Sec. of State Clinton delivered a speech yesterday at the United States Institute of Peace that reinforced the president’s agenda to address the threat posed by nuclear weapons. She gets to the core of why steps toward a nuclear weapons free world are in the interest of US and global security in these passages:
We also know that unless these trends are reversed, and reversed soon, we will find ourselves in a world with a steadily growing number of nuclear-armed states, and increasing likelihood of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.
President Obama recognizes this danger. In April, in Prague, he presented the United States’ vision for how to meet these challenges. He reinforced the core bargain of the global nonproliferation regime, calling on all states to live up to their responsibilities and put down a marker for every nation when he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. And last month, when President Obama became the first United States President to chair a session of the United Nations Security Council, he presided over the unanimous passage of a resolution that set forth a robust nonproliferation and arms control agenda.
Pursuing these goals is not an act of starry-eyed idealism or blind allegiance to principle. It is about taking responsibility to prevent the use of the world’s most dangerous weapons, and holding others accountable as well. The policies that take us there must be up to the task: tough, smart, and driven by the core interests of the United States. As the President has acknowledged, we might not achieve the ambition of a world without nuclear weapons in our lifetime or successive lifetimes. But we believe that pursuing this vision will enhance our national security and international stability.
Clinton also addressed the administration’s forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review, which will set US nuclear weapons policy for the next 5-10 years:
But we must do more than reduce the numbers of our nuclear weapons. We must also reduce the role they play in our security. In this regard, the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review will be a key milestone. It will more accurately calibrate the role, size, and composition of our nuclear stockpile to the current and future international threat environments. And it will provide a fundamental reassessment of U.S. nuclear force posture, levels, and doctrine. Carried out in consultation with our allies, it will examine the role of nuclear weapons in deterring today’s threats and review our declaratory policies with respect to the circumstances in which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons.
As part of the NPR, the Nuclear Posture Review, we are grappling with key questions: What is the fundamental purpose of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal? Will our deterrence posture help the United States encourage others to reduce their arsenals and advance our nonproliferation agenda? How can we provide reassurance to our allies in a manner that reinforces our nonproliferation objectives?
We believe now is the time for a look – a fresh look at the views on the role of the United States nuclear weapons arsenal. We can’t afford to continue relying on recycled Cold War thinking. We are sincere in our pursuit of a secure peaceful world without nuclear weapons. But until we reach that point of the horizon where the last nuclear weapon has been eliminated, we need to reinforce the domestic consensus that America will maintain the nuclear infrastructure needed to sustain a safe and effective deterrent without nuclear testing.
Her statements about not continuing to rely on “recycled Cold War thinking” are certainly welcome. However, officials at the Pentagon have been using phrases like that final sentence as a crutch to justify continued modernization of the nuclear weapons arsenal and complex. Sec. of Defense Gates has gone so far as to endorse new nuclear warheads, for which there is little public support. As the review continues, the administration should keep the president’s vision of a nuclear weapons free world firmly in sight.