President Obama: Too Little Too Late

What Nobel Peace Prize?

What Nobel Peace Prize?

The nuclear weapons debate we need

August 28 at 7:34 PM
THE COMBINATION of President Obama’s last months in office and the presidential campaign has unleashed a flurry of debate about nuclear weapons. Republican nominee Donald Trump has suggested he might withdraw the U.S. nuclear umbrella from allies such as Japan and South Korea, and his combative style has raised the specter of a hothead with his finger on the button. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is considering whether to make a “no first use” declaration about nuclear weapons, and may seek renewed support for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the United Nations.

In one way or another, all of these touch on important aspects of nuclear weapons policy. It is obvious that Mr. Trump is being downright reckless, and Mr. Obama may be trying to polish a legacy that never quite fulfilled his 2009 Prague speech proposing a new era of nuclear disarmament . But the remaining weeks of the campaign would be better spent with serious debate about the real problems facing the new president.

At the top of that list is an expensive modernization of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent. Updating and replacing weapons that date back to the Cold War is essential, but the next president will have to make tough choices. For example, the Navy is embarking on an ambitious program to build 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the existing 14 Ohio-class “boomers,” the most invulnerable leg of the strategic triad. But the $97 billion price tag for the replacement fleet threatens to soak up Navy funding for other programs such as attack submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships. In order to do it all, the Congressional Research Service has estimated Navy shipbuilding budgets would have to be boosted by a third over historic levels. Can the United States afford to have it all? This question hangs over the Air Force, too, which is working on a new strategic penetrating bomber and wants a new long-range cruise missile. The missions of these two weapons systems may overlap: Is the cruise missile necessary?

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his confrontational approach have thrown into doubt earlier cooperation on arms control and nuclear security. Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is unresolved, and Moscow appears to be designing asymmetric weapons such as a nuclear-capable underwater drone, as well as building new missiles and submarines. North Korea has a steadily expanding nuclear arsenal and missile program. Nuclear deterrence is still essential and will be for some time. While continuing U.S. modernization and keeping a wary eye on Mr. Putin, a new president should look for specific areas for engagement with Moscow, such as keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists and reducing the dangers associated with both nations’ launch-ready alert postures, largely unchanged since the Cold War.
Mr. Obama’s early vision of a world without nuclear weapons is a long way off. It is time to work on present-day reality: What kind of strategic nuclear weapons do we need, at what cost and to deter what kind of threats? The campaign could use a debate that acknowledges this and grapples with it.

So Much For Nobel Ideals (Ezekiel 17)

Reduction of Nuclear Arsenal Has Slowed Under Obama, Report Finds

A new census of the American nuclear arsenal shows that the Obama administration last year dismantled its smallest number of warheads since taking office.

The new figures, released by the Pentagon, also highlight a trend — that the current administration has reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency.

On Thursday, the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington that strongly supports arms control, issued an analysis of the new figures on its Strategic Security blog. The annual Pentagon release did not appear to be linked to President Obama’s visit Friday to Hiroshima, Japan, which was destroyed by an American atomic bomb almost 71 years ago.

Still, the new figures and private analysis underscored the striking gap between Mr. Obama’s soaring vision of a world without nuclear arms, which he laid out during the first months of his presidency, and the tough geopolitical and bureaucratic realities of actually getting rid of those weapons.

The lack of recent progress in both arms control and warhead dismantlement also seems to coincide with the administration’s push for sweeping nuclear modernizations that include improved weapons, bombers, missiles and submarines. Those upgrades are estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over the next three decades.

The new census is an annual public release that the Pentagon has done in recent years detailing how many weapons remain in the nation’s nuclear arsenal and how many retired weapons have been disassembled.

The census, which updates the numbers to include 2015, was posted this month on the Department of Defense’s open government website under the heading “Declassification of Formerly Restricted Data.” The site noted that the figures were current through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of the government’s fiscal year.

Supporters of Mr. Obama say the slowdowns are understandable given the rising level of hostility and intransigence of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, as well as the inherent difficulties involved in arms control and complex technical projects.

The new figures show that in 2015 the Obama administration dismantled 109 warheads, the fewest of his presidency and down from a peak of 356 in 2009, his first year in office.

The slowdown came despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s telling global arms controllers in April 2015 that “President Obama has decided that the United States will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20 percent.”

In March, in its annual report to Congress, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, laid responsibility for the slowdown to “safety reviews, unusually high lightning events, and a worker strike at Pantex,” a sprawling dismantlement plant in Texas. Lightning strikes at the plant can set off the high explosives used in destroying nuclear arms.
On Thursday, Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the federation, questioned the administration’s logic. “Although 2015 was unusually low,” he wrote on his blog of the annual disassembly figure, “the Obama administration’s dismantlement record clearly shows a trendline of fewer and fewer warheads dismantled.”

At the Obama administration’s low rate, Mr. Kristensen added, the nation’s backlog in nuclear arms dismantlement will persist “at least until 2024.”

On Thursday, the federation’s blog also updated a nuclear issue that Mr. Kristensen first raised in 2014 — that Mr. Obama has reduced the size of the nation’s nuclear stockpile at a far slower rate than did any of his three immediate predecessors, including George Bush and George W. Bush.

The new Pentagon census shows that the nation’s nuclear arsenal in 2015 stood at 4,571 warheads — down from 5,273 warheads in 2008, the last nuclear census of the administration of George W. Bush.
The total reduction of 702 warheads, or 13.3 percent, Mr. Kristensen noted, “is no small number,” but nonetheless represented “the smallest reduction of the stockpile achieved by any previous post-Cold War administration.”

