In a move aimed at bringing President Barack Obama's vision of a world without nuclear weapons closer to reality, the U.S. has revamped its nuclear weapons policy.
In a statement, President Obama said the new policy, outlined in a document called the Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, recognizes that "the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states." The Review notes that the national security of the U.S. and its allies and partners "can be increasingly defended," said Mr. Obama, "by America's unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defense."
Under the new policy, the United States, among other measures, pledges not to develop new nuclear warheads, and to refrain from using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state that is a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the NPT, and is in compliance with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.
The purpose of this change is to emphasize to states the security benefits of adhering to and fully complying with the NPT and their nuclear non-proliferation obligations. It also aims to help persuade non-nuclear weapon states to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.
For countries not covered by this revised assurance, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that "all options are on the table." But the NPR also underscores that the revised assurance does not indicate an increase in our willingness to use nuclear weapons against countries not covered by the pledge.
The United States stated that it would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners. The NPR also emphasizes that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all nations that the nearly 65-year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.
President Barack Obama said that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. "will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal that guarantees the defense of the United States, reassures our allies and partners, and deters potential adversaries." But to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the day when these weapons do not exist, the U.S., he said, "will work aggressively . . .to reduce arsenals, to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, and to strengthen the NPT. These are the steps," said Mr. Obama, "toward the more secure future America seeks."