Looking at "Obama's Nuclear Future"

Today, Foreign Affairs published "Obama's Nuclear Future: The Battle to Reduce the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Begins" by Joe Cirincione. He looks at the past and likely future of President Obama's policies and how we might finally break the grip of Cold War thinking on our nuclear posture.

During the Bush administration plans were developed for new missions, deployments and delivery systems for our nuclear arsenal – a move that, if successful would, have set back for years efforts to stop the spread of these deadly weapons. President Obama was determined to make a shift away from policies of the past. Cirincione notes in his piece:

When Obama came into office in 2009, he was ready to move beyond the United States’ Cold War nuclear posture, which calls for stockpiles that “are much larger than required for deterrence today and that have scant efficacy in dealing with the main contemporary threats to U.S. and global security,” as a 2012 report from Global Zero put it.

In Prague, nearly four years ago, Obama outlined a vision for a world without nuclear weapons. He then directed efforts that yielded security gains with New START, the Nuclear Security Summit and more.

In his first two years, Obama negotiated an arms reduction treaty with Russia (New START), spearheaded several UN Security Council resolutions on nuclear weapons, and gathered 50 world leaders in Washington for a Nuclear Security Summit that forged an action plan for securing nuclear stockpiles. In doing this, he rebuilt U.S. credibility and leadership on nuclear issues.

Cirincione notes that these victories came at a cost. Entrenched political and ideological opponents nearly derailed the arms reduction treaty in the Senate. Although ultimately ratified with a 71 to 26 vote, the fight over New START exhausted the administration, and it shifted away from nuclear policy. As a result, progress languished in 2011 and 2012.

With the election cycle over, Cirincione believes Obama sees this as a prime opportunity to reignite the nuclear agenda:

Now, with re-election behind him, Obama appears determined to finish the job he started. In December, he devoted his first national security speech after the election to nuclear policy. In his remarks, which coincided with the twentieth anniversary of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (projects that have led to the disposal of thousands of nuclear weapons and hundreds of tons of bomb materials in former Soviet states), Obama honored the two legislative founders of the initiative, former U.S. Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). “Missile by missile, warhead by warhead, shell by shell, we’re putting a bygone era behind us,” Obama promised. “We’re moving closer to the future we seek.”

You can read the full article at Foreign Affairs.

Photo: The White House