Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Background 1
Nuclear Policy Review 3

Key Concepts 3

Alternative Postures 5

Major Issues 6

Process 10




Five years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, neither Russian nor American nuclear policy has adjusted to the end of the Cold War. Nuclear issues have been considered in a number of contexts, but the only effort during the first Clinton administration to look at them comprehensively was the "Nuclear Posture Review"of 1993-94. This study, conducted entirely within the Department of Defense, was limited to a review of alternative force postures and made significant recommendations which permitted cutbacks in planned spending on strategic forces. However, this review did not consider fundamental policy issues, such as the purpose of nuclear weapons in the new era. Moreover, because the study's mandate was to search for consensus and to report that consensus up the line, the resulting document did not discuss policy options. Senior officials were briefed on the "results" of the review, not on the available choices. The risks of current policy - including the continuing danger of accidental nuclear strikes and diversion of nuclear materials, the possibility that additional states will decide that they need to acquire nuclear weapons, and the adverse consequences of the United States being seen as ignoring its international commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons - were not fully discussed, nor were opportunities to make significant new progress assessed.

A different procedure must be followed if the President is to be presented with an opportunity to make fundamental decisions affecting the nuclear fate of the world based on a full statement of the values and risks of each option. First, the President needs to reiterate his desire to make further progress in reducing the risk of nuclear war and to be presented with a full range of choices. The National Security Council must then take the lead in managing a thorough interagency review that would lead to a report describing all available options. Finally, the fundamental policy issues raised by the study and the major choices should be the subject of full debate among senior officials, members of Congress and the American public so that the critical steps necessary to reduce the risks of nuclear war and nuclear proliferation can be taken.

This paper makes the case for a new White House-led review of nuclear policy by describing the background of recent developments, by detailing the fundamental questions affecting U.S. nuclear policy, and by reviewing the major issues that the new administration needs to confront. Finally, a framework by which such a new nuclear policy review should be conducted is presented with draft terms of reference for the proposed study.


U.S. nuclear policy during the Cold War had one imperative: to deter Soviet aggression and, failing that, to respond to Soviet military attacks. Deterrence, massive and ineluctable, was the linchpin of U.S. policy. Because the United States and its allies depended on the threat of initiating the use of nuclear weapons to deter conventional attacks, large numbers of tactical nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe and other locations, as well as on ships at sea. The strategic forces were kept on a hair trigger alert with the capacity to fire on clear evidence of a Soviet attack. In pursuing robust deterrence, the United States clearly accepted risks of inadvertent or accidental nuclear war. In addition, the United States sacrificed progress on arms control agreements like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) for fear that they might undermine nuclear deterrence.

These threats have evaporated or changed, and with them the imperative of a robust, risk-taking nuclear force. The prime danger to U.S. interests may now stem more from accidental or inadvertent use and from proliferation of nuclear weapons than deliberate aggression, mandating a fundamental rethinking of U.S. nuclear policy. Indeed, change in U.S. nuclear policy has come, but much more slowly than the radical change in circumstances suggests may be appropriate.

The adjustment of U.S. nuclear policy to the post-Cold War era began in the Bush administration. Acting on the basis of a review limited to a small number of senior officials, President Bush directed sweeping changes in the U.S. nuclear posture. Nuclear weapons were removed from all ships at sea (with the exception of ballistic missile submarines) and from overseas bases outside Europe. Within Europe, the number of nuclear weapons was drastically reduced. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of the Reagan years was transformed into a much more modest Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS) program. The Bush administration also signed START II with a focus on de-mirving land-based forces. In a separate agreement, the administration made arrangements by which the United States would purchase from Russia 500 tons of enriched uranium made superfluous by these, and other, force reductions. In a similar vein during this period, Congress began the cooperative threat reduction program with the landmark Nunn-Lugar legislation.

