Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Nuclear Weapons Strategy Delivered to Congress

On July 24, 2007, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced that it is delivering the Bush Administration's nuclear weapons strategy to Congress. According to the NNSA press release, the document reiterates that the US will maintain a nuclear weapons stockpile into the future. It also describes the proposed Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) as the best means for ensuring the future nuclear deterrent.

The summary statement delivered by the Secretaries of Energy, Defense and State says that both North Korea and Iran's nuclear weapons program underscore the need for US security guarantees to key allies around the world. It also says that a credible U.S. nuclear capabilities "remain an indispensable part of deterrence and an inmportant element in our effort to limit proliferation." (Hopefully there is a longer version as this one is only three pages. I will post it if I get my hands on it.)

This statement lies in stark contrast to the language in the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. The report also references the difficulty of solving the Iran and North Korea nuclear issues if Congress gives a green light to new US nuclear weapons programs, such the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

Page 626 of the full report (pg. 648 in Adobe Acrobat pdf) reads: “Historically, the United States has sought to prevent the development of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear weapons states by being the world leader for nonproliferation. Many critics and skeptics of the RRW, including former Senator Sam Nunn, are deeply concerned that if Congress gives a green light to this program, such an action will be ‘misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries, complicate our work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons . . . and make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult.’”

The continued US reliance on nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of its national security policy is contrary to its international obligations to pursue nuclear disaramament. It is also contrary to US interests in nonproliferation. It is hypocritical for the US to tell countries that it can not pursue a nuclear program while it is trying to revitalize its own arsenal.

It also seems a worthwhile exercise to recall that the 2002 National Security Strategy outlined the Bush administration's willingness to engage in preemptive war, including the possibility of using nuclear weapons; and to recall the 2001 US Nuclear Posture Review which outlined contingency plans for use of nuclear weapons against seven named countries, including Iran and other non-nuclear weapons states.

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