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Obama to Downsize US Nuclear Arsenal

Signaling shift from stockpiles to Administration's embrace of 'targeted' warfare

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Signaling that war-times are a' changing, in the same week that the White House released their legal justification behind the covert 'kill list' to members of Congress, a new report released Friday by the Centre for Public Integrity (CPI) said that the Obama administration has decided to cut one third of its current nuclear arsenal.

(Photo: tommytex2001 via Flickr) The existing arms ceiling, agreed to in the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, allows for 1550 warheads but imposes no limits on nuclear weapons that are held in storage or considered of “tactical” or short-range use; the US has an estimated 2,700 of these weapons.

According to the new report, Obama will cut the number of deployed warheads to 1000-1,100 and begin to constrain the size of the previously unrestrained categories, potentially shrinking the total number of nuclear warheads to less than 3,500 and perhaps as low as 2,500, or a bit more than half the present arsenal.

In a slight nod to the changing face of warfare and the Administration's embrace of more unilateral, 'targeted killings,' the report cites a revised nuclear policy adopted by Obama 2010, which endorses the use of a "smaller U.S. arsenal to deter attack or protect American interests by targeting fewer, but more important, military or political sites in Russia, China, and several other countries."

Activists are tentatively rejoicing in this news. Arguing that the partial disarmament "would not affect national security and save many billions of dollars" Joe Cirincione, the president of the anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund said:

Reducing our immense nuclear arsenal has a number of benefits: it would strengthen U.S. global leadership, enhance the country's ability to deter new nuclear weapon states, accelerate efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, and greatly reduce the danger of the use of nuclear weapons from miscalculation, misunderstanding, or accident. It would make us all safer. [...]

With the election and the Inauguration complete and the President's new security leadership almost in place, it makes sense for him to turn back in earnest to the nuclear policy agenda.

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