The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament welcomed President Obama’s inaugural vow that “With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat.”

Marking the start of a Presidency that many hope will bring profound change to America’s nuclear policies, Obama’s highlighting of the issue is a welcome sign that early action may follow, in marked contrast to the minimal efforts of the past eight years.

During the election campaign Obama outlined his intention to work with Russia to “seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles”, take missiles off hair-trigger launch alert and to seek to extend the provisions of the START I arms-control treaty, due to expire in December this year.

A constructive relationship with Moscow is an absolute necessity if any meaningful progress is to take place on any of President Obama’s disarmament initiatives. However a potential roadblock lies in the way of this – US plans for a Missile Defence system, based partially in Eastern Europe which arouse great suspicions in Russia. Obama has been markedly less-committed to the project than Bush, stating that he will only support it if it can be proved to work successfully.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “We welcome President Obama’s inaugural pledge to work against the nuclear threat. Prioritising nuclear disarmament is essential for the future safety of the world. Recent years have seen massively revived interest in tackling this problem once and for all, with everyone from Henry Kissinger onwards calling for US leadership of the agenda, Now the US has a President willing and capable of taking such action.”

She continued, “However if Obama continues the development of the ‘son of Star Wars’ Missile Defence system, which Bush was hell bent on placing in Europe, the effect will be to destroy any chance of progress on disarmament. Not surprisingly Russia believes itself to be targeted by the system, especially as the latest MD bases are planned along its western borders. Obama must decide quickly whether continuing with this destabilising programme is worth putting all his positive nuclear policies at risk.”