Obama Proposes Further Cuts in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Obama's proposal to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons comes after his review of U.S. nuclear deterrent requirements.
Obama’s proposal to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons comes after his review of U.S. nuclear deterrent requirements.

By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
June 19, 2013

President Obama says he wants to take “additional steps forward” with Russia to cut the number of deployed nuclear weapons and move further beyond the nuclear postures both countries held during the Cold War.

Speaking in Berlin June 19, Obama said he is pursuing his long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, first announced in Prague in 2009, and said that as a result of the 2011 New START Treaty with Russia, both countries are already on track to cut the number of deployed nuclear weapons to their lowest levels since the 1950s.

“After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third” beyond the cuts made in New START, he said.

Along with calling for the negotiated cuts, the president said he will also work with NATO members to “seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.”

Obama said the United States will host a 2016 summit to follow up on efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world, and that his administration will work to build support for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

He also said he would call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that would end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

“These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice,” Obama said.

According to a June 19 fact sheet released by the White House, the president’s proposals are “the latest in a series of concrete steps the President has made to advance his Prague agenda and the long-term goal of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Obama had directed U.S. national security agencies to conduct a detailed analysis of nuclear deterrence requirements to help align U.S. nuclear policies to “the 21st century security environment.”

Under the president’s new guidance, the United States recognizes that “the potential for a surprise, disarming nuclear attack is exceedingly remote,” and it “will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners,” the fact sheet said.

Obama also directed the Department of Defense to strengthen U.S. non-nuclear capabilities and to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the fact sheet said, the United States will maintain “a safe, secure and effective arsenal” to deter attacks and to guarantee its own defense, as well as that of its allies and partners.

The fact sheet said the president’s guidance “will maintain strategic stability with Russia and China, strengthen regional deterrence, and reassure U.S. allies and partners, while laying the groundwork for negotiations with Russia on how we can mutually and verifiably reduce our strategic and nonstrategic nuclear stockpiles and live up to our commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”

In remarks at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said the progress made by the United States and Russia in reducing their nuclear stockpiles has been “quite impressive.”

Speaking June 18, Countryman said there has been “a reduction of about 80 percent from the peak of the number of weapons that the U.S. and the Russians have had.”

Countryman cautioned that there is “no quick fix” to achieving the president’s goal of getting rid of nuclear weapons, but said the United States is “on a realistic path aimed at reaching nuclear disarmament in stages.”