This momentum was largely maintained in the Clinton administration. President Clinton, in a series of ad-hoc decisions, took important steps to reduce the danger of nuclear war and nuclear proliferation. He and Russian President Yeltsin reached an agreement whereby U.S. and Russian nuclear forces were no longer targeted on each others' cities or territory. With vigorous U.S. leadership, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely and the CTBT was signed. An agreement was reached with North Korea, committing that country to giving up its nuclear weapons program.

At the same time, significant progress has been made in implementing programs inherited from the Bush administration. The Senate ratified START II. The Nunn-Lugar program was institutionalized in the Pentagon. South Africa, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine agreed to denuclearize. The ABM Treaty was preserved through a policy of national missile defense research and theater missile defense development and deployment.

However, none of these steps forward resulted from the Nuclear Posture Review. In fact, if the conclusions of that review continue to guide nuclear policy, they will stand in the way of further progress. The most important and most questionable conclusion reached, using methodologies inherited from the Cold War, was that the United States could not meet its security requirements if it agreed to further reductions in nuclear forces beyond those mandated by START II. Accepting as given nuclear targeting requirements developed when Soviet forces surrounded West Berlin, the study ruled out seeking agreement with the Russians on significantly lower force levels. It also rejected longer term efforts to reach agreement among the five nuclear weapons states to move toward very low levels and to seek to develop the conditions that would permit the elimination of nuclear weapons. The review did not give serious consideration to seeking agreement with the Russians to move strategic weapons off alert or to separate warheads from delivery systems - steps that would provide much greater protection against accidental or inadvertent nuclear war than the de-targeting agreement. Moreover, the 1993 Nuclear Posture Review assumed that the United States would continue to rely on nuclear weapons for a variety of purposes beyond deterring the use of nuclear weapons by others and the need for readiness to expand its forces if Russia were to turn hostile again; it also rejected the view that further progress on nonproliferation required that the nuclear weapons states abandon their efforts to use nuclear weapons to pursue objectives other than deterrence of nuclear threats.

Nuclear Policy Review

In contrast, the nuclear policy review proposed here would address the fundamental questions regarding the role of nuclear weapons in the current period and explore both short term and long term objectives, including the question of whether the United States should now embrace the goal of abolition of nuclear weapons as an operational objective.

Key Concepts

If the proposed review is successful, it will yield new insights in the following key concepts:

1. Nuclear weapons policy as a component of U.S. political-military strategy. To what ends are nuclear weapons held, what purposes do they serve, when might they be used, and against whom might they be used?

2. Nuclear weapons as a deterrent of nuclear attacks on American territory. What nuclear forces are necessary to deter nuclear attacks on the United States? How can these forces be designed and deployed so that they deter deliberate attacks without increasing the risk of inadvertent or accidental attacks and without retarding efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals and prevent nuclear proliferation? Should the United States supplement deterrence and arms control by deploying strategic defenses?

3. Nuclear weapons as an extended deterrent. Should the United States rely on its nuclear arsenal to deter nuclear attacks or conventional attacks by nuclear weapons states against U.S. allies? Does extended deterrence require forces different in type, quantity, delivery means, basing mode or location from those that deter nuclear threats against the United States? How is this role best accomplished so that threats from inadvertent or accidental attacks are minimized and the U.S. objective of nonproliferation is bolstered? How would the nuclear weapons states, as well as the potential nuclear weapons states, react to any changes in U.S. policy?

4. Nuclear weapons as a deterrent of chemical and biological threats. Can the United States deter chemical and biological threats against itself, its armed forces, and its allies without relying on threats of nuclear retaliation? What other means are available to deter such attacks? Are threats of nuclear strikes a credible means of deterring such attacks?

5. Nuclear weapons policy as an element of threat reduction and arms control. How can implementation of the START series be expedited? What are the next achievable milestones in arms control? In what forum and with what participants should additional agreements be negotiated? When should the bilateral negotiations between Russia and the United States be expanded to include the other three nuclear weapons states? Can the web of regulatory treaties and suppliers' cartels (NPT, CTBT, MTCR, CWC, BWC, Australia Group) be managed as an integrated regime? How should the undeclared nuclear powers (Israel, India, and Pakistan) be brought into these negotiations, if at all?

