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Nuclear Weapon Hawks Give Biden Bureaucratic Mutilations Pledging to Cut Arsenal | Nuclear weapons

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A A battle is unfolding in Washington over the Biden administration’s nuclear weapons policy, amid fears among arms control supporters that the president is reneging on campaign pledges to bring America’s arsenal under control.

The Battlegrounds is a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) scheduled for early next year and a defense budget expected around the same time. At stake is a chance to stop an arms race between the United States, Russia and China – or the risk that this race will accelerate.

Despite Biden’s pledge during the campaign – and in his interim national security guidelines issued in March – that his administration would reduce “our dependence on and overspending on nuclear weapons,” the Pentagon hawks won the first skirmishes.

Biden is also under pressure from some allies, concerned about Biden’s past support for limiting the use of nuclear weapons for the “sole purpose” of deterring and retaliating against a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies.

The current American posture is broader, leaving open a nuclear response to “significant strategic non-nuclear attacks.” Britain and France also retain some ambiguity about when they would use their weapons, and fear that a shift by the United States to a “one goal” will eventually force them to narrow their options. Paris took the initiative to convey these concerns, and Emmanuel Macron raised nuclear posture issues with Biden when they met in Rome on Friday.

The great struggle, however, is on the home front, where arms control advocates are on the defensive.

The administration’s first defense budget in February included $ 43 billion for a series of nuclear modernization programs, including controversial programs introduced by Donald Trump, such as a new cruise missile launched by the sea. The total cost of modernization could exceed $ 1.5 trillion.

In September, one of Biden’s political appointments to the Pentagon, Leonor Tomero, who questioned the need for such a large and growing budget for nuclear weapons, was kicked out in a bureaucratic power struggle after just nine months. to this post. His job was to oversee the drafting of the NPR, which defines what nuclear weapons the United States should have and under what conditions they could be used.

The official reason for Tomero’s departure was that his post as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy had disappeared as part of efforts to streamline the Pentagon bureaucracy.

“This transition in office is the result of a reorganization decision designed to more appropriately align the structure of the policy store with policy goals,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman. “The review of the nuclear posture is continuing and is being managed by a large group of experts from across the department under the responsibility of the Under Secretary for Policy.”

But several congressional sources said his departure came after pressure from a Republican hardline, Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, a staunch supporter of the nuclear weapons establishment, who threatened to withhold confirmations from the main candidates. of Biden if Tomero was not sacked.

Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska is believed to have been behind the ousting of a person named by Biden from his nuclear policy responsibilities. Photograph: Rex / Shutterstock

Senator Fischer’s office did not respond to a request for comment. A Pentagon spokesperson said, “I have no information to provide on this, but in general we cannot comment on personal discussions between departmental leadership and members of Congress. “

“It appears that the minute she arrived she was attacked by people who were working behind the scenes, with Republicans in Congress, to pressure senior Pentagon officials to get rid of Leonor,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a non-nuclear expert. proliferation and geopolitics at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. “This is about making progressive views on nuclear weapons unacceptable. “

Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat, wrote to Biden asking why Tomero was removed in the middle of the NPR editorial staff, demanding to know if “ideology played a role.”

Arms control advocates complain that Democrats have not been as ruthless as Republicans in pursuing their policies. A person appointed by Trump, Drew Walter, a former senior Republican official on the House Armed Services Committee, has been allowed to “bury himself” as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Matters, rising from a political appointment to a career civil servant. Tomero was Walter’s Democratic counterpart when they were in Congress, but the Biden administration failed to protect her once she moved to the Pentagon.

Nickolas Roth, director of the nuclear security program at the Stimson Center think tank, said: “I am concerned that the removal of Leonor from his post will have a chilling effect on the entire Biden administration, on those who might. be prepared to suggest something else. than the status quo of US nuclear weapons policy.

Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer downplayed concerns that Pentagon conservatives would be able to shape the NPR.

“This will be a review of the president’s posture and the president’s politics,” Finer insisted at a Plowshares Fund event last month. “He asked the Pentagon, as has been the tradition in the past, to take the lead in drafting the Posture Review… but by the end, that will be the President’s document.”

With that in mind, Democrats reminded Biden that every dollar spent on arms programs inherited from his predecessors is a dollar less spent on the administration’s social aspirations.

“The administration must seize this opportunity to rethink the status quo and not just validate the interest of the Pentagon and the defense industry in continuing to use unnecessary weapons,” Senator Jeff Merkley told The Guardian. “The status quo risks fueling an unnecessary arms race and wasting billions of dollars that could be spent on improving Americans’ health, education and housing costs or on better investments in national security . “

Senator Jeff Merkley: “The status quo risks fueling an unnecessary arms race.
Senator Jeff Merkley: “The status quo risks fueling an unnecessary arms race. Photograph: Bonnie Cash / UPI / Rex / Shutterstock

The White House has sought to appease Democrats by agreeing to an independent review of the feasibility of extending the life of the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, compared to replacing a new weapon, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD ). The review is expected to deliver its findings next year, although, as the review committee has been selected by the Pentagon, it should not thwart plans to move forward with the $ 100 billion GBSD.

China’s development of nuclear weapons, including recent reported tests of a nuclear-capable hypersonic glider launched from orbit, has increased political pressure on Biden to renounce his nuclear control commitments. armaments, although the Chinese arsenal is still eclipsed by the American total of 3,750 warheads.

Emma Belcher, chair of the Plowshares Fund, an arms control advocacy organization, argued that China’s rise as a nuclear power only underscores the urgency of arms control.

“The best way to control the situation and avoid an arms race with China is through diplomacy and restraint,” Belcher said. “We have seen this film before. It is expensive and dangerous. So what we hope to see from the NPR is that diplomacy be the priority and a ramp out of a new kind of cold war.


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