-mandated NPR requires the President to articulate the nation's nuclear strategy and the forces needed to carry it out.  

"Today, my administration is taking a significant step forward by fulfilling another pledge that I made in Prague—to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist," the President said in a statement.

Nuclear policy experts, including many Ploughshares Fund partners, welcomed the President's decision to narrow the role nuclear weapons play in national security to the fundamental role of deterring nuclear attack, and the NPR's focus on nuclear terrorism. "Though the positives significantly outweigh the negatives," said John Isaacs, president of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, "the report stops short of saying that the 'sole' purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the U.S. and its allies nor does it call for the U.S. to adopt a 'no first use' policy.  The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons for any other purpose but deterrence.  A 'sole purpose' and 'no first use' declaration would have further strengthened the credibility of the U.S. conventional deterrent and reduced the incentives that other states might have to acquire nuclear weapons to protect themselves from a U.S. first strike."

For the first time, the review maps out a strategy for the U.S. to combat nuclear proliferation and the spread of dangerous nuclear materials.