The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament described today’s United States’ Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) as timid, with the modest advances not living up to the ambitious goals the Obama administration has set itself.

Whilst there is progress in many areas, such as the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy and the strengthening of assurances to most non-nuclear weapon states, Obama has failed to completely rule-out the possibility of using nuclear weapons against states that do not themselves possess them. The fact that the alert posture of all US nuclear forces is to remain unchanged, despite the lack of a nuclear threat to the US, is a great disappointment. Likewise, is the failure to withdraw American nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

Of particular significance to Britain, the NPR eliminates the Tomahawk, nuclear-equipped, sea-launched cruise missile (TLAM-N). This destroys any notion that supposedly cheaper cruise missiles could provide a replacement for Britain’s Trident missiles. With the most comparable US system being retired, the creation and maintenance of an equivalent system by the UK alone could only come at vast expense. This completely undermines the arguments of those who wish to replace Trident with another form of nuclear weapons system.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “Whilst there has been some progress on reducing the circumstances where the US would consider using nuclear weapons, creating exemptions significantly weakens the impact this will have. A strict policy of ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states would have set a strong example to others, for instance to Britain, which made clear its readiness to use Trident against non-nuclear Iraq in 2003. It is welcome that no new nuclear warheads will be designed, but the fact that most of the existing types of weapons are to be retained leaves us perilously close to the status-quo. It is far from the sort of forward advance Obama promised last year in Prague. Taking missiles, bombers and submarines off alert would have been an easy confidence-building measure that would have eased further arms reduction talks with Russia and others, but Obama has chosen to leave these almost unchanged.

“The US still keeps hundreds of nuclear weapons in Europe. Despite the governments of several host countries – Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – all calling for their removal, the review draws back from seriously contemplating their elimination, instead claiming it to be a NATO decision. Bizarrely, for an arrangement that clearly breaches the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the review claims these unwanted Cold War legacy bombs ‘contribute to Alliance cohesion’. Can the distribution of hundreds of city-destroying nuclear weapons across Europe and Turkey really be justified on such vague grounds which have nothing to do with genuine security concerns? It is vital that Europe is cleared of these tempting targets for terrorists when NATO reviews its own Strategic Concept later on this year.

“We had hoped this review would mark a sea-change in US nuclear policy. The result is markedly disappointing. There is some progress, it is a timid document. With the signing of the new START treaty later this week and the review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN next month, this review really shows why positive momentum is vital if we are to reach Obama’s stated goal of a nuclear-free world. All countries must now redouble their efforts to bring to an end the threat that could extinguish humanity in a moment.”

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