Published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Online on June 18, 2013.
Article summary below; read the full text here.
One of the many rumors echoing around Washington, DC, is that President Barack Obama will soon deliver a speech outlining his second term nuclear policy priorities. While the exact date of the address is uncertain, the president may touch on nuclear issues as early as June 19 in Berlin, Germany, where he is scheduled to speak at the Brandenburg Gate.
Since first outlining an ambitious nuclear risk-reduction agenda in an April 2009 speech, the president has negotiated a new nuclear arms control agreement with Russia, overseen modest revisions to nuclear-weapons strategy through the Nuclear Posture Review, and led a renewed global push to lock down weapons-usable materials. However, this agenda lost momentum and focus during the second half of his first term. Since his reelection last November, the president has taken only baby steps to pick up where he left off. In May he sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin that reportedly contained a proposal for cooperation on missile defense and a framework for further nuclear weapons reductions below the levels called for in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
So what does Obama plan next? The time has come for him to describe in greater detail his second-term nuclear security goals, as well as his strategies for achieving them. In particular, Obama should tout the security and financial benefits of further nuclear reductions, warn of the dangers of relying too heavily on nuclear weapons, and put forward initiatives that the United States can implement immediately and unilaterally—three themes that were given short shrift in his 2009 speech.