The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Elliott Negin,Media Director,

Nuclear Experts, Arms Control organizations Urge Obama to Transform U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy


In anticipation of a major nuclear weapons policy review expected to
be completed March 1, former government officials, nuclear weapons
experts, and leaders of arms control organizations representing more
than 1 million Americans have sent a letter
to President Obama, urging him to fulfill his April 2009 pledge to "put
an end to Cold War thinking" and "reduce the role of nuclear weapons in
our national security strategy."

In the letter, sent to the White House and key cabinet members on
February 1, the group called on the president to ensure that the
Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) "advances the highest security priorities:
preventing terrorists or additional states from obtaining of using
nuclear weapons; reducing global stockpiles, and moving toward a world
without nuclear weapons."

The authors of the letter include Richard Garwin, recipient of the
National Medal of Science and a long-time government consultant; Morton
H. Halperin, former State Department director of policy and planning;
Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, former president of the National Defense
University; Jan M. Lodal, former principal deputy secretary of defense
for policy; Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American
Scientists; Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned
Scientists; and Christopher Paine, Nuclear Program director at the
Natural Resources Defense Council.

The signatories expressed concern that the "Nuclear Posture Review
will preserve rather than put an end to Cold War thinking, and
undermine the important agenda you [President Obama] set forth in
[April 2009 in] Prague."

The letter asks President Obama to promote "transformational rather than incremental changes" in four key areas:

First, regarding U.S. policy on the fundamental role of nuclear
weapons: "The new NPR should clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear
weapons to deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and our
allies," the authors write. "Ambiguity about the purpose of U.S.
nuclear forces provides little deterrent value at a high cost; it
undermines the credibility of our conventional deterrent, complicates
our nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to
justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons."

The United States still deploys more than 2,200 nuclear warheads,
mainly to counter a Russian attack and, if necessary, defend U.S.
forces or allies against conventional attack or counter chemical or
biological threats.

Second, with regard to further nuclear weapons reductions, the
letter states: "If the United States adopted a core nuclear deterrence
posture, it would facilitate a shift to a stockpile of hundreds rather
than thousands of nuclear weapons.... The NPR should make clear...that the
United States is able and willing to undertake further significant
reductions in its deployed nuclear warheads provided that Russia is a
willing partner."

The letter also states that "the NPR should signal that
forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons are no longer essential to
preserving the security of the NATO alliance." That recommendation was
bolstered recently when, over the last few weeks, German, Norwegian,
Polish and Swedish foreign ministers urged that the next round of
U.S.-Russian arms reduction talks lead to the removal of all tactical
nuclear weapons still in Europe, including approximately 200 U.S. bombs
at several NATO bases.

Third, the letter urged the president to eliminate the current
requirements and plans for rapid launch in response to a nuclear
attack. President Obama himself noted during the presidential campaign
that "keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment's notice is a
dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of
catastrophic accidents or miscalculation."

Fourth, the letter urges President Obama "to clarify his January
2009 pledge 'not to authorize new nuclear weapons' by establishing that
it is U.S. policy not to develop or produce newly designed warheads, or
to modify existing warheads for the purpose of creating new military
capabilities." In the fiscal 2003 Defense Authorization Bill, Congress
defined a "new nuclear weapon" as one with "a pit or canned
subassembly" not yet in the stockpile or already in production.

"Efforts to pursue newly designed warheads," the letter states, "are
technically unnecessary and would undercut our efforts to convince
other nations to forgo nuclear weapons or to refrain from developing
new and more advanced types of nuclear warheads."

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