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The Fatal Flaw in Obama's Disarmament Plan - New Article Published in Leading Journal Nonproliferation Review

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Ben Zala
28 March 2013

A new article, co-authored by Ben Zala of our Sustainable Security programme, argues that the current trend in the US defence posture towards linking nuclear weapons reductions with increases in strategic conventional weapons is ultimately a self-defeating approach. The piece, 'Advanced US Conventional Weapons and Nuclear Disarmament: Why the Obama Plan Won't Work', published in the leading journal, Nonproliferation Review, looks at the increasing importance of ballistic missile defence (BMD) and the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) programme for the Obama administration’s approach to achieving a nuclear free world. it also focuses on the likely effects on Washington’s strategic relationships with Russia and China, as well as other players, such as Iran and North Korea.   


 

The article argues that if reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US defence and security thinking cannot be de-linked from qualitative and quantitative advances in programs such as BMD and PGS, the Obama approach may actually make the goal of nuclear disarmament more difficult. This means that in the end, future nuclear reductions agreements must take into account conventional imbalances as well as numbers of nuclear weapons.

The article’s abstract is below and the full text is free to download for the next month from here. This research is based on a project funded by the Network for Social Change, looking at the potential barriers to nuclear disarmament posed by conventional weapons imbalances.

 


 

Advanced US Conventional Weapons and Nuclear Disarmament: Why the Obama Plan Won't Work


Andrew Futter and Benjamin Zala
 

Abstract:


The Obama administration has made a great effort to increase the role of advanced conventional weaponry in US national security thinking and practice, in part to help reinvigorate the global nuclear disarmament agenda by reducing the role played by nuclear weapons in the US defence posture. However, such a strategy is fundamentally flawed because increases in US conventional superiority will exacerbate US relative strength vis-à-vis other powers, and therefore make the prospect of a nuclear weapon-free world seem less attractive to Washington's current and potential nuclear rivals. Consequently, it is highly likely that the impact of efforts to increase US advanced conventional superiority through ballistic missile defence and a conventional “prompt global strike” program will ensure that the Obama administration is adopting a pathway to nuclear abolition on which it is the sole traveller for the foreseeable future.

 


Photo: Signing of the New START treaty. Source: CSIS PONI. www.flickr.com 

 

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