To be fair, he added, the modest pace is not all Mr. Obama’s fault.

“His vision of significant reductions and putting an end to Cold War thinking has been undercut by opposition ranging from Congress to the Kremlin,” Mr. Kristensen wrote. “An entrenched and almost ideologically-opposed Congress has fought his arms reduction vision every step of the way.”

Moscow, he added, has rejected cuts beyond modest ones it agreed to in the New Start treaty, which was signed in 2010 and observed beginning in 2011.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima takes place in the shadow of his nuclear weapons legacy, Mr. Kristensen argued. His modest gains upset arms controllers, he wrote, not least because his modernization plans are “anything but modest.”

Nuclear Security Summit Hypocrisy (Ezekiel 17)

The Threat of Nuclear Weapons Is Greater Today Than It Was During the Cold War
“There is no rational reason to feel secure today.”

By James Carden
April 4, 2016

Last week more than 50 heads of state converged on Washington to take part in the fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS). While the summit could point to one achievement, that of an amendment that would toughen existing standards with regard to protecting fissile material, the event, like so much else in Washington, seemed primarily designed to convince the public that their leaders were acting boldly in the face of a serious problem. In reality, they have done precious little to address it.
If nothing else, the summit was well-timed, following revelations that the terror cell responsible for the airport and subway attacks in Brussels had its sights on a nuclear facility in Belgium as well. President Obama certainly seemed alive to the danger, writing in an op-ed in The Washington Post the day before the summit took place, “Given the continued threat posed by organizations such as the terrorist group we call ISIL, or ISIS, we’ll also join allies and partners in reviewing our counterterrorism efforts, to prevent the world’s most dangerous networks from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Some observers noted with concern that Russia’s Vladimir Putin declined to attend. No doubt details of a diabolical Russian plan to “weaponize summits” is being invented by an intrepid NATO bureaucrat as I write. It is nevertheless concerning that the head of state of the world’s leading nuclear power declined to attend, especially in light of its strong security interest in nuclear non-proliferation.

For all that, according to the geochemist James Conca, overall, the summit could boast its share of successes, particularly “the significant global reduction in nuclear weapons, the global reduction in nuclear material stockpiles, the increased security on nuclear facilities, the dozen countries that are now free of weapons-grade materials, a newly-amended nuclear protection treaty…”
But is there less here than meets the eye?

Last week I spoke with Princeton University’s Dr. Bruce Blair to get his views on the Nuclear Security Summit, the (perhaps unhappy) prospects for non-proliferation efforts, and his view of President Obama’s record on nuclear issues.

Dr. Blair is a longtime nuclear-proliferation expert and co-founder of Global Zero, a grassroots organization that seeks a nuclear-free world.

According to Dr. Blair, the four summits that have occurred since President Obama’s famous 2009 Prague speech (which Blair derided as a “high empty calorie speech”) where he declared his support for a nuclear weapons–free future, have only focused on a small slice of the nuclear pie. That is, they have been mainly focused on locating, securing and reducing stockpiles of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). The summits, thus far anyway, have not addressed the vast amounts of plutonium nor have they addressed the vast amounts of fissile material held by the world’s militaries.

The summit, Blair pointedly told me, is “not about nuclear weapons, it is only about civilian fissile material.” Currently, there are approximately 1,500 tons (or 55,000 weapons-equivalent) of HEU in the world, of which only 8 percent (4,500 weapons-equivalent) of the total is civilian. The rest is military.

One of the gravest challenges that face us is an “unauthorized, mistaken launch” of a nuclear weapons. The risk that such an event could occur has “not only grown since end of Cold War, but continues to grow.”

According to Blair, the agenda of the NSS is frankly “beneath the pay grade of these world leaders. They should be looking at the big picture and big agenda—into ways to secure civilian materials but also focusing on all fissile materials. They should engage in a serious dialogue on how to begin to reduce the size of the stockpiles on a path to their elimination.” Blair says, “There are 16,000 nuclear weapons, but there is over 200,000 weapons-equivalent material and it will never be secure unless we get these leaders into the same room to talk about how we get to rid of all fissile materials.”
Down the road from the hideous Washington Convention Center where the summit took place, Global Zero held a panel discussion for 50 grassroots activists in support of a nuclear-free world. Former Clinton administration defense secretary William Perry said, “The danger of nuclear weapons is greater today than it was during the Cold War, I believe that firmly.” California Governor Jerry Brown said (perhaps half-jokingly) that he was lending his support to the cause “because I talked to Bill Perry and he scared the hell out of me.” Brown also noted “one thing I’ve noticed” from a lifetime in politics “that this is not a normal problem…because its so big no one wants to talk about it.” Perhaps, though, we can discern a silver lining in the fact that organizations like Global Zero are indeed talking about it:Recognizing a problem, after all, is a prerequisite to solving it

Nebuchadnezzar Whines About Iran (Ezekiel 17)

Pouting Obama Says Iran Not Following the ‘Spirit’ of Nuke Deal


So you have this ultra-radical, ultra-fanatical, ultra-extreme country run by people who salivate at the notion of committing genocide, and you make a deal with them that supposedly prevents the construction of nuclear weapons. And as president, you sit back and wait for the choruses of Kumbaya to be heard from the terrorist regime’s capital as they magically transform into a peaceful, grown-up country.

Unless that country is Iran.

The Hill:

President Obama on Friday criticized Iranian leaders for undermining the “spirit” of last year’s historic nuclear agreement, even as they stick to the “letter” of the pact.

