President Obama's nominee to lead the Defense Department would be the first to take office with a record of openly advocating significant and potentially unilateral reductions to the nation's atomic arsenal, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel's nuclear positions and his support for the disarmament advocacy group Global Zero place him at odds with many other GOP politicians, according to AP. Still, Obama and a growing number of experts also agree that nuclear armaments are becoming increasingly burdensome in relation to their utility in combating modern dangers such as extremism, the news agency said.
"Hagel certainly would bring to office a more ambitious view on nuclear reductions than his predecessors,” said Steven Pifer, who directs the Brookings Institution’s Arms Control Initiative.
The complete abolition of nuclear weapons should be a long-term goal, but not one the United States should pursue alone, according to the 66-year-old prospective Pentagon chief. A 2012 Global Zero report endorsed by Hagel calls for reducing deployed U.S. nuclear forces by roughly 75 percent, eliminating about four-fifths of the overall arsenal and fully dropping the country's ICBM fleet.
Skeptics contend that nuclear abolition would increase U.S. vulnerability and an overwhelming force will remain crucial for the foreseeable future to handle the atomic aspirations of hostile governments in Pyongyang, Tehran and elsewhere.
Hagel's link to Global Zero is "very concerning" and he is apparently "very different than previous defense leaders" due to his positions, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in a hearing last week.
Four other prominent backers of last year's Global Zero analysis on Monday said they support pursuing its recommendations in cooperation with Russia and eventually other nations.
"This is and has always been the centerpiece of the approach advocated by Global Zero, by the four of us, and by Hagel," according to joint remarks issued by former U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman James Cartwright, one-time U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering, former NATO military officer John Sheehan and Richard Burt, President George H.W. Bush's top strategic weapons negotiator.