Obama unveils new US nuclear policy

Days before leaving for Prague to sign the new START treaty, US President Barack Obama has updated the Nuclear Posture Review.

 On the eve of a trip to Prague to sign the new START treaty, US President Barack Obama has released a new Nuclear Posture Review. The review, which has not been revised since January 2002, gives insight into the role of nuclear weapons in US defense strategy.

As part of the revision, Obama has narrowed the range of targets the US may strike with nuclear weapons, while reserving the right to strike first and target non-nuclear nations.

In a major reversal from previous administrations, Obama’s strategy makes deterrence of a nuclear strike the focus of US nuclear weapons. The strategy also prohibits the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation for chemical, biological or cyber attacks.

The strategy is intended to signal the realities of a post-Cold War-world in which the greatest nuclear threat comes not from other nations but from rogue organizations. However, Obama still must deal with the nuclear legacy of the Cold War as reflected in the new START treaty.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that while both Russia and the United States hope for a nuclear-free world, negotiations over the reduction of the number of nuclear weapons must take into account the quantities of inter-continental ballistic missiles and their positioning. Russia has reserved the right to opt out of the treaty if it feels threatened – particularly by the placement of US missiles in Eastern Europe.