By Hans M. Kristensen
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.
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.