For Immediate Release
Obama Administration Sets New Course for Post-Cold War Nuclear Weapons Policy
Statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, Union of Concerned Scientists
WASHINGTON - The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today called the Obama
administration's new nuclear weapons policy "the most far-reaching since
the end of the Cold War" and urged President Obama to "go even further
to strengthen national and international security."
Below is a statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global
Security Program at UCS.
"We congratulate President Obama and his security team for making
several significant changes in U.S. nuclear weapons policy, as laid out
in the Nuclear Posture Review released today. These changes are the most
far-reaching since the end of the Cold War nearly 20 years ago, and
reflect the reality that nuclear weapons have become a liability in
today's world. But given today's realities, we hope that this is just
the beginning and the president will go even further to strengthen
national and international security before the end of his term.
"A year ago in Prague, President Obama vowed to reduce the role of
nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy; he has done so. We
applaud his decision to strengthen U.S. 'negative security assurances'
by pledging that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against
any non-nuclear weapon state that is a signatory in good standing of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This is the first time since the
United States has possessed nuclear weapons that its pledge applies even
if such nations use chemical or biological weapons. The United States
has many other options for addressing such threats.
"However, the new policy does not go far enough to reduce the role of
nuclear weapons. It states that the 'fundamental' role of U.S. nuclear
weapons is to deter a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies,
and that the goal is to make deterrence the 'sole' purpose. Giving
nuclear weapons roles beyond deterring nuclear attack is both
unnecessary and counterproductive, and we urge the administration to
adopt a 'sole purpose' policy now rather than later. .
"Moreover, to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, the United States
should, in consultation with its NATO allies, remove its nuclear weapons
from Europe. The new policy calls for maintaining the capability to
deploy U.S. warheads in Europe, but U.S. military officials have long
said there is no military rationale for those warheads.
"During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama called
attention to the dangers posed by maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons on
high alert status, which allows them to be launched in a matter of
minutes. Since such a momentous decision requires careful and thorough
consideration of all the options, we commend the administration for
making a commitment to maximize the time available to the president to
make a launch decision. However, we believe the administration needs to
move more rapidly to minimize the risks of unauthorized or accidental
"The new policy specifically rules out producing new nuclear
warheads, as it should. It declares a 'strong preference' for
refurbishing or reusing components from other warheads to extend the
operational lifetime of U.S. warheads, but allows replacing existing
components with entirely new ones if authorized by the president. On
technical and nonproliferation grounds, the policy should have ruled out
replacement options, which can result in significantly changed
warheads. The decision not to do so reflects political considerations.
"Finally, we are disappointed that the policy does not specify
numerical goals for the next bilateral nuclear reduction treaty with
Russia, but we applaud the recommendation to address all nuclear
weapons—strategic and tactical, deployed and non-deployed—in the treaty.
We also strongly support the plan to initiate a comprehensive research
and development program on verification technologies and transparency
measures to support future arms reductions."
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.