Nuclear Policy Among Top Foreign Policy Challenges for 2nd Obama Term

In the wake of last week's election, pundits and politicians alike are starting to think about what the next four years may hold. While not heavily discussed during the campaign, it seems that nuclear policy is coming up high on many people's lists of issues that are likely to receive major presidential attention in the next term.

This attention may be due to President Obama's known interest in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons, but it is also because, as Joe Cirincione stated this morning on the Bill Press Show, "There are many terrible problems in the world, but this [nuclear weapons] is the only one that can destroy the world."

Not to mention, nuclear weapons issues are deeply entwined with some of our most important foriegn policy challenges, in Russia, China, Pakistan and the Middle East. As the New York Times opined this morning, 

In 2010, Mr. Obama won Senate ratification of a treaty with Russia that makes modest cuts in deployed long-range nuclear weapons. It is time to pursue further reductions in those deployed systems, and to seek cuts in warheads held in reserve and in short-range nuclear weapons, where Moscow has a big advantage. Nuclear arms are one area in which the ability of Washington and Moscow to work together is essential. If Mr. Obama can draw the other nuclear powers, including China, Pakistan, India and Israel, into the discussions and persuade the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, so much the better.

Solving the international stand-off around Iran's nuclear program was perhaps the only nuclear issue that arose during the campaign, and of course, it remains a serious challenge. The Washington Post's David Ignatius suggests that an agreement may be possible sooner rather than later. 

What’s the right formula for an agreement? [Harvard Professor Graham] Allison argues that the United States and Israel should stop dreaming about an ideal agreement and prepare for an “ugly deal,” like the one that ended the Cuban missile crisis. I agree with him that an acceptable “ugly” formula is one that verifiably stops Iran from having a bomb and also from having the capability to break out toward weaponization faster than the United States can prevent it.

News coverage doesn't guarantee policy attention, of course. That's why Ploughshares Fund and our partners will be working hard over the next months to ensure that nuclear weapons stay firmly on the foriegn policy agenda.

Photo by jonworth-eu