President Obama set an ambitious goal in his first term when he endorsed the vision of an eventual world without nuclear weapons. After some early achievements, namely the New Start treaty mandating cuts in deployed strategic weapons, the effort stalled for two years until he picked up the theme again in the State of the Union address this month. Now he needs to follow through with a more sustained commitment.
To reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and halt the spread of nuclear technology, Mr. Obama has said he would engage Russia on further reductions in both countries’ arsenals. He has also vowed to take “firm action” in response to North Korean nuclear threats and do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Long after the cold war, the United States and Russia still have thousands of weapons they cannot afford and do not need, especially when the threats are militant groups and states like Iran and North Korea. For months, Mr. Obama has dragged his feet on a recommendation from his advisers to cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads
At a minimum, he could accelerate the New Start cuts to bring the number of American warheads, now about 1,700, down to 1,550 ahead of the 2018 deadline. Any further reductions beyond that must include, for the first time, warheads held in reserve and short-range nuclear weapons, as well as the deployed strategic warheads.
Weapons cuts will make the world safer and strengthen America’s hand as it exhorts Iran and North Korea to halt their programs. More than that, if the administration and Congress are serious about the fiscal crisis, they cannot continue to throw money at a bloated nuclear arsenal. Washington is set to spend more than $600 billion on nuclear weapons over the next decade and will soon make decisions on modernizing the arsenal that could waste billions more. As Mr. Obama said in a 2009 arms control speech in Prague, “We must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.” He has limited time to lead the way.
Read more at The Nuclear Agenda