6. Nuclear weapons policy as an element of cooperative threat reduction. What can the United States do in conjunction with the Russians, or more generally with the other four nuclear weapons states, to regulate and coordinate the operations, doctrine, and postures of their nuclear forces to reduce nuclear risks (including the risks of unauthorized, accidental, and inadvertent use and theft of nuclear material)? Should efforts be made to discuss these issues with the undeclared nuclear powers? How can strategic defenses, if desired, be integrated without increasing other risks (i.e., those with Russia and China)? How can the United States act with the other nuclear weapons states and the undeclared nuclear powers to reach agreement on a treaty to cut off the production of fissile materials, account for current inventories, and liquidate excess stocks?

7. Nuclear weapons policy as an element of the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. How, if at all, do the characteristics of U.S. nuclear policy affect the norm of nonproliferation? Are additional assurances by the nuclear weapons states that they will not use nuclear weapons first important to preventing nuclear proliferation? What are the costs of such declarations? Are significant additional reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states necessary to make gains in the fight against proliferation? Does the continuing U.S. commitment to use nuclear weapons if necessary to deal with conventional attacks on our allies by other nuclear weapons states prevent or stimulate proliferation? What are the other consequences of this policy, including those on the requirements for strategic forces? How should the United States seek to deal with near nuclear weapons states and other states that might seek to acquire nuclear weapons over the next ten years?

8. Nuclear Weapons as an element of domestic politics. What is the role of nuclear weapons in the domestic and bureaucratic politics of the nuclear weapons states? What is their role in the politics of the undeclared nuclear powers? What can the United States do to overcome the domestic obstacles that prevent progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons in other states?

Alternative Postures

In order to permit the President and his principal advisers to address these issues in a comprehensive way, the proposed nuclear policy review needs to examine at least the following four basic nuclear postures as well as a number of specific issues in which choices would be informed, if not dictated, by the basic choice of a nuclear posture.

In order to permit the President to understand his basic choices, the nuclear policy review should describe the following fundamental postures and present a clear statement of the pros and cons of each. For each posture, the long term end needs to be specified as well as the immediate steps that can be taken in pursuit of the objective. In directing the study, the President should make clear his interest in seriously exploring all of the options and determining if the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons is now a practical alternative.

1. Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Every U.S. President from Truman to Reagan stated that he sought the elimination of nuclear weapons. The United States and the other nuclear weapons states are committed under the NPT as well as the CTBT to negotiate in good faith to seek the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. In order to demonstrate its genuine commitment to this objective, the United States would have to decide that the only legitimate role for nuclear weapons is to deter others from using nuclear weapons. Thus, if they can be eliminated worldwide, there is no legitimate reason to retain them. The United States would therefore undertake the leadership of a global effort to commence movement toward a firmly avowed goal of abolition. First steps would include - but not be limited to - reductions in nuclear weapon stock piles beyond those called for in present treaties, and removing remaining weapons from their present hair-trigger alert status, under adequate monitoring and verification regimes.

2. 100 Weapons for Each Nuclear Weapons State

The United States would support this option if it believed that nuclear weapons should be used only to deter their use by other states, but that there was at present insufficient confidence that reliable ways could be developed to verify the destruction of all existing nuclear weapons and fissionable material and to detect and deal with any effort to secretly violate such an accord. In order to pursue this option, the United States would need to begin negotiations among the five nuclear weapons states to reach agreement on equal reductions to 100 weapons for each state. Agreements would have to be negotiated with the three de facto nuclear states that they either will not actually acquire nuclear weapons or will limit themselves to some proportionately low number. All other states would need to agree to join the NPT. Credible and binding assurances would have to be provided to all states that they would be protected against nuclear threats. The nuclear weapons states would need to agree to a sweeping no first use agreement and to store all of their remaining weapons on their own territory, separate from any delivery systems.

