President Biden knows more about nuclear weapons than most people who work for him. He spent decades wrestling with nuclear issues as a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee and then eight years as vice president. But that experience appears not to be helping him now: He is the 14th president of the nuclear age to discover just how difficult it is to manage the arsenal supposedly under his control.
In 2020, on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Biden pledged to “restore American leadership on arms control and nonproliferation as a central pillar of U.S. global leadership,” and in March 2021 his administration announced it would “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” News reports, however, suggest that Biden will fail on both counts when his administration issues its Nuclear Posture Review in the next few weeks.
These reports indicate that the review, traditionally done in a president’s first year in office, will adjust nuclear policy and programs at the margins while making no significant changes to the Pentagon’s budgets and deployments. The review may, at most, cancel one or two small weapons programs begun during the Trump administration — including a new nuclear-armed cruise missile for the Navy — retire an older warhead (the 1.2-megaton B83, introduced in 1983) and ratchet back Trump-era policies that expanded the circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used.
While the Trump administration said such weapons might be used in the event of a devastating nonnuclear attack on the United States, including a cyberattack, the current administration is expected to say they are “fundamentally” intended to deter the use of nuclear weapons by America’s foes.
Read the full article in The Washington Post.