The Obama administration is weighing options for sharp new cuts to the U.S. nuclear force, including a reduction of up to 80 percent in the number of deployed weapons, The Associated Press has learned.
Even the most modest option now under consideration would be an historic and politically bold disarmament step in a presidential election year, although the plan is in line with President Barack Obama's 2009 pledge to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama signed documents on Wednesday ratifying the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, an important component of the administration's "restart" of its relationship with Moscow.
Under the treaty, the two sides must reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 in seven years and reduce deployed long-range missiles and bombers to no more than 700.
The New START treaty ratified by a 71-26 vote in the Senate Wednesday will yield practical results in the coming months, such as renewed inspections of Russian nuclear sites and a reduction in deployed warheads...
Obama has also claimed that the treaty sends an important message abroad. Even during his time in the Senate, the President argued that the best way to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons was to rebuild confidence in international agreements on nuclear weapons.
Signing of the START II treaty, which will cut arsenals held by the former Cold War foes by about 30 percent, comes on the heels of a U.S. policy review narrowing the scope for launching nuclear weapons and builds momentum for an April 12-13 nuclear security summit in Washington.
Obama was due to land in Prague early on Thursday and join Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a signing ceremony at the medieval Prague Castle, where a year ago Obama set out his goal to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Why did President Obama win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize after only nine months in office? The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” particularly his work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Obama presided over the two-hour meeting at U.N. headquarters in Manhattan, the fifth time the council met at the head-of-state level and the first time it was chaired by a U.S. president since the panel was formed in 1946.
"I called for this (summit) so that we may address at the highest level a fundamental threat to the security of all peoples and all nations -- the spread and use of nuclear weapons," Obama said.
...The U.S.-drafted resolution called for "further efforts in the sphere of nuclear disarmament" to achieve "a world without nuclear weapons" and urged all countries that have not signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so.
"Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he said to cheers from an audience of 20,000.
"This goal will not be reached quickly, perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence," he said.
"It's time to send a clear message to the world: America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons," the White House hopeful said.
"As long as nuclear weapons exist, we'll retain a strong deterrent. But we'll make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy."
...in 2003 Mr. Obama began his unlikely campaign for the United States Senate and answered a detailed questionnaire from the Council for a Livable World, an advocacy organization in Washington that evaluates candidates on arms control issues...
“The United States has far more nuclear weapons than it needs,” the organization quoted Mr. Obama as saying, “and any attempt by the U.S. government to develop or produce new nuclear weapons only undermines U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world.”
The organization said Mr. Obama also supported an American-financed effort to secure Russian nuclear arms, as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, still in limbo two decades after Mr. Obama wrote about it.
In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world.” He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.
The student was Barack Obama, and he was clearly trying to sort out his thoughts. In the conclusion, he denounced “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.”