In comments following the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Obama denied speculation that the United States would ease rules preventing dollars from being used in financial transactions with Iran, in order to boost the country’s engagement with the rest of the world.

Instead, Obama claimed, that Iran’s troubles even after the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal were due to its continued support of Hezbollah, ballistic missile tests and other aggressive behavior.
“Iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that are going to scare businesses off,” Obama said at a press conference.

When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous.”

“Iran has to understand what every country in the world understands, which is businesses want to go where they feel safe, where they don’t see massive controversy, where they can be confident that transactions are going to operate normally,” he added. “And that’s an adjustment that Iran’s going to have to make as well.”

Months after the U.S. and other global powers lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, Iranian leaders complain that they have yet to reap the benefits.

“Our banking trade, our efforts to return wealth from their banks, various kinds of businesses that require financial services — all of these are still facing problems,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an address last month. “When we investigate the issue, it becomes obvious that [the banks] are afraid of the United States.”

I’m trying to decide what’s more jaw-dropping: Obama thinking Iran is interested in adhering to the “spirit” of the treaty or that the president actually believed the Iranians ever intended to adhere to it.
President Obama is apparently surprised that dangling the carrot of international trade will not tame the savage beasts in Iran. They test-launch ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions; they continue to arm and fund a designated terror group, Hezbollah; and they continue to meddle in Yemen, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries while denying involvement.

Iran is violating the “spirit” of the agreement by not becoming fast friends with America, in Obama’s eyes. He yearns for that historic photo op of stepping off Air Force One on to the tarmac at Tehran’s airport, hailed for bringing peace in our time.

But Khamenei ain’t no Raúl Castro. His white-hot hate for America is exceeded only by his fanatical desire to wipe out the Jews. Iran negotiated and agreed to the terms of the nuclear deal because they were close to economic collapse, not as a favor to Obama or because of any desire for a rapprochement with the West.

The president apparently – naively – thought otherwise.

A Job Half Done Is A Job NOT Done (Ezekiel 17)

A Nuclear Job Half Done

APRIL 1, 2016

As he ended the Nuclear Security Summit on Friday, President Obama could claim some success in leading the international community to curb the amount of nuclear materials that could fall into terrorists’ hands.

But even with considerable progress, Mr. Obama has not fulfilled his goal of securing all nuclear materials in four years; some 1,800 metric tons of nuclear material remain stored in 24 countries, much of it vulnerable to theft.

The summit meeting, which drew more than 50 world leaders to Washington, produced many practical commitments to secure and eliminate nuclear materials. Mr. Obama announced that a long-stalled treaty requiring countries to comply with standards for securing nuclear facilities and nuclear material while in storage, use or transit would take effect in 30 days.

Japan and the United States said they had completed the transfer of all highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium from a research project in Tokai Mura, Japan, to a facility in South Carolina where the materials will be converted to forms less suitable for use in weapons. South Korea promised to strengthen nuclear detection at its ports, Kazakhstan said it would strengthen its export control laws and Britain pledged to lead a new cyber security initiative in response to growing concerns that a cyberattack could be made on nuclear plants.

Despite serious tensions with Washington on many other issues, China’s president, Xi Jinping, promised to convert some of China’s nuclear reactors, as well as reactors supplied to Ghana and Nigeria, to low-enriched uranium, which is less suitable for weapons use. The United States also announced plans to look into using low-enriched uranium rather than highly enriched uranium in its naval reactors.

President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to attend the summit meeting, however, was a reminder of how troubled ties with Russia are stymieing Mr. Obama’s ambitious pledge in 2009 to seek a world without nuclear weapons. The two countries still deploy more than 1,800 strategic warheads each.
Sign Up for the Opinion Today Newsletter
Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.
In 2013, Mr. Obama said America’s arsenal could be reduced by one-third. Even so, he has supported a $1 trillion plan to replace the nuclear arsenal, including bombers, missiles and submarines. Russia is also modernizing its arsenal, while Pakistan, India and China are expanding theirs. Meanwhile, North Korea, despite tough sanctions, is adding to its cache of nuclear weapons and the missiles needed to launch them.

The nuclear security summit meetings have been a useful means of focusing attention on nuclear dangers and persuading countries to be more security conscious. It will be up to the next American president to continue this effort and work to prevent another nuclear arms race.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

So Much For Nobel Ambitions (Ezekiel 17)

Nuclear terrorism fears loom over Obama’s final atomic summit


By Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Just as fears of nuclear terrorism are rising, U.S. President Barack Obama’s drive to lock down vulnerable atomic materials worldwide seems to have lost momentum and could slow further.

With less than 10 months left in office to follow through on one of his signature foreign policy initiatives, Obama will convene leaders from more than 50 countries in Washington this week for his fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, a high-level diplomatic process that started and will end on his watch.

A boycott by Russian President Vladimir Putin, apparently unwilling to join in a U.S.-dominated gathering at a time of increased tensions between Washington and Moscow, adds to doubts that the meeting will yield major results.

The recent deadly militant attacks in Brussels have fueled concern that Islamic State could eventually target nuclear plants and develop radioactive “dirty bombs,” a topic that may well be uppermost in leaders’ minds as they meet.

Despite significant progress by Obama in persuading dozens of countries to rid themselves of bomb-making materials or reduce and safeguard stockpiles, much of the world’s plutonium and enriched uranium remains vulnerable to theft.


The absence of Russia, one of the biggest atomic powers, could detract from decisions reached in Washington this week.

Obama, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post, said, “Our massive Cold War nuclear arsenal is poorly suited to today’s threats. The United States and Russia – which together hold more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons – should negotiate to reduce our stockpiles further.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Russia was skipping the summit because of a ”shortage of mutual cooperation” in working out the agenda.

