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Will Biden stay the course toward nuclear disarmament?

When President Joe Biden took office last year, a historic shift in U.S. nuclear policy seemed likely. Now, with ongoing threats from Russia and China, experts say moving away from nuclear weapons may be more difficult. CS Monitor, By Robert Burns Associated Press, 4 Jan 22,

Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House nearly a year ago seemed to herald a historic shift toward less U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and possibly a shrinking of their numbers. Even an American “no first use” pledge – a promise to never again be the first to use a nuclear weapon – seemed possible.
The outlook will be clearer when the Biden administration completes its so-called nuclear posture review – an internal relook at the numbers, kinds, and purposes of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, as well as the policies that govern their potential use. The results could be made public as early as January.

The biggest unknown is how forcefully Mr. Biden will weigh in on these questions, based on White House calculations of the political risk. During his years as vice president, Mr. Biden talked of new directions in nuclear policy. But heightened concerns about China and Russia would seem to improve the political leverage of Republicans seeking to portray such change as a gift to nuclear adversaries.

Tom Z. Collina, policy director at Ploughshares Fund, an advocate for nuclear disarmament, says the China and Russia problems complicate the politics of Mr. Biden’s nuclear review but should not stop him from acting to reduce nuclear dangers.

“We do not want a new nuclear arms race with either nation and the only way to prevent that is with diplomacy,” Mr. Collina said. “We must remember the main lesson we learned in the Cold War with Russia – the only way to win an arms race is not to run.”………………………

The Pentagon has not publicly discussed details of the nuclear review, but the administration seems likely to keep the existing contours of the nuclear force – the traditional “triad” of sea-, air-, and land-based weapons, which critics call overkill. It also may embrace a $1 trillion-plus modernization of that force, which was launched by the Obama administration and continued by Mr. Trump.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Biden will approve any significant change in what is called “declaratory policy,” which states the purpose of nuclear weapons and the circumstances under which they might be used.

The Obama administration, with Mr. Biden as vice president, stated in 2010 that it would “only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.” It did not define “extreme circumstances.”

Eight years later, the Trump administration restated the Obama policy but got more specific. “Extreme circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks. Significant non-nuclear strategic attacks include, but are not limited to, attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”…………… https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2022/0103/Will-Biden-stay-the-course-toward-nuclear-disarmament

January 4, 2022 - Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war

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