3. 1000 Strategic Warheads for Russia and the United States

Under this option the United States would focus first on reducing the threat of an accidental or unauthorized Russian nuclear attack on the United States and on leakage of nuclear materials from Russia, while retaining forces sufficient to deter a deliberate Russian attack and to provide extended deterrence of nuclear attacks to protect U.S. allies. The United States would seek agreement with Russia on lower levels than those mandated by START II in order to facilitate ratification of that treaty by the Duma. This option would require some modifications in nuclear targeting policy and could include efforts to reach further agreements with the Russians to take weapons off alert and to separate warheads from delivery systems. This posture has two sub-options. On the one hand, the United States could proceed with a program similar to that outlined in option 2 except that it would keep a larger number of warheads. On the other hand, it could adopt a program consistent with current policy as explained in option 4 except for the willingness to agree to a smaller number of strategic warheads.

4. Current Policy

Current U.S. nuclear policy focusses on Russian ratification of START II and maintenance of the existing targeting policy, which requires the capacity to destroy large numbers of Russian targets in the event of a large nuclear attack. After the Duma ratified START II the United States would consider moving to lower levels of perhaps 2,000 warheads. The United States might continue to store tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and it would resist efforts to move closer to a no first use agreement and would continue to make ambiguous statements about the possibility that nuclear weapons might be used in response to the use of chemical or biological weapons by other states. International agreement on the control or elimination of excess fissile materials could be a part of this option, but need not be.

Major Issues

In addition to discussing these basic choices, the nuclear policy review needs to develop options on a set of specific issues. Decisions on these questions should be informed by the choice of basic approaches made by the President in consultation with Congress. At the same time, the choice of a basic option requires an understanding of the implications of that choice for a range of specific issues.

1. Nuclear Targeting. U.S. weapons have for many years been targeted against several basic categories of aims: opposing strategic nuclear weapons and command facilities, enemy leadership, conventional military infrastructure and forces, and urban/industrial concentrations. The forces have been coordinated through a Single Integrated Operating Plan (SIOP), which maximized the destructive power of the arsenal in a series of elaborate preplanned attacks aimed at accomplishing war fighting tasks. The complexity and time required to plan, together with the explicitly military goals, and the real or imagined need for speed, have conspired to limit the flexibility of the President in carrying out any attack. The targeting options took account of the fact that under certain circumstances, the United States might initiate the use of nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack by a nuclear power, initiate a strategic strike in response to a use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield by the Soviet Union, or launch nuclear weapons in situations in which the President is no longer in a position to authorize an attack. There may also be planning for the use of nuclear weapons in response to chemical or biological attacks.

Both the rigid methodology and the obsolete, apolitical rationale of current targeting plans should be reexamined. A revised doctrine might give higher salience to the threat of unauthorized, inadvertent, or accidental use rather than the historical emphasis on countering a deliberate first strike. Consideration should also be given to the question of whether targeting doctrine should determine what force size is "required" or whether a range of possible target plans should be developed consistent with whatever force size emerges from international negotiations. Planning might be based on the clear understanding that nuclear weapons will be used only in response to a nuclear attack and only at the explicit direction of the President.

2. Nuclear Alert Posture. Though the U.S. has "de-targeted," it still operates the majority of its forces in a quasi-alert posture which may be quickly (in a matter of minutes) altered to bring considerable forces to readiness and to "re-target" them on Russia. This forces the Russians, who are experiencing severe internal difficulties in maintaining their nuclear forces, to operate at a corresponding pace - putting their nuclear establishment under undue stress given current political realities. This quasi-alert posture does little to lengthen the "nuclear fuse." Taking most or all nuclear forces off alert and separating warheads from at least the land-based delivery systems would reduce the risk of accidental or inadvertent use.

