Later today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will present the Obama administration’s “Nuclear Policy Review,” which makes significant changes to the position of the US government regarding nuclear weapons, shifting the emphasis to preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.
In the Review, the US government will pledge to refrain from using nuclear weapons to attack any country in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — even if that country has attacked the US with chemical or biological weapons.
“This is part of our effort to continue to incentivize nations to comply with the NPT, and to isolate those who don’t,” a senior administration official told ABC News. Nuclear states and those nations such as Iran and North Korea that are non-compliant with the NPT “get no assurance at all.”
The idea is that by continuing to develop their nuclear weapons programs, Iran and North Korea are taking steps that make them less secure.
The official said that the Review contains a “caveat that if there are substantial advances in bio-weapons and bio-proliferation we can revisit the assurance.” He said the Review “emphasizes increasing conventional capacity to respond to some of the contingencies,” such as an attack with chemical and biological weapons.
“We are going to want to make sure that we can continue to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons,” the President said in an interview with the New York Times, to “make sure that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”
Today’s announcement comes, not coincidentally, just two days before President Obama is scheduled to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russian President Medvedev in Prague, and less than a week before a multi-nation nuclear security summit in Washington, DC.
Finalized after more than 100 interagency meetings, the Review also says the US will not develop any new nuclear weapons — contrary to what Secretary Gates originally recommended – though the Pentagon "will modernize the nuclear weapons infrastructure, sustain the science, technology, and engineering base, invest in human capital, and ensure senior leadership focus" and will "also extend the life of warheads currently in the nuclear arsenal,” a administration official said. “This is an alternative to developing new nuclear weapons, which we reject."