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Continued: Obama's call for nuke negotiations with Russia suggests a slow road to new reductions

  • Article by: ROBERT BURNS , AP National Security Writer
  • Last update: June 19, 2013 - 6:16 PM

As of April, the latest counting period, the U.S. had 1,654 such weapons and the Russians were already below the New START limit, at 1,480.

Obama's Berlin speech marked the culmination of more than a year of his administration's work on realigning the military's nuclear war planning with the president's goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy. That means not only reducing the number of weapons but also adjusting their alert levels.

In a fact sheet published to elaborate on Obama's speech, the White House said he had directed the Pentagon to align U.S. defense guidance and military plans with Obama's instruction that the U.S. "will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances" to defend its vital interests or those of its allies and partners.

The White House said Obama also had directed the Pentagon to reduce the role of "launch under attack" in its nuclear contingency planning. The term "launch under attack" refers to having ICBMs ready to launch out of their underground silos upon confirmation that the United States is under nuclear attack. How this will be changed is unclear, but the White House said the U.S. will retain a hair-trigger launch capability.

The AP was first to report in February 2012 that the administration was considering three options for nuclear reductions, including the 1,000-1,100 option that Obama ultimately chose. The other choices were for reductions to ranges of 300-400 and 700-800. It was clear by last summer that the administration was leaning toward the highest of the three options, but the White House put off a final decision until after the November election.

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