U.S. strategic forces have traditionally been postured to assure survival and effective retaliation in order to deter deliberate nuclear or conventional attacks. This posture has included dependence on warning - both strategic and tactical - for survival; on the synergies provided by the triad; and on extremely rapid decision making by political leaders. These force constraints are the main drivers of the continued alert posture. A true lengthening of the nuclear fuse requires forces and command systems that are not dependent for their survival and effective use on reliable warning, the performance of other legs of the triad, or a prompt response. The costs and risks of these moves need to be assessed by considering the circumstances in which Russian missiles might be launched at the United States and asking if such unauthorized or accidental strikes can be prevented by an alert posture.

3. Force Structure. The United States continues to rely on the triad of land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles, and long range bombers to deliver nuclear weapons. Maintaining and modernizing the triad is expensive and makes it more difficult to negotiate further reductions with the Russians. The United States should consider basing schemes other than the triad. Each of the other issues discussed in this memorandum has implications for the force structure which need to be assessed.

4. Arms Control Among the Nuclear Weapons States. President Clinton has indicated a willingness to discuss with the Russians further reductions of nuclear forces once START II is ratified, and Secretary Perry has suggested that it might be possible to discuss now a framework for START III. This suggests a moving away from the conclusion of the Nuclear Posture Review that significant further reductions were not consistent with the existing "requirements" for strategic forces. The United States should consider now indicating a willingness to negotiate a framework agreement for further substantial bilateral reductions with the Russians, including limits on all nuclear weapons and on fissionable material which would take effect when START II was ratified by the Duma. This action would facilitate ratification. At the same time, the United States, while keeping some issues in the bilateral U.S.-Russian channel, should consider beginning negotiations among the five nuclear weapons states to implement their commitment under Article VI of the NPT to reduce and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons. The impact of these options on nuclear deterrence and nuclear proliferation needs to be examined.

5. Near and New Nuclear Nations. One of the greatest dangers, and most intractable problems, is the issue of potential nuclear weapons states. There are three undeclared de-facto nuclear weapons states - India, Pakistan, and Israel - who have refused to sign the NPT and accept its division of the world into five nuclear weapons states (albeit with a commitment to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenal) and all other states - who are not permitted to have nuclear weapons. There are three other states - Iran, North Korea, and Iraq - who have signed the NPT, but are believed to have had, or to have, clandestine nuclear weapons programs. There are still other states - such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea - who may obstruct further efforts to constrain other states and eventually seek to acquire nuclear weapons if the nuclear weapons states are not seen as continuing to make progress toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. The United States needs to consider a range of options to deal with these three sets of states, including an assessment of how U.S. nuclear policy affects the decisions of these nations and what combination of monitoring, incentives and threats might freeze and then rollback the status quo for Israel, India, and Pakistan and deter any state from withdrawing from the NPT or seeking clandestinely to develop nuclear weapons.

6. Strategic Defenses. National missile defenses are only justified, particularly in view of their high cost, by real missile threats to the U.S. homeland that are not handled adequately by a strategy of deterrence or by arms control. These potential threats could be accidental or inadvertent launches by Russia or China, or small-scale launches by a rogue state or terrorist entity. The value of meeting these threats by strategic defenses must be balanced against technical feasibility, budgetary concerns, consideration of other means by which nuclear weapons could be delivered against the United States, and by the effect the fielding of such forces would have on proliferation, and on our cooperative efforts with the Russians and Chinese to reduce nuclear dangers.

7. Tactical Nuclear Weapons. The United States has returned almost all of its tactical nuclear weapons to its own territory, and should consider returning the remaining weapons and destroying some or even all of these devices. This should be accomplished either unilaterally or by agreement with the Russians, who have a much larger tactical nuclear arsenal, and eventually with the other three nuclear weapons states as well. To the extent that a nuclear deterrent is desired to deter other than strategic nuclear attacks, it would be supplied by the remaining strategic forces. If the United States decided that it could remove the remaining nuclear weapons in Europe, it could consider seeking to negotiate an agreement among the five nuclear weapons states to base nuclear weapons only on their own territory.