While noting that Moscow had continued joint work on nuclear security, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Russia was going to “miss out on an opportunity” and that its no-show illustrated the “degree to which Russia is isolated.” Russia has chafed over U.S.-led sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

Efforts to make the world safer have also been complicated by North Korea’s nuclear weapons advance and Pakistan’s move toward smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, which Washington fears may further destabilize an already volatile region.

All of this weighs on Obama’s agenda as he prepares to host world leaders on Thursday and Friday. He inaugurated the event nearly six years ago, after using a landmark speech in Prague in 2009 to lay out the goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons as a central theme of his presidency.
There is no guarantee that once Obama, the driving force behind the initiative, leaves office in January his successor will keep the issue a high priority.


The White House previewed the summit by touting a list of achievements in the U.S.-led effort to tie down loose bomb-grade materials, and arms control advocates commend Obama for galvanizing an international response to the problem.

However, many say progress has slowed since the last summit in 2014 and countries such as Japan, India and Pakistan are preparing activities that could increase stockpiles of nuclear materials.

“The Nuclear Security Summits have had a positive effect, but the strategic goal of developing an effective global nuclear security system remains unachieved,” the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-proliferation watchdog, said in a report this month.

According to the group’s Nuclear Security Index, which tracks the safety of weapons-usable nuclear materials, the past two years have brought no improvement in a range of measures, including on-site physical protection, security during transport and the ability to recover lost radioactive materials.
The report also said many countries’ nuclear reactors were vulnerable to online attacks. Seven of 24 countries with weapons-grade material, including China and Belgium, received the lowest possible score for their facilities’ cyber security.

Other critics point to a lack of an agreed-upon set of international standards for nuclear security or a mechanism for keeping tabs on common sources of radioactive material often found in hospitals and medical labs.

However, Laura Holgate, Obama’s adviser on weapons of mass destruction, cited commitments from 30 countries at the 2014 summit to secure their most dangerous material.

“The international community has made it harder than ever for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, and that has made us all more secure,” she told reporters before the summit.


Two of the Brussels suicide bombers secretly filmed the daily routine of the head of Belgium’s nuclear research and development program and considered an attack on a nuclear site in the country, according to Belgian media.

U.S. experts are less concerned about militants obtaining nuclear weapon components than about thefts of ingredients for a low-tech dirty bomb that would use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material and sow panic.

U.S. officials said they had no doubt that Islamic State, which controls swaths of Syria and Iraq, was interested in obtaining such materials, but Holgate said U.S. authorities had no “explicit indications” that the group had tried to do so.

More commitments from world leaders to enhance nuclear security are expected at the summit but anti-proliferation groups worry that without further meetings at the highest levels, interest could wane and improvements could backslide.

Obama’s Nuclear Di-Vision (Ezekiel 17)
Obama’s fizzled nuclear vision

A president that was once a knight in shining armor to the arms control community is increasingly viewed as a disappointment.

By Bryan Bender
03/31/16 09:59 PM EDT

President Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has called for ridding the world of nuclear bombs and missiles, is hosting world leaders on Friday to discuss the urgent need to prevent the further spread of doomsday weapons.

But he’s drawing fire from arms control advocates who say his policies are undermining those very same goals — by cutting the proposed budget for nuclear security while increasing spending to upgrade the U.S. atomic arsenal. Even the administration leaders overseeing Obama’s efforts acknowledge that budget constraints, souring relations with Russia and an aging U.S. nuclear deterrent have posed unforeseen obstacles to the grand vision of a nuclear-free world that he outlined in an April 2009 speech in Prague.

“Our closest friends and allies are critical, but of course they want us to do more, and we want to do more,” Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the deputy secretary of energy, told POLITICO in an interview Thursday. As for Obama’s goals for reducing the global nuclear threat, she said, “we can’t achieve those all in this administration. The president has noted that frequently. But we certainly have made a lot of progress.”

Critics outside the administration are far more blunt, saying the nuclear weapons modernization that Obama wants to carry out will increase the chances of an atomic arms race with countries like Russia. They say even the D.C. summit that the president will address on Friday is focused on securing only about 2 percent of the material worldwide that could be fashioned into an atomic bomb.
“I have a hard time calling this a nuclear security summit,” said Bruce Blair, a former Air Force nuclear launch officer who co-founded Global Zero, an international movement seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons that was fueled by Obama’s Prague speech. “The Prague vision has been just empty calories.”

Instead, with U.S.-Russia relations at a post-Cold War low, reports indicating the Islamic State and other terrorist groups are seeking nuclear or radiological material, and North Korea openly threatening nuclear war, a president who was once a knight in shining armor to the arms control community is increasingly viewed as a disappointment — even with his success in negotiating a deal to delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“It is debatable whether other countries will go nuclear,” said Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany who negotiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. He expressed dismay at Obama’s push for more money to upgrade U.S. nuclear weapons, saying, “We are on the verge of a massive and very expensive program of nuclear modernization across the board.”

Members of Congress have also expressed concern. On the eve of the summit, half a dozen Democratic senators penned a letter to Obama urging him to “redouble” his efforts to reduce nuclear threats.

Obama’s nuclear critics aren’t all your typical peaceniks. Blair’s group, for instance, boasts several former secretaries of state and defense among its supporters. Its other leaders include retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who was the top commander of the U.S. nuclear arsenal before becoming Obama’s vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Blair, who now teaches at Princeton University, contends that the administration’s efforts at keeping nuclear fuel from getting into the wrong hands are missing the bigger picture. That’s because they focus heavily on locking down highly enriched uranium that could be pilfered from civilian research facilities, even though military facilities around the world contain much more bomb-grade material, including in countries like Pakistan that have fewer controls than other nuclear states.

