President Obama introduced a new nuclear weapons policy Tuesday with the aim of reducing nuclear weapons and a promise that America would no longer build them.
"To stop the spread of nuclear weapons, prevent nuclear terrorism, and pursue the day when these weapons do not exist, we will work aggressively to advance every element of our comprehensive agenda - to reduce arsenals, to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and to strengthen international agreement," Obama said in a statement.
In a Los Angeles Times opinion piece Vice-President Joe Biden wrote that the Nuclear Posture Review implements Obama's agenda, first outlined in Prague a year ago to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them.
The new strategy is a sharp departure from pervious ones released in 2001 and 1994 and "leaves Cold War thinking behind," wrote Biden.
He continued, "The president and I made a promise to the American people to protect them from nuclear risks. We have no higher obligation. Our strategy delivers on that promise and tackles the most immediate threats our planet faces."
Some of the policies include setting limits on the use of U.S. warheads, declaring some countries off limits even in wartime and steps toward reducing U.S. reliance on its most destructive weapons. Under the new plan the U.S. promises not to use nuclear weapons against countries that don't have them.
The plan stopped short of saying the U.S. will never be the first to launch a nuclear attack, a position many arms control advocates wanted.
Peace and non-proliferation groups hope the U.S. will adopt policies that declare the "sole purpose" of nuclear weapons is to deter others from using them. But the Obama administration fell short on such a stance to preserve the option of using nuclear weapons to counter a non-nuclear threat.
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in a statement said the review could have been bolder in some areas but overall it's a significant improvement from the past.
"The encouraging steps outlined in the report should not be viewed as the end of the journey toward reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, but they point us in the right direction," said the Center.
Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action in a statement said, "President Obama is the most engaged U.S. president ever on nuclear disarmament issues."
Martin added that Peace Action applauds Obama's efforts and remains encouraged by the New START treaty, to be signed in Prague Thursday, as a modest but necessary step toward further nuclear arms cuts with Russia.
However Martin criticized Obama's Nuclear Posture Review saying it "appears to be too beholden to outdated Cold War thinking, and it doesn't measure up to his vision of a nuclear-free world."
Martin noted, "It's certainly better that the one released by the Bush administration, which called for the possibility of using nuclear weapons on non-nuclear states."
That policy has been reversed, but the measure leaves room for the possibilities of new warheads in the future, saids Martin. And the administration has also proposed a big increase in funding for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Both policies are disappointing, says Martin.
But the report is not the last word on these or other nuclear weapons subjects, Martin noted.
"Congress, the American people, and the international community all have a role to play in advocating faster progress toward the global elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. The upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference in May will attract tens of thousands of people from around the world to New York City demanding a safer world with no nuclear weapons," he said.
Photo by Department of Energy