8. Negative and Positive Security Assurances. Debate persists about the relationship between security assurances and nuclear proliferation. Some believe that there is no real connection and that would-be proliferators simply use the ambiguity of assurances as an excuse. Others believe that robust assurances, backed by a positive trend in U.S. actions, can aid in efforts to prevent the near, and de facto, nuclear weapons states from moving forward with their nuclear programs, facilitate adherence to the CTBT by potential nuclear states, and deter first use by rogue states against other nations. There are similarly different views about the desirability of the United States adopting and announcing a policy of not initiating the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances and seeking to negotiate a no first use agreement among the five nuclear weapons states.

9. Nuclear Weapon System Research and Development and Manufacturing Base. Current policy calls for the maintenance of manufacturing and R&D capabilities for both strategic nuclear delivery systems and associated nuclear warheads and bombs that will be retained as part of a so-called "enduring stockpile." Which types of nuclear weapon R&D and manufacturing capabilities, on what scale, and at what approximate cost, would constitute the minimum essential capabilities needed to support each of the fundamental nuclear postures outlined above? In conducting this analysis, attention should be paid to assessing the cost-effectiveness of maintaining various levels of dedicated nuclear weapon R&D and manufacturing capacity in being, versus options based on careful advance planning for mobilization and reconstitution of this base, when necessary, over longer periods. Options for the nuclear explosives R&D and manufacturing base should be analyzed and presented separately from the options for delivery systems, before being combined into the requested set of options for policy. Which critical capabilities are generic to the conventional defense industrial base as a whole, and thus likely to be maintained in any event irrespective of the nuclear policy option chosen? Of those capabilities that are unique - such as nuclear weapon design and engineering capabilities - how large a program should be maintained in light of the nonproliferation, arms control, international security, and budget implications of maintaining expensive "hedge" or "breakout" capabilities that cannot be fully exercised under U.S. treaty and unilateral policy commitments?


In order to address these issues in a fundamental and systematic manner, a nuclear policy review should be conducted by the new administration in a manner that involves all relevant agencies, is as open to the public as security requirements permit, and assures that all issues will be presented for a decision by the President, who can choose from a range of options.

This effort should be completed in three months' time and organized as follows:

The nuclear policy review, which would be overseen by the National Security Advisor, consists of a study conducted by a task force along the lines of the attached terms of reference. The inter-agency task force should be chaired by a senior official on the staff of the National Security Council and involve senior officials from other agencies, including the Departments of State, Defense and Energy, the Joint Staff, ACDA, CIA, OMB, and the Science Advisor to the President. The task force would consult with outside experts (including retired military officers) and review reports by private groups, including the Canberra Commission. Outside experts should also be assembled in teams to include advocates supportive of each major posture; each team would prepare the best possible case for the posture its members advocate as well as a critique of the other postures. (This use of experts follows a model used by President Eisenhower early in his first term to examine alternatives to containment.)

At the conclusion of the study, the task force would issue a Report presenting all options that it believes are serious alternatives meriting the consideration of the President and his principal advisors, including: current policy and the options presented in the terms of reference, and other options, if any, that are endorsed by any participating agency or suggested in private reports. The completed Report, along with the papers prepared by the teams of experts supporting each posture, should be vetted by the Deputies Committee of the NSC to insure that it includes a full range of issues and options with a fair and complete statement of the pros and cons of each alternative. After the Report is viewed by the Deputies, but before it is presented to the Principals and to the President, an unclassified version should be prepared and released so that the President can have the benefit of congressional and public views as well as the view of other governments in considering the alternatives presented.

The Report should describe both short term and long term goals, identifying issues which require immediate decisions and actions, as well as issues which require additional study, so that decisions can be made in the future.