“There is the equivalent of 200,000 nuclear weapons in the world in the form of highly enriched uranium and plutonium,” he added. “That is a lot, and that number has not decreased at all on Obama’s watch.”

By virtually ignoring the other 98 percent of material, he argues, we are “sleepwalking into the future.”

Meanwhile, current and former government officials estimate that efforts spearheaded by the administration to lock up or destroy civilian stockpiles of highly enriched uranium have ultimately been a wash because other facilities have increased their reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel into weapons-grade material. The increase is equal to the same amount, or about 10,000 weapons’ worth.
In their letter to Obama this week, the Democratic senators urged him to dedicate more resources to the International Atomic Energy Agency to “reinforce proliferation barriers” and seek a ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. They said the administration could also pursue goals such as “ensuring the security of fissile, radiological, and other nuclear materials, eliminating excess nuclear stockpiles, [and] converting or shutting down weapons-grade uranium fueled reactors.”

President Obama has less than ten months to deliver on any of the promises he might make during this week’s Washington D.C. Nuclear Security Summit. That might be enough time to make some final achievements—it is expected that a 1987 treaty on nuclear protection will finally have enough signatories to be put into effect this week, for instance—but it will not be nearly enough time to modernize the United States’ rusting and neglected nuclear infrastructure. While outdated weapons arsenals have long been a target of energy experts and military watchdogs, the safety of nuclear power plants has also taken on a new urgency in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks, before which the suspects reportedly planned an attack on a Belgian nuclear site. In a report issued this month, by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-proliferation group, seven of 24 countries received the lowest scores possible for the safety of their nuclear facilities. In the United States, more than half of the country’s nuclear reactors are over 30 years old, and a 2014 Pentagon report put a price tag of billions on restoring nuclear weapons infrastructure. The following images are just one look at the weathered reactors, aging planes and Cold War-era command posts that are only becoming more pressing in the age of ISIL and unconventional warfare. Above, Indian Point in Buchanan, New York, nuclear facility was shut down on Tuesday after an inspection revealed about 200 faulty bolts that hold plates together inside the reactor. In the past year, a power failure, transformer fire and alarm fire have all struck the plant, prompting calls to shut down the 40-year-old plant.

They also called on Obama to propose again that the U.S. and Russia reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,000 weapons and 500 delivery systems apiece, or less than half than they currently have deployed — an issue that causes particular consternation among the arms control community.

Instead, critics argue that the administration is taking steps that undercut overall nuclear security.
The administration’s budget request for countering nuclear proliferation next year is $1.8 billion, or roughly $132 million less than what it sought last year. Meanwhile, spending on nuclear weapons is up $396 million to $9.2 billion, according to an analysis by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, co-founded by former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.

The largest proposed reduction is in the Global Material Security program, which is run by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and “has the task of improving the security of nuclear materials around the world, securing orphaned or disused radiological sources, and strengthening nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

Sherwood-Randall, who oversees the NNSA and its nuclear weapons labs, said the budget “reflects where we think we can make the most progress in the coming year,” including locking down fissile material, taking fissile material off the global playing field, working to prevent and counter

“The fact the budget is not the same as it was seven years ago reflects the progress we have made on many fronts,” she said.

Yet she acknowledged that the administration faces many competing priorities. “Of course we’d love to have more funding.”

Burt, the former ambassador, acknowledged that nuclear powerhouse Russia is the main impediment to further arms reductions, especially because “Russian nuclear doctrine has become more expansive” as the U.S. has sought to reduce the role of strategic weapons. (Russia is not attending the summit.)
But Burt believes Washington could be doing more to engage Moscow on this issue. “We are at a pretty disappointing state of affairs,” he said.

Blair agrees. “I don’t think we are trying hard enough to bring [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin to the table,” he said.

Reif, meanwhile, said the U.S. could reduce the chances of an arms race by stepping back from particularly destabilizing moves. He reported Friday that the Air Force is considering developing a new nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile that would have the “modularity” to be mounted on a mobile platform — something the U.S. didn’t do even during the Cold War.

“Despite the fact that the United States did not deploy mobile ICBMs during the Cold War and that the Air Force estimates such forces would cost at least $80 billion more over the next 50 years than retaining only silo-based missiles, the service appears poised to design a missile that will keep that option open,” Reif said.

Obama’s deputy energy secretary defends the new investments in the nuclear arsenal, saying they do not come at the expense of reducing overall nuclear dangers.

“We have reduced our reliance on nuclear weapons in this administration through a series of policy decisions taken by the president,” she said. “At the same time, [we are] committed to the investments required to ensure the arsenal is safe, secure and effective at lower numbers. That requires investment in both weapons life extension programs and in infrastructure.”

She also insists that the summit in Washington is poised to make real progress, hoping to secure pledges from numerous countries to turn supplies of highly enriched uranium into low-enriched uranium that cannot be used for weapons. Other goals include seeking a halt to plutonium reprocessing, getting new commitments on helping stop nuclear smuggling and making the global nuclear security summit a biannual tradition.

But for many advocates of halting the spread of nuclear arms, the items not on the agenda are what needs more attention.

“Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are increasing every day,” Blair said. “And they don’t have safety features. We still have Cold War like nuclear operations and doctrine,” which he said raises the risk of miscalculation. “Are we keeping one step ahead of ISIS? Or are we doing too little, too late.”

“We are not really getting rid of this stuff,” Blair added. “It is still being produced.”

