The New York Times: Which President Cut the Most Nukes?

By Hans M. Kristensen

The New York Time today profiles my recent blog about U.S. presidential nuclear weapon stockpile reductions.

The core of the story is that the Obama administration, despite its strong arms control rhetoric and efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons, so far has cut fewer nuclear warheads from the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile than any other administration in history.

Even in terms of effect on the overall stockpile size, the Obama administration has had the least impact of any of the post-Cold War presidents.

There are obviously reasons for the disappointing performance: The administration has been squeezed between, on the one side, a conservative U.S. congress that has opposed any and every effort to reduce nuclear forces, and on the other side, a Russian president that has rejected all proposals to reduce nuclear forces below the New START Treaty level and dismissed ideas to expand arms control to non-strategic nuclear weapons (even though he has recently said he is interested in further reductions).

As a result, the United States and its allies (and Russians as well) will be threatened by more nuclear weapons than could have been the case had the Obama administration been able to fulfill its arms control agenda.

Congress only approved the modest New START Treaty in return for the administration promising to undertake a sweeping modernization of the nuclear arsenal and production complex. Because the force level is artificially kept at levels above and beyond what is needed for national and international security commitments, the bill to the American taxpayer will be much higher than necessary.

The New York Times article says the arms control community is renouncing the Obama administration for its poor performance. While we are certainly disappointed, what we’re actually seeking is a policy change that cuts excess capacity in the arsenal, eliminates redundancy, stimulates further international reductions, and saves the taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.

In addition to taking limited unilateral steps to reduce excess nuclear capacity, the Obama administration should spend its remaining two years in office testing Putin’s recent insistence on “negotiating further nuclear arms reductions.” The fewer nuclear weapons that threaten Americans and Russians the better. That should be a no-brainer for any president and any congress.

New York Times: Which President Cut the Most Nukes?
FAS Blog: How Presidents Arm and Disarm

This publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

2 thoughts on “The New York Times: Which President Cut the Most Nukes?

  1. It’s not the strength of a conservative Congress, or at least a more conservative House over the last four years, that has prevented farther arms control agreements or unilateral disarmament. No matter how you want to paint it, the failure to achieve meaningful results rest solely on the White House. There is no leadership. It’s just not a priority. Just as many Democrats in Congress voted for billions of dollars in DOE nuclear facility improvements and the LEPs as did Republicans. For them, its about jobs. The American nuclear industry is just as important in blue states, California and Washington as it is in red states, Texas and Tennessee. To achieve arms control success in Washington DC, you need an articulated plan and the ability to compromise. Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush achieved success in dramatic fashion because they didn’t ask permission. They had a plan, made quiet compromises with any in Congress that opposed that plan and did it all outside of direct public scrutiny. That’s leadership; that’s the way it’s done.

    This White House? There is no leadership. It’s just not a priority.

    Frank Shuler
    USA

  2. I’m not sure what it means to say “the Obama administration, despite its strong arms control rhetoric and efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons, so far has cut fewer nuclear warheads from the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile than any other administration in history.”

    The apparent message in the following paragraph, which begins “There are obviously reasons for the disappointing performance, of course… ” is that nothing short of absolute and unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States of America is a desirable ultimate policy goal.

    And in the real world where our “partners” in strategic arms control each have agendas incompatible with maintenance of the global status quo and the need for a potent nuclear umbrella under which to expand their military presence in neighboring areas, such disarmament is not only strategically unwise for us and the nations huddling under OUR tattered nuclear umbrella, it could result in a nuclear release that might have been avoided if we had simply retained a stronger nuclear deterrent.

    I would say that one explanation for the Obama administration’s failure to reduce the US nuclear stockpile further is that it’s already lower than it ought to be, both in terms of total numbers and in terms of reliable weapons on delivery systems – one W76 on a SLBM, for example, is one too many, given the public misgiving of Los Alamos scientists about the reliability of that weapon. For us to have a weapon about which knowledgeable people have serious doubts in our deterrent force is irresponsible.

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