The Obama administration intends to pursue a deal with Russia enabling a significant decrease to the quantity of U.S. long-range deployed nuclear warheads, senior U.S. government insiders told Kyodo News on Friday (see GSN, May 18).
Curbs under consideration could lower the size of the nation's launch-ready nuclear force to between 1,000 and 1,100 weapons, according to atomic specialists associated with the related U.S. government entities. Such a change would go significantly beyond the 1,550 strategic warhead limit established by the New START arms control accord with Russia.
Finalization and formal announcement of the plan could take place in the near future, possibly before July, senior U.S. government personnel said. The effort would fall in line with the President Obama's 2009 Prague speech calling for eventual worldwide nuclear disarmament, according to Kyodo.
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review initiated the process expected to ultimately produce the president's arsenal guidance. The U.S. nuclear force serves a critical need in Washington's strategy by acting as an extended deterrent for partner nations including Japan and South Korea, Obama officials have contended (Kyodo News, June 16).
The anticipated NPR "implementation study" would exclude the possibility of lowering the deployed long-range nuclear force to between 300 and 800 warheads, the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday quoted U.S. government insiders as saying.
The arsenal curb would harm the arsenal's capacity to discourage aggression against Asian and European partner states, the website quoted detractors of the effort as saying.
“Levels under the New START agreement are already too low,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said. “Going below that reflects blind ideology, not strategic analysis of U.S. defense needs. This is what a second Obama term will bring" (Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon, June 19).
The reported Obama administration initiative prompted a statement of protest by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) and Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio).
"While the president seems willing to compromise with Russia, he doesn't seem equally disposed where Congress is concerned; maintaining a veto threat over legislation that would protect the U.S. military from devastating automatic cuts," the lawmakers said in a press release. "The result of this dual approach is unilateral disarmament of the United States."
The White House last month warned it could veto fiscal 2013 defense authorization legislation if it retains House language that would restrict the administration's capacity to implement New START (see GSN, May 16).
"While Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Russia and China remain committed to nuclear weapons, and in some cases are expanding and modernizing them, this president has thus far succeeded in only reducing the nuclear arms of one country: the United States," the legislators added (U.S. Representative Michael Turner release, June 19).
Representative Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) suggested the Obama plan could result in curbs to the arsenal of 150 ICBMs managed by an Air Force base in his state.
"When the Senate rubber-stamped his unilateral arms reductions in New START, the president saw it as open season on our nuclear deterrence capabilities," Rehberg said in provided comments. "This strategy is bad for national security, bad for the Air Force, bad for Montana and bad for the community of Great Falls. It’s time for Congress to start fulfilling its constitutional role as a check and balance to President Obama’s harmful agenda” (U.S. Representative Dennis Rehberg release, June 19).