President Obama claims undue credit for progress toward eliminating nuclear dangers. In fact, in nearly eight years, his administrations have taken only a few small steps toward limiting these risks, while launching a nuclear weapons modernization program of unprecedented scope and expense.
The president’s 2009 speech in Prague committing the United States to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons excited us all—and garnered him the Nobel Peace Prize. Alas, the president neglected to figure out how this lofty goal was to be achieved. Should the United States continue along the bilateral path with Russia or perhaps it would be more effective to move toward a multilateral negotiation? If the latter, should it be under UN auspices or some new forum? Absent such strategic analysis, the bureaucracy took the default pathway—continued bilateral talks with Russia—which resulted eventually in the New Start agreement. That was a modest achievement, demanding slightly lower caps on American and Russian deployed, long-range weapons, but omitting other classes of nuclear weapons and doing nothing about nuclear arsenals in other nations.