Read more:
Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook

The Irony Of Obama’s Nuclear Legacy

Obama: The Anti-Anti-Nuke President

MARCH 25, 2016

NEXT week President Obama will welcome world leaders to Washington for his fourth Nuclear Security Summit, a biennial event he initiated to mobilize global action to prevent terrorists from acquiring atomic bombs.

As this is Mr. Obama’s last such meeting on an issue that he professes to care about deeply, one might expect him to seize the opportunity to announce a major nonproliferation initiative, then brace for resistance from congressional Republicans skeptical of arms control.

But reality is exactly the opposite. It is the Republican-controlled Congress that is pushing the most ambitious arms control project in recent memory. Inexplicably, President Obama is the one resisting.
Some background: In recent years, legislators on both sides of the aisle have become increasingly concerned about global commerce in highly enriched uranium, the same material that fueled the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. If terrorists obtained less than 100 pounds of the stuff, they could almost surely set off a similar explosion. A country with even moderate technical expertise could achieve the same yield with a much smaller amount.

In light of these dangers, the United States in 1978 initiated an international program to reduce the use of bomb-grade uranium fuel in research reactors — which typically sit undefended on university campuses — by developing substitute fuel from low-enriched uranium that is unsuitable for weapons. The program has been enormously successful, eliminating highly enriched uranium from dozens of such facilities.

But this initiative failed to address the vast majority of bomb-grade uranium fuel, which is used by the world’s nuclear navies, in reactors that propel submarines and aircraft carriers. Indeed, the navies of just three countries — the United States, Russia and Britain — use several tons of bomb-grade uranium annually for fuel, at least four times as much as all of the world’s research reactors combined.

Naval highly enriched fuel poses multiple risks. First, it creates cover for countries to develop of nuclear weapons, since naval fuel is excluded from international inspections under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iranian officials have said repeatedly that they will need highly enriched uranium for their future nuclear navy, but there would be no way to prevent them from diverting it into weaponry.

What’s more, such uranium is vulnerable to being stolen by terrorists during transport or storage. And these dangers are expected to grow. Unless our Navy switches to safer fuel in coming decades, the United States will need to resume production of bomb-grade uranium for the first time since 1992 to replenish its supply, undercutting Washington’s goal of halting such production worldwide.
To address these risks, last year Congress authorized and appropriated funding for initial research and development of low-enriched uranium fuel for America’s naval reactors. This project could be a game-changer, since the United States is the world’s biggest user of bomb-grade naval fuel. Simply by signaling an intention to convert to safer fuel if feasible, the United States would put substantial pressure on Russia to follow suit, and would reduce Iran’s justification for seeking highly enriched uranium.

That would seem like a no-brainer addition to the president’s laudable nonproliferation agenda, which helped earn him the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, the president has opposed it. When Congress initiated the program in the 2016 fiscal year, the White House objected on the ground that funding was to be taken from an existing Energy Department nonproliferation account. This was an odd objection, given the plan’s undeniable nonproliferation intent, but bureaucrats guard their budgets vigilantly. Eventually, the president acquiesced to the first-year funding as part of larger legislation.
If Mr. Obama’s sole concern was the funding source, he could have provided funds directly to the Office of Naval Reactors in the subsequent fiscal year. But when he submitted his 2017 budget last month, it included no funding at all for the program.

When asked why, an Energy Department official claimed that the program’s findings to date were insufficient to justify a second year of research. But that is ridiculous. Nuclear fuel development typically requires at least five years to assess feasibility.

The more likely — and depressing — explanation for the White House’s opposition appears to be petty turf warfare. Simply because Congress had the audacity to dip into a nonproliferation account, the administration has turned against the program. As a result, this vital security undertaking will grind to a halt later this year — just months after Mr. Obama hosts the nuclear summit meeting — unless Congress again comes to the rescue.

What’s more, such uranium is vulnerable to being stolen by terrorists during transport or storage. And these dangers are expected to grow. Unless our Navy switches to safer fuel in coming decades, the United States will need to resume production of bomb-grade uranium for the first time since 1992 to replenish its supply, undercutting Washington’s goal of halting such production worldwide.
To address these risks, last year Congress authorized and appropriated funding for initial research and development of low-enriched uranium fuel for America’s naval reactors. This project could be a game-changer, since the United States is the world’s biggest user of bomb-grade naval fuel. Simply by signaling an intention to convert to safer fuel if feasible, the United States would put substantial pressure on Russia to follow suit, and would reduce Iran’s justification for seeking highly enriched uranium.

That would seem like a no-brainer addition to the president’s laudable nonproliferation agenda, which helped earn him the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, the president has opposed it. When Congress initiated the program in the 2016 fiscal year, the White House objected on the ground that funding was to be taken from an existing Energy Department nonproliferation account. This was an odd objection, given the plan’s undeniable nonproliferation intent, but bureaucrats guard their budgets vigilantly. Eventually, the president acquiesced to the first-year funding as part of larger legislation.
If Mr. Obama’s sole concern was the funding source, he could have provided funds directly to the Office of Naval Reactors in the subsequent fiscal year. But when he submitted his 2017 budget last month, it included no funding at all for the program.

When asked why, an Energy Department official claimed that the program’s findings to date were insufficient to justify a second year of research. But that is ridiculous. Nuclear fuel development typically requires at least five years to assess feasibility.

The more likely — and depressing — explanation for the White House’s opposition appears to be petty turf warfare. Simply because Congress had the audacity to dip into a nonproliferation account, the administration has turned against the program. As a result, this vital security undertaking will grind to a halt later this year — just months after Mr. Obama hosts the nuclear summit meeting — unless Congress again comes to the rescue.

