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Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review

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As President Barack Obama prepares to release his Nuclear Posture Review, many are wondering how different his missile defense strategy will be from the Bush administration’s and whether it will effectively deter proliferation and keep the U.S. and our allies safe.

Part of his strategy has already been revealed. Reuters reported this week that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama agreed to reduce deployed warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 during negotiations to renew START.

According to the New York Times, the Obama administration has refused to rule out being the first country to use nuclear weapons. Ideally, the world wouldn’t need nuclear weapons at all, but Obama isn’t so naïve as to believe the U.S. should have no such weapons. Deterrence is the goal, but it would be a reasonable defense posture to use the appropriate weapon in our arsenal in response to a serious threat.

Deterrence should rely on more than nuclear weapons, however, and include options for defenses and conventional strike weapons. Further, deterrence cannot be divorced from credible policies for using any of these weapons under appropriate circumstances. What deterrence requires is giving the president a wide array of options for responding to threats to attack the U.S. and its allies, as well as to any attempted attacks.

NYT also reports the administration will put more emphasis on missile defense. Although Obama canceled agreements to deploy missile interceptors and radar to Poland and the Czech Republic, he’s sending Patriot missiles to Poland and missile interceptors to Romania. These and other missile defense developments are intended to defend against Iran, the rogue state determined to continue developing nuclear capability. Obama said he wanted to focus on cost-effective, reliable, and shorter-range weapons. He intends to spend money bringing weapons up-to-date, while reducing what Vice President Joe Biden called “redundant” weapons. An excerpt:

“The idea, officials say, would be to give the president a non-nuclear option for, say, a large strike on the leadership of Al Qaeda in the mountains of Pakistan, or a pre-emptive attack on an impending missile launch from North Korea. But under Mr. Obama’s strategy, the missiles would be based at new sites around the United States that might even be open to inspection, so that Russia and China would know that a missile launched from those sites was not nuclear — to avoid having them place their own nuclear forces on high alert.”

Commenting on the story at The Foundry blog, Jeffrey Chatterton says a protect and defend strategy “is the most effective way to minimize the nuclear threat…An effective strategy promotes nuclear modernization, superior conventional weapons, and effective missile defense while reducing the likelihood of armed conflict. Arms control is not the end in itself, but an outcome of the strategy.”

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