Obama cuts US nuclear arsenal – but keeps sights trained on Iran

President agrees to reduce stockpile of atomic warheads – and rules out using them on states that play by rules

The United States will resist developing any new nuclear weapons and will add new limits to the circumstances under which it would deploy its existing atomic weapons against an enemy, the Obama administration announced yesterday.

As President Obama prepared to sign a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia in Prague tomorrow, a long-awaited nuclear posture review outlined key changes in how the US will manage its atomic arsenal in future. While the 74-page document reflects the promises made by Mr Obama in Prague last year to seek a nuclear-free world, it also contained some caveats that were certain to disappoint arms control advocates.

Aside from signing the new treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tomorrow which calls on both countries to cut numbers of nuclear warheads by about a third, he will next week host a summit of 40 world leaders in Washington DC on combating the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The nuclear review appeared to be aimed almost as much at bolstering progress on the twin issues of nuclear proliferation and the dangers of nuclear terrorism, both of which have been repeatedly highlighted by Mr Obama as key priorities, as at the finding a new place for nuclear weapons in America's defences equation.

"The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons," the report said. "Therefore, it is essential that we better align our nuclear policies and posture to our most urgent priorities – preventing nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation."

The review said that the US will forswear the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, a clear break from the policy of the Bush administration. However, it added that exceptions would be made in respect of countries not in full compliance with the non-proliferation treaty, a caveat clearly aimed at Iran and North Korea. "All options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category," Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.

The review sets out a strengthening of America's conventional capabilities coupled with a paring back of the country's reliance on the nuclear option. "We are going to want to make sure that we can continue to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons," Mr Obama told the New York Times before the review's release.

However, the document stopped short of declaring that the sole reason for America's nuclear weapons was to deter a nuclear attack against it, as arms control lobbyists had hoped. Nor will it do much to stimulate the winding down of US tactical nuclear weapons currently on the soil of five European countries.

"It probably doesn't go far enough to appease the most ardent nuclear disarmament advocates, but that's OK," said Sharon Squassoni, director of the proliferation programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

It was "not transformational", agreed Anne Penketh, Programme Director for BASIC, the British American Security Information Council. Calling the review a "mixed bag", she added: "Obviously it is to be welcomed that the US will not develop new nuclear warheads despite pressure from the weapons labs, and that President Obama has won the argument over his core policy of limiting the use of nuclear weapons."

Also featured in the review is a promise to pursue still further arms-reduction treaties with Russia as well as with China. In relation to the latter, it sounded a note of cautious alarm. "The lack of transparency surrounding its nuclear programs – their pace and scope, as well as the strategy and doctrine that guides them – raises questions about China's future strategic intentions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...