The Path to Nuclear Security: Implementing the President’s Prague Agenda

Remarks of Vice President Biden at National Defense University – As Prepared for Delivery, 18 February 2010.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-vice-president-biden-national-defense-university

Excerpt:

Now, as our technology improves, we are developing non-nuclear ways to accomplish that same objective. The Quadrennial Defense Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review, which Secretary Gates released two weeks ago, present a plan to further strengthen our preeminent conventional forces to defend our nation and our allies.

Capabilities like an adaptive missile defense shield, conventional warheads with worldwide reach, and others that we are developing enable us to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, as other nuclear powers join us in drawing down. With these modern capabilities, even with deep nuclear reductions, we will remain undeniably strong.

Editor’s Comment:

When Vice President Biden speaks of plans to “further strengthen … preeminent conventional forces” with “capabilities like an adaptive missile defense shield” and “conventional warheads with worldwide reach” he seeks to reassure his domestic audience that nuclear disarmament will not make America less secure. His words, however, do not reassure other nuclear powers or potential future nuclear powers such as Iran who will perceive these enhanced American conventional capabilities as strategic threats to their national security.

Biden surely understands that he is not really offering us a pathway to nuclear abolition. We will not get there if other nations are expected to relinquish their nuclear arsenals to face “undeniable” conventional power from the U.S.

If Biden’s speech truly represents the elaboration of the “President’s Prague Agenda” it leaves us with a very big gap (conceptually and practically) between the near term goal Biden articulates (“We will work to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”) and the longer term goal (“We are working both to stop [nuclear weapons] proliferation and eventually to eliminate them.”) which President Obama confirmed in Prague.

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