GATES (from October 28, 2008): "In the first Gulf War, we made it very clear that if Saddam used chemical or biological weapons, then the United States would keep all options on the table. We later learned that this veiled threat had the intended deterrent effect as Iraq considered its options."
TAPPER: It's a refrain that a lot of Republicans have talked about that the United States is taking things off the table that would deter other countries.
Did you change your mind?
GATES: Well I think what's happened is the situation has changed. We have more robust deterrents today, because we've added to the nuclear deterrent missile defense. And -- and with the phased adaptive approach that the president has approved, we will have significantly greater capability to deter the Iranians, because we will have a significantly greater missile defense.
We're also developing this conventional prompt global strike, which really hadn't gone anywhere in the -- in the Bush administration, but has been embraced by the new administration. That allows us to use long range missiles with conventional warheads. So we have -- we have more tools if you will in the deterrents kit bag than -- than we used to.
TAPPER: Secretary Clinton, the United States according to the nuclear posture review -- the United States will not be developing new nuclear weapons. China will. Russia will. You said, when you were running for president in 2007…
CLINTON (from August 2, 2007): "Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents since the cold war have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace. I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."
TAPPER: Did you change your mind?
CLINTON: No, Jake. Because I think if you actually read the nuclear posture review, you would make three conclusions. First -- we intend to maintain a robust nuclear deterrent. Let no one be mistaken. The United States will defend ourselves, and defend our partners and allies. We intend to sustain that nuclear deterrent by modernizing the existing stockpile. In fact, we have $5 billion in this year's budget going into that very purpose.
We believe, and this is a collective judgment from this government that is certainly shared by the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the secretary of energy, and the others along with the State Department who worked on this nuclear posture review, that we can have the kind of deterrent that we need by modernizing our stockpile, but not necessarily having to replace and build new nuclear weapons.
But if there is a conclusion down the road that there does have to be consideration for some kind of replacement, that decision will go to the president. We don't think that we'll get there. We think that we have more than an adequate nuclear deterrent.
And with this emphasis on our nuclear stockpile, and the stewardship program that we are engaged in, that we'll be, you know, stronger than anybody in the world as we always have been with more nuclear weapons than are needed many times over. And so we do not see this as in any way a diminishment of what we are able to do.