In his speech in Prague on April 5, 2009, President Obama outlined an agenda of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism that envisioned "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." One year later, the United States and Russia have agreed to proceed with further reductions of their nuclear stockpiles under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
On April 6, 2010, the administration released a Nuclear Posture Review that scaled back the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy. A Nuclear Security Summit will be convened in Washington on April 12-13, followed in May by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York. But questions remain about how much support can the President expect from influential members of the international community, and whether a divided U.S. Congress will inhibit progress towards President Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world. George Perkovich and the David Sanger of the New York Times assessed Obama’s nuclear agenda one year after Prague.
The Nuclear Posture Review released by the Obama administration on April 6, 2010, narrowed the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy. Perkovich and Sanger discussed the likely results of the review, in the day before it was released.
Arms control treaties, like the new START agreement that President Obama and President Medvedev agreed to, are a crucial step along the long road toward achieving a nuclear-free world. Yet U.S. domestic politics may provide a significant stumbling block, both for the new START agreement and the pending Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Perkovich concluded that a second Senate defeat of the Treaty—the Senate first rejected the CTBT in 1999—would be bad for U.S. world standing and the future prospects of the Treaty itself. He commented that the United States stands alongside India, Pakistan, China, and Iran as hold-outs against ratifying the treaty. Until it is ratified, Perkovich said, "the only way to go forward right now anyway is to say, this is a norm…the acceptable practice is we don’t test."
Perkovich said he observed "elements of a grand strategy" in Obama’s nuclear agenda. The president "understands that you have to resolve these regional conflicts and tensions that are producing demand for nuclear weapons, if you’re ever going to get rid of those weapons," Perkovich said.
The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
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