With his ultimate goal a world devoid of nuclear weapons, President Obama announced that as part of an effort to curb worldwide nuclear proliferation, the United States will lead by example and limit its nuclear capabilities.
Republicans said the move was troubling and could send the wrong message to rogue nations with their own nuclear ambitions. “I’m deeply concerned by some of the decisions made in the Nuclear Posture Review and the message this administration is sending to Iran, North Korea, and non-state actors who may seek to harm the United States or our allies,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.
“By unilaterally taking a nuclear response off the table, we are decreasing our options without getting anything in return and diminishing our ability to defend our nation from attack,” Turner said. The White House insisted that the action would not harm the United States’ military superiority, even as it ruled out using nuclear weapons against certain states.
The United States is “taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday concerning the Nuclear Posture Review headed by the Department of Defense. “The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”
This refusal of nuclear action by the U.S. is meant to act as an incentive for developing states to abandon their pursuits of nuclear weapons, the White House said. “Those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure,” President Obama stated. In addition, the United States will not further develop its nuclear warhead capabilities. The White House stated, “The United States will not conduct nuclear testing… The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons.”
However, House Republicans serving on the Armed Services Committee worried that the administration might be risking too much in limiting its nuclear options. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, welcomed the administration’s support for missile defense and modernization of the country’s nuclear complex, but added that he was concerned with the statement’s language. “There could be clear consequences for some of the language and perceived signals imbedded in the review,” McKeon said.
President Obama said that the Nuclear Posture Review, which was led by the Department of Defense, maintains that both nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation by a number of states now constitute a greater threat to global security than simply “nuclear exchange between nations.” The President said that the review recognizes the strength of the American military and missile defenses, and their respective capabilities in defending the country without having to resort to an increased nuclear arsenal.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates supported this assumption as he explained the steps the United States will take to strengthen its military and missile defenses. “We’ll maintain the nuclear triad of ICBMs, nuclear-capable aircraft, and ballistic missile submarines,” Gates stated at a news conference about the NPR. “We will continue to develop and improve non-nuclear capabilities, including regional missile defenses, to strengthen deterrence and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture.” Gates added that the U.S. “will continue to hold accountable” terrorists with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or anyone supporting terrorists’ WMD capabilities.