Gates wants new nuclear weapons, but Biden says no
Secretary of Defense Gates just can’t take no for an answer when it comes to new nuclear weapons. A Global Security Newswire article today shows a behind the scenes, high stakes battle between Gates and Vice President Biden took place this June that could negatively impact our nuclear weapons policy. During a high level Principals’ Committee meeting, Gates took the opportunity to once again push hard to bring back the new nuclear weapon called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), which Congress eliminated funding for 2 years running and for which President Obama did not request funding in his FY2010 budget. But Biden held his ground:
In pursuing the initiative, Gates appears to have won the backing of some pivotal Cabinet secretaries, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One administration-watcher — a critic of the replacement-warhead idea — alleges that several key appointees at the Defense and State departments are now “scheming and maneuvering” to bring the controversial program back to life.
However, Biden has strongly opposed the move, based on the view that pursuing a new U.S. warhead program could undermine Washington’s efforts to discourage nuclear weapons proliferation around the globe.
By putting his foot down, Biden helped to keep the door open for President Obama’s Prague speech calling for steps toward a nuclear weapons free world to become reality. A movement now to build new nuclear weapons would send the wrong message to other countries. This article is a must read, and it cites some excellent advice for President Obama on what he needs to do if he’s serious about eliminating nuclear weapons:
Several experts said Obama himself would likely have to issue a clear directive if his administration is to take a fresh approach to warhead modernization, one that reflects his vision of de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons on a path toward eliminating them.
“The president has to have the guts to say no,” said one RRW opponent who asked not to be named. “Almost everyone else is inclined to Clinton-vintage political triangulation.”
It’s time for those of us committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons to make ourselves heard. If you haven’t already, now is the time to sign onto Peace Action West’s call for the President to make his vision of a nuclear weapons free world official policy. Obama must weigh in and ensure this vision is included as his administration carries out its review of US nuclear weapons policy, called the Nuclear Posture Review. Click here to take action.
Recently, we’ve been hearing that there is a danger that the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, to be completed by the end of the year, will fail to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and will continue outdated Cold War policies. Gates’ efforts to revive the dead RRW program shows just how much opposition there is — even at high levels within the Obama administration — to a long-overdue realignment of nuclear weapons policy that will put us on a path toward their global elimination. Gates’ Department of Defense is primarily responsible for conducting the Nuclear Posture Review. Since the Nuclear Posture Review will set policy for the next decade, President Obama can’t afford to squander this opportunity.
Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund has been calling attention to the need for a forward looking Nuclear Posture Review in his article on the Huffington Post and his recent interview with blogger Plutonium Page over at Daily Kos, where he explains the impact of the review:
The Nuclear Posture Review is a comprehensive review of US nuclear policies and weapons systems. It’s usually done once in a presidential [administration]. It will determine our policies and weapons systems certainly at least for the next five to ten years, and that’s the scope of it. If it’s done right, it can allow Obama to transform US nuclear policy to less reliance on nuclear weapons, greater focus on preventing nuclear terrorism, and new [nuclear weapons] states. If it’s done wrong, it sandbags the President. It makes it much more difficult for him to cut weapons and nuclear budgets, much more difficult for him to negotiate and ratify the kinds of treaties that he’s talking about.
So the nuclear bureaucracy – that is, the nuclear laboratories, the defense contractors, the ideologues, and the small section of the military still involved with nuclear weapons understand this, and they are waging a battle to basically tweak the current Cold War structure to make it – to pay lip service to Obama’s agenda without actually changing much of anything.