Trump administration to review goal of a world without nuclear weapons: assistant

© Reuters. French M51 missile soars into the air during its first test at Biscarosse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is reviewing whether it will reaffirm the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, a White House aide said on Tuesday, referring to a goal adopted by former Republican and Democratic presidents and required by a key control treaty. of weapons. .

Christopher Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation at the National Security Council, said an examination of whether global nuclear disarmament “is a realistic goal” will be carried out as part of a broader assessment called the Nuclear Policy Review. .

Ford also said the administration is reviewing responses to the Russian deployment of nuclear-capable cruise missiles, which Washington has denounced as a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

He downplayed the chances of further strategic nuclear weapons cuts between the United States and Russia and said Washington will adhere to the Iran nuclear deal for now.

In negotiations scheduled to begin next week, the administration will also oppose, as the Obama administration did, an international treaty abolishing nuclear weapons, he said.

Ford, the only senior nuclear policy official appointed by President Donald Trump since taking office in January, spoke at a nuclear policy conference hosted annually by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

His comments were the first by a senior administration official to give any indication of the White House‘s thinking on nuclear weapons policy following a series of provocative comments and tweets Trump made during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.

NUCLEAR FREE WORLD

Trump has said that while he would like to see nuclear weapons abolished, he wants the United States to have an unmatched arsenal. He also said the United States has “fallen behind” in its nuclear capabilities, even though it is in the midst of a 30-year, $ 1.3 trillion campaign to modernize what most experts agree is the most powerful nuclear force in the world.

Trump has supported the development of nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, called for the use of nuclear weapons against the militant group Islamic State and denounced the Iran nuclear deal as “a disaster” that he would “break”.

Ford, an attorney who has served as a Republican congressional staff member and State Department arms control official, said he could not comment on many issues until the Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, and others were completed. security and foreign policy reviews. Experts expect the review to take up to a year.

He also stressed that the revisions may result in continuing the policies pursued by former President Barack Obama.

But he said one issue being examined is whether the administration would reaffirm America’s adherence to the goal of eventual global nuclear disarmament, a goal reaffirmed by Obama in an April 2009 speech in Prague.

“We are reviewing the policy across the board,” Ford said. “That necessarily includes reviewing, among many other things, whether the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is in fact a realistic goal in the short and medium term in light of current trends in the international security environment.”

For decades, Ford said, there has been tension between the United States’ desire to abolish nuclear weapons and the need to maintain “a robust and effective arsenal that is capable of ensuring our safety and that of our allies in Europe and the Asian region. and the Pacific in general against nuclear and non-nuclear threats. “

An increasingly unstable world and mounting threats to US national security call for a review of “whether America’s traditional allegiance to that visionary end-state of abolition and the demonstration of allegiance to it by signaling a rapid progress in reducing stockpiles remains a viable strategy, “he said. .

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank, said the United States is legally bound to that goal as a signatory to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, the fundamental agreement of the international system to stop the spread. of nuclear energy. weapons.