The Corner

In Stark Departure, Obama Narrows Nuclear Policy

President Obama will today unveil a dramatically curtailed nuclear policy that will limit the conditions under which the United States will employ atomic weapons — even for self-defense.

Obama told the New York Times that under the new policy, the U.S. would commit to not using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that adhere to nuclear non-proliferation treaties — with exceptions for “outliers like Iran and North Korea” — even if such states attack the United States with biological or chemical weapons:

In the interview, he stopped short of the hoped-for blanket declaration that the US would never be the first to use nuclear weapons — no first-use, as it is called. Arguing instead for a slower course of action, he said: “We are going to want to make sure that we can continue to move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons, to make sure that our conventional weapons capability is an effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”

But he went further than expected in other areas, saying that the new strategy would renounce the development of any new nuclear weapons to set an example for moving the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete.

He said threats such as biological or chemical attacks could be deterred with “a series of graded options,” a combination of old and newly designed conventional weapons. “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” he said in the interview,which took place in the Oval Office.

The announcement comes as the President prepares to sign the new START nuclear treaty with Russia in Prague.

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