Obama’s Nuclear Legacy Slipping Away

Time is now for arms control - “President Obama, who has weighed ruling out a first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict, appears likely to abandon the proposal after top national security advisers argued that it could undermine allies and embolden Russia and China, according to several senior administration officials,” write David Sanger and William Broad for The New York Times.

--“Mr. Obama considers a reduction in the role of nuclear weapons as critical to his legacy. But he has been chagrined to hear critics, including some former senior aides, argue that the administration’s second-term nuclear modernization plans, costing up to $1 trillion in coming decades, undermine commitments he made in 2009… Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry said in a recent interview, ‘It’s the right time,’ noting that the pledge would formalize what has been America’s unspoken policy for decades.” Full article here. http://nyti.ms/2c0yhet

See also - “The nuclear weapons debate we need,” by the Editorial Board of The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/2c7LQKc

No first use is the right choice - “It is time to adjust US nuclear declaratory policy. The circumstances that led US leaders to reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict are long gone. Today, the United States and its allies have the means to counter any realistic nonnuclear military threat with superior conventional military, economic, and alliance capabilities. The threat of first use also lacks credibility, since the costs of such use would greatly outweigh the benefits,” write Daryl Kimball and Kingston Reif for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--“Core elements of US nuclear posture have remained much the same for almost five decades, including the option to use nuclear weapons first. Over the years, we have been very lucky that nuclear weapons have been not used, by accident or by design. But in today’s global security environment, the threat of nuclear first use is no longer necessary, credible, or prudent.” Full article here. http://bit.ly/2bSdDiy

ICBM funny money - “The U.S. Air Force's program to develop and field a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the aging Minuteman III in the nuclear arsenal is now projected to cost at least $85 billion, about 36 percent more than a preliminary estimate by the service. Even the $85 billion calculated by the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office is a placeholder number that's at the low end of potential costs, according to an Aug. 23 memo from Pentagon weapons buyer Frank Kendall to Air Force Secretary Deborah James,” writes Anthony Capaccio for Bloomberg.

--“At this stage of the ICBM program ‘there is significant uncertainty about program costs’ because ‘the historical data is limited and there has been a long gap since the last’ such development program, Kendall wrote.” Full article here. http://bloom.bg/2c7NrQc

Tweet - @Cirincione: "Why should anyone’s finger be anywhere near a nuclear trigger?"… via @Salon http://bit.ly/2bHkGXt

Rightsizing the nuclear stockpile - “Does the United States need the arsenal it has now? Obama seems to be mulling this very question as his tenure winds down. In a June 6 speech to the Arms Control Association, his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, noted that ‘the modernization plan was put together in a different budget environ­ment, with a different Congress,’ and that the president ‘will continue to review these plans as he considers how to hand the baton off to his successor,’” writes Fred Kaplan for Foreign Affairs.

--“In the 1980s, nuclear weapons dominated discussions of national security affairs to a degree that special­ists under the age of, say, 50 would find baffling. The arsenals of both sides had grown to such staggering levels… that the nuclear arms race entered a realm of almost pure abstraction… Notwithstanding the tensions between the United States and Russia in the era of Vladimir Putin, this sort of contest has long been abandoned. So it’s an ideal time… to ask some basic questions. What does the United States need nuclear weapons for? And how many, of what sort, are enough?” Full piece here. http://fam.ag/2b4cmkC

Tweet - @KingstonAReif: Thoughtful piece from Jim Doyle in Survival: " Better Ways to Modernise the US Nuclear Arsenal" http://bit.ly/2c7Z6yl

Iran Deal criticism misses the mark - “The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)... recently released a report on the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Over the years, the Institute has justifiably won the respect of members of Congress and nonproliferation analysts for its technical reports. This is not to suggest that the reports were without flaws… Sadly, this most recent report relies on speculation more than technical analysis or evidence based claims,” writes Jim Walsh for LobeLog.

--“And so we need to judge these issues in perspective. Has the agreement made us safer and reduced Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons? Yes. Do any of the claims in the report suggest that the agreement has failed, or that we are safer without it? No. Are the ‘concerns’ raised by the report actually consistent with normal practice in other nuclear agreements that have enhanced U.S. and global security? Yes… the fact is, to the consternation of its critics, the agreement is working.” Full piece here. http://bit.ly/2cx5JvN

No, Iran was not advantaged - “Let’s keep things in perspective. Under the JCPOA, Iran eliminated all of its usable 20%-enriched uranium and 98% of its 3.5% low-enriched uranium (LEU). All Iran is allowed to keep on hand, for 15 years, is 300kg of LEU. This limit and the restrictions on centrifuge numbers and types ensure that Iran cannot ‘break out’ of its non-proliferation obligations and produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than a year,” writes Mark Fitzpatrick for the International Institute for Strategic Studies. http://bit.ly/2bTvWpK

Tweet - @CherylRofer: @ArmsControlWonk I did a little piece on the latest Iran kerfuffle too. http://bit.ly/2cDFZPP

Quick Hits:

--“Senate should support efforts against nuclear tests,” by Kathy Crandall Robinson for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2bXW8LV

--“Group Seeks Nuclear Ban Negotiations,” by Kingston Reif for Arms Control Today. http://bit.ly/2bQiaxW

--“Nuclear site police reveal 130 security breaches,” by the BBC. http://bbc.in/2cxhYpq

--“Inside the secret U.S.-North Korea ‘Track 2’ diplomacy,” by Josh Rogin for The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/2ckINy5


--“Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hearing on ‘The Administration's Proposal for a U.N. Resolution on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty,’ with Stephen Rademaker, Podesta Group, and Michael Krepon, Stimson Center. September 7 at 2:30 p.m., 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington. Webcast on the committee website. http://bit.ly/2cpzjAq

--“Lessons Learned from Eliminating WMD,” featuring Rose Gottemoeller, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Rebecca Hersman, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Robert Peters, National Defense University; and Philipp Bleek, Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), September 12 from 1:-00 to 3:00 p.m. at CNS, 1400 K St., NW, Suite 1225, Washington. RSVP by Sept. 8 online.” http://bit.ly/2c7UoAL

--“20 Years Later: The United States and the Future of the CTBT,” with Rose Gottemoeller, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Adam Scheinman, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation; Mitsuru Kitano, Japanese Ambassador to the International Organizations in Vienna; and Kairat Umarov, Kazak Ambassador to the United States. Sponsored by the Stimson Center and Arms Control Association. September 13 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. at the Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Eighth Floor, Washington. RSVP Online. http://bit.ly/2ch0v77

--“The Future of Arms Control and Strategic Stability,” with 10 speakers. September 15 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Carnegie Endowment, 1179 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP online. http://ceip.org/2c7ZiNV

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