Such peevishness is shortsighted. President Obama should instead use the meeting to highlight the naval research as a signature nonproliferation initiative, and he should challenge other countries to follow suit. Not only would that promote global security, but it could help burnish Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy record. Indeed, the conversion of naval nuclear fuel could yield the greatest reduction in bomb-grade uranium commerce in human history. Now that would be a legacy.

Obama’s Errant Nuclear Policy (Ezekiel 17)

U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to preventing and rolling back the spread of nuclear weapons was clear from the first days of his administration, when he pledged in Prague in April 2009 “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” The historic vow shattered precedent, seized international attention and helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize later that year. Yet as he prepares to leave office seven years later, it appears that with the exception of a fledgling nuclear deal with Iran, Obama will leave an arms control legacy that is arguably little better than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Indeed, in many ways, Obama’s presidency has served as an object lesson in the limits of a U.S. president’s ability to shape a global nuclear order amid competing tugs from foreign competitors and allies, domestic politics and bureaucratic factions. In the past several years, forces abroad—Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea—and at home—congressional Republicans, elements in the Defense and Energy Departments—have all challenged Obama’s vision to the point where his successor is now likely to be pressured to give nuclear weapons a renewed role in U.S. national security policy.
Obama’s Prague speech was born of both strategic and tactical considerations. Strategically, 9/11 and a perception of U.S. conventional dominance over global rivals had generated a strain of thinking that saw the elimination of nuclear weapons as not only a global good, but a means of bolstering U.S. national security. Nuclear weapons, the argument went, gave rogue states like Iran and North Korea, weaker conventional powers like Russia and China, and terrorists a means of leveling the playing the field with mighty U.S. conventional forces.
Those new power dynamics had led a group of four leading Cold Warriors—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and Sam Nunn, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee—to sound the call for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Obama first made this cause his own during the 2008 presidential campaign.
But the Prague speech had a more practical and tactical aspect, as well. Splits between the European Union and the U.S. in particular and the Bush administration and other important global actors more generally had prevented Washington from winning support for imposing punishing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Left essentially unchecked, Iran was proceeding with enriching enough uranium to provide the essential fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Placing efforts to restrict Iranian nuclear developments within a more appealing global vision for the elimination of all nuclear weapons helped Obama win European support for sanctions that pushed Iran into serious negotiations in 2012. In the long term, the success of the nuclear deal is likely to depend on whether Obama’s implicit bet pays off: That Iran will change sufficiently in the next decade that by the time many of the deal’s strictures expire, Tehran won’t feel compelled to race for a bomb.

Obama’s presidency has served as an object lesson in the limits of a U.S. president’s ability to shape a global nuclear order.

Still, the Prague speech was about more than Iran. Obama also sought to use it to advance other nuclear nonproliferation and arms control goals.
In an attempt to slow an escalating arms race between India and Pakistan, he pushed to move forward on two international treaties that had been negotiated by the Clinton administration but had met opposition either at home or abroad. The first was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), banning all nuclear weapons tests and providing for verification measures to determine if such tests had occurred. In 1999, the Senate had defeated legislation ratifying it. The second was a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; Pakistan had become the major obstacle to beginning negotiations.
But today, neither the Senate nor Pakistan has budged in their opposition to the pacts. In fact, during Obama’s time in office, North Korea, which has not ratified the CTBT, has conducted three nuclear tests, following its first one in 2006. And Pakistan and India have increased their fissile material production.
One of Obama’s major policy innovations, presaged by his commitment in the Prague speech to launch an international effort to secure all fissile materials in four years, was a series of Nuclear Security Summits. At these meetings, he has brought together around 50 world leaders every two years to make further progress on efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, which the Bush administration either began or sharply boosted after 9/11. The summits have succeeded in bringing high-level focus to the issue; in advancing the enactment of some important nuclear security treaties; and in clearing some countries and facilities of dangerous materials in civilian hands.
Yet with the last such summit set for this spring, Obama will leave behind a nuclear security regime that still has far too many holes. He failed to enact stronger measures to prevent sabotage of nuclear facilities, including cyberattacks. He also failed to provide sufficient security over the civil sector’s large volumes of highly enriched uranium, plutonium and radioactive sources useful for “dirty bombs,” as well as fissile materials under military supervision.
What’s standing in Obama’s way? A tendency for other countries—especially Russia, the world’s largest possessor of nuclear materials—to discount the danger of nuclear terrorism and/or resent U.S. attempts to lead on the issue. After Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, Moscow bowed out of a longstanding and highly successful bilateral nuclear security effort with the U.S. and has refused to attend this year’s Nuclear Security Summit.
Putin’s recalcitrance has tarnished another one of Obama’s achievements: the negotiation and 2010 approval of the new START treaty, which locked in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at the lowest levels in decades, after steep but unpublicized cuts in both country’s arsenals during the Bush administration. Touted as a moment to “reset” relations, the deal was supposed to be the first in a series of pacts that aimed to drive U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles toward zero.
Yet Russia, increasingly worried about U.S conventional and missile defense capabilities, had little interest in further nuclear cuts alone. In 2013 Moscow rebuffed an Obama initiative for a further one-third cut in arsenals, even before the standoff over Ukraine and allegations that Moscow violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had soured the prospects for fresh talks.
To win Senate approval of the new START treaty, moreover, Obama had to swallow a poison pill: the promise of major investments in U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear delivery systems. With China and Russia modernizing their nuclear and conventional weapons and eroding American military dominance, Washington has been pressed to upgrade its entire nuclear arsenal. That includes gravity bombs, air-launched cruise missiles and strategic intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from submarines and silos—all at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years.
In his Prague speech, Obama acknowledged that his goal of a world without nuclear weapons “will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” But now the question for Obama’s successor is not how much more to cut America’s nuclear arsenal. Instead, it’s exactly how far he or she should go in building new nuclear weapons or upgrading old ones.
Miles Pomper is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C.

