The Obama administration is edging toward decisions that would further shrink the U.S. nuclear arsenal, possibly to between 1,000 and 1,100 warheads, reflecting new thinking on the role of nuclear weapons in an age of terrorism, say current and former officials.
The reductions under consideration align with President Obama’s vision of trimming the nation’s nuclear arsenal without harming national security in the short term, and in the longer term, eliminating nuclear weapons.
The White House has yet to announce any plan for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, beyond commitments made in the recently completed New START with Russia, which obliges both countries to reduce their number of deployed long-range nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 by 2018. As of March 1, Russia already had dropped its total to 1,492, and the U.S. stood at 1,737.
Mr. Obama has been considering a range of options for additional cuts, including a low-end range that would leave between 300 and 400 warheads. Several current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said a consensus appeared to be building around a reduction to 1,000 to 1,100 deployed strategic warheads.
Officials have said in recent days that a decision could be announced this month. But given Republican criticism of any proposed further cuts and the heating up of the presidential election campaign, the White House might put the decisions on hold until after November.
Any reductions are likely to stir opposition among Republicans in Congress, who say Mr. Obama underestimates the importance of a stable nuclear deterrent.
“I just want to go on record as saying that there are many of us that are going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that this preposterous notion does not gain any real traction,” said Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican and House Armed Services Committee member, when the Associated Press revealed the scope of possible cuts in February.
Beyond the argument over numbers is a more fundamental issue: What role do nuclear weapons have after the Cold War, now that the threat of all-out nuclear war with Moscow has abated? Do nuclear weapons deter al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations? The administration considered these questions in an internal reassessment of nuclear weapons policy.
Advocates of cutting below 1,550 argue that nuclear weapons serve an increasingly narrow purpose and that their large numbers undercut the credibility of demands that Iran and other nations forgo acquiring their own.
Opponents argue that the U.S. should not risk losing its predominant position in the nuclear arena while North Korea, Iran and other nations are pursuing their own nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Obama has made clear in recent statements that he thinks the time is right to break with the past.
“The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited to today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism,” he said March 26 in Seoul. “We can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”
By Jay Sekulow
The left's outrage over the IRS turns to a plea to 'move on'
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Manhattan-based free-market urban bloggers bringing original political content with fresh, young voices
Things to do, places to go, new spots to enjoy with friends and family from Norfolk to Washington, D.C., to Delaware and all points inbetween.
Take a look at our pet friendly reviews and travel tips or find the best vacation deals and activities compiled by the The Washington Times Communities experts.
Empowering mind/body/spirit and health dialogue along with cutting-edge, conscious social, political, and world commentary with Adam Omkara. Join the Evolution!
World's Ugliest Dog Contest
Spelling Bee finale
Marines train Afghan soldiers
Rolling Thunder 2013
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal