NPR Does Not Go Far Enough

In a National Journal column, Lawrence J. Korb explains why President Obama's Nuclear Posture Review might allow for the possibility that the United States could use nuclear weapons if circumstances change.

Unfortunately, many of today’s Republican leaders have very short memories. In criticizing President Barack Obama’s strategic arms agreement with Russia or his Nuclear Posture Review, they seem unaware that Republican presidents including Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all signed arms control agreements with the Soviet Union (or Russia) that eliminated or limited U.S. nuclear weapons. Or that in 1957 Republican Dwight Eisenhower ruled out waging nuclear war against non-nuclear states, and in 1986 Ronald Reagan agreed to eliminate the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal even though the Soviets had a massive advantage in conventional arms.

The real weakness of President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review is that it does not go far enough to fulfill his campaign promise or his speech in Prague. In fact his NPR is not significantly different from that of President Bush. Under pressure from the Pentagon, Obama refused to endorse the idea that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is deterrence, instead saying only that the fundamental purpose of these weapons is to deter attacks.

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Lawrence J. Korb

Senior Fellow