Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, in their short piece of July 6 in Foreign Affairs, assert that the Obama Administration’s nuclear weapons policy appears to be schizophrenic. By describing the policy in this way, Lieber and Press are giving the Obama Administration more credit regarding its commitment to nuclear modernization than it deserves. It is more accurate to describe the Obama Administration as being deceptive about its nuclear weapons policy.
Its stated commitments to nuclear modernization are turning out to be more about the tactics of advancing its nuclear disarmament agenda than the substance of modernizing the nuclear force. The Obama Administration early on calculated that if it wanted to obtain Senate consent to the ratification of the New START arms control treaty with Russia, advance U.S. ratification of the previously rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and further the effort that began with the 2010 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to transform that treaty into a nuclear disarmament treaty, it would be advantageous for it to pledge to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and nuclear arsenal.
It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that while the pledges to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and arsenal helped to achieve the ratification of New START, they are now more of an obstacle to the advancement of the remaining components of the Administration’s arms control and disarmament agenda. Thus, these pledges are all but certain to fade away.