Nobel Laureate Obama Set On Pakistani Nukes (Daniel 8:8)

Obama Sets Sights on Pakistan’s Nuclear Program After Iran
Natalie Obiko Pearson

October 21, 2015 — 4:00 PM MDT

Updated on October 22, 2015 — 1:43 PM MDT

Pakistan’s Sharif meets Obama at the White House on Thursday

Leaders discussing nuclear arsenal, terrorism, Afghanistan

After reaching a deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities, President Barack Obama may seek to curtail Pakistan’s fast-growing arsenal of atomic weapons.

Obama hosted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House on Thursday amid speculation that their nations are in talks to limit Pakistan’s nuclear arms program in return for greater access to technology and fuel for civilian purposes, similar to a U.S. deal with its arch-rival India. Obama also wants Pakistan’s commitment to curb Islamic militants operating within its borders and to play a role in brokering an accord with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

The leaders discussed nuclear security, including Pakistan safeguarding of its nuclear stockpile and working with international nuclear regulators, according to a joint statement the pair released after the meeting. The U.S. also pledged to help Pakistan attract private investment in clean energy and to provide $70 million to help educate 200,000 Pakistani girls.

The discussions highlight complexities in U.S. relations with Pakistan, a country that has received more than $30 billion in American aid since 2002 even though Obama didn’t trust its leaders enough to inform them of the mission there that killed Osama bin Laden. Last week, Obama cited Pakistan in calling for the elimination of sanctuaries for Afghanistan’s Taliban fighters.

Longstanding Relationship

“The United States and Pakistan have a longstanding relationship, work and cooperation on a whole host of issues, not just on security matters but also on economic, scientific, educational affairs,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office before the meeting with Sharif. “We’re looking forward to using this meeting as an opportunity to further deepen the relationship.”

Sharif told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday that Pakistan’s anti-terror operations have improved internal security. Talk of a nuclear deal percolates amid growing concern over the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which along with India’s is the world’s fastest-growing.
“The U.S. and Pakistan, now and historically, have been working toward differing goals,” said Aparna Pande, a South Asia scholar at the Washington-based Hudson Institute. “America hopes this deal will calm Pakistan down, make it a better actor in the region. Pakistan sees it as another way to achieve parity with India and to keep building nuclear weapons.”

Fourth Reactor

Satellite images indicate Pakistan started up its fourth reactor earlier this year, making it capable of more than doubling the amount of weapons-grade plutonium it produces, according to the Institute for Science and International Security.

More fissile material could give Pakistan the world’s third-biggest nuclear arsenal in five to 10 years — behind the U.S. and Russia but twice as large as India’s — according to an August report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center. India currently has an estimated 90 to 110 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan has about 100 to 120, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The White House and Pakistani officials have played down reports that the U.S. is nearing a deal with Pakistan to restrict its nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

“I would significantly reduce your expectations about that occurring on Thursday,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday when asked about the prospect that such a deal may be announced as part of this week’s visit.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry was more emphatic, saying “no deal” is being discussed and pledging “to maintain a full-spectrum deterrence capability in order to safeguard our national security, maintain strategic stability and deter any kind of aggression from India.”

The nuclear issue “probably will be discussed, but I don’t think there is any mood in Pakistan to yield on that,” Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, said in an interview. “This is a long process. Pakistan is not in a great hurry to stop developing the delivery systems it has.”

Fractious Government

Obama is in a tough spot when engaging with Pakistan given its fractious government and a political spectrum that ranges from friends of the West to those who want to destroy anything related to the U.S., Representative Brad Sherman told Bloomberg reporters and editors in Washington on Tuesday. Sherman of California is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I don’t think there’s one Pakistan. I don’t think there’s one Pakistani government,” Sherman said. “But is the Pakistani military fighting and dying to combat terrorists? Yes. Are elements of the Pakistani military funding and aiding terrorists? Yes.”

India and the U.S. announced a nuclear cooperation deal in 2005 to lift a three-decade ban so that India could access civilian nuclear technology and import uranium for fuel. It was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2008.

Pakistan immediately lobbied for a similar deal, but then-U.S. President George W. Bush ruled it out, saying India and Pakistan couldn’t be compared.

China’s Help

Pakistan’s past will make it tough to convince the skeptics. In the 1980s, it accepted Chinese assistance to build a bomb while it was pledging to enrich only enough uranium to produce power. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, confessed publicly in 2004 to running a network that sold technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

China this year said it has helped Pakistan with six of the seven reactors either built or under construction. Most members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group would consider this a violation of rules, making cooperation with Pakistan “impossible” unless it agrees to new commitments, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Still, violations of the rules are common. Russia flouted them to ship fuel to Indian reactors in 2001. India also ran a secret bomb program and, like Israel and Pakistan, has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

While China has stopped short of publicly backing Pakistan’s aspirations to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it has questioned the exemption awarded to India that lets it import uranium from countries including Australia and France.

Any deal is unlikely unless Pakistan agrees to safeguard its nuclear facilities under international rules and give up its tactical nuclear program, said Najam Rafique, director at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Pakistan’s leaders mostly want talks to maintain good ties with the U.S. and China, he said.