Obama Tightens Limits on Use of Nuclear Weapons

Goes beyond Bush to limit nukes to 'primarily' deterring nuclear attack
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2010 7:01 AM CDT
Obama Tightens Limits on Use of Nuclear Weapons
President Barack Obama speaks at Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Boston, Thursday, April 1, 2010.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Barack Obama will announce a new, stricter US nuclear weapons strategy today, declaring that “the fundamental role” of the US nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attacks. That’s a much narrower formulation than the US has ever had in the past—George W. Bush reserved the right to use the weapons “to deter a wide range of threats”—but arms control advocates had hoped he would go farther to declare prevention the weapons’ “sole role.”

The strategy states that the US won’t use nuclear weapons even in some instances where it would be permissible under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, including following a biological or chemical weapon attack, or a major cyberattack. And the statement renounces the development of any new weapons, a position Robert Gates originally opposed. But Obama tells the New York Times that the new strategy will include an exception for “outliers like Iran and North Korea.” He says he’s convinced Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. (More Barack Obama stories.)

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