by John Isaacs
“We’ll have major progress on nuclear issues no matter who is elected. It debunks the common view that Obama is the most liberal Democratic senator, and it debunks the view that McCain is really the third Bush term.“- John Isaacs, Executive Director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times on July 13
In a campaign that features back and forth on issues large and small, where Barack Obama and John McCain disagree on everything from taxes to offshore drilling to Social Security to Iraq, it is amazing how much agreement there is on nuclear weapons issues.
Below are seven areas of agreement, and six of disagreement, between Obama and McCain on nuclear weapons issues.
AREAS OF AGREEMENT
NUCLEAR WEAPONS-FREE WORLD
Obama and McCain both have pledged to work towards eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, a goal originally espoused by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Senator Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry.
DECREASE IN U.S. NUCLEAR ARSENAL
Both of the candidates seek to reduce the United States’ nuclear arsenal. They have pledged to retain a reasonable nuclear deterrent while still fulfilling the United States’ commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
STRATEGIC ARMS REDUCTION TREATY (START)
Both candidates encourage the negotiation of an extension of the START nuclear agreement with Russia. Obama introduced S. 1977 in August 2007, a bill fortifying U.S. non-proliferation policy that included provisions related to START. In his May 2008 speech on nuclear security, McCain reaffirmed the need to pursue “binding verification measures” based on those included in START.
STRENGTHENING INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (IAEA)
Both candidates support strengthening the IAEA. Obama’s S. 1977 resolution authorized $15 million annually for IAEA activity. McCain is also a proponent of increased funding, as well as increased transparency and compliance on the part of the nuclear countries under IAEA scrutiny.
NUNN-LUGAR COOPERATIVE THREAT REDUCTION
Both of the candidates support an increase in Cooperative Threat Reduction programs in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
FISSILE MATERIAL CUT-OFF TREATY
Both Obama and McCain have indicated that they will work for a global treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY (NPT)
Both of the candidates have affirmed their ongoing support for the NPT, emphasizing that they will work towards better global enforcement.
AREAS OF DISAGREEMENT
COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY (CTBT)
Obama supports ratification of the CTBT, while McCain said he will “reconsider” the treaty.
U.S.-INDIA 123 AGREEMENT
While both candidates voted for the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, Obama’s vote included amendments making the deal conditional upon India ending its military cooperation with Iran and a presidential certification that the agreement will not be used to aid India in creating new nuclear weapons.
RELIABLE REPLACEMENT WARHEAD (RRW)
Obama has stated that he does not support the Reliable Replacement Warhead at this time. McCain has yet to offer a stance on the issue.
While both Obama and McCain consider Iran a threat, Obama has been a stronger proponent of engaging Iran in diplomatic negotiations. McCain has taken a harder line.
Obama opposes the Yucca Mountain storage facility, citing safety concerns. McCain supports the Yucca Mountain facility.
Obama is not convinced of the necessity of the expansive missile defense plan laid out by the Bush administration (which calls for a third missile defense site to be built in Europe). McCain, however, is a strong supporter.
Research assistance provided by Kimberly Mills and Meghan Warren.