Mr. Obama and Nuclear Weapons

Washington Post
Letter to the Editor
Thomas Graham, Jr.

April 13, 2009

Anne Applebaum claimed that worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons was President Obama’s idea [“Yes, We Can . . . Disarm?” op-ed, April 7]. But President Ronald Reagan called for the elimination of “all nuclear weapons,” which he denounced as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.”

Former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger, along with former defense secretary William J. Perry and former senator Sam Nunn, embraced Reagan’s objective in an op-ed in 2007 and declared, “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal.” It would appear that eliminating nuclear weapons was their idea as well.

What Mr. Obama was really doing was announcing his support for strengthening the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which carries with it the promise of the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The treaty has been a centerpiece of American foreign policy for the past 40 years. In addition, Mr. Obama in his speech was embracing pursuit of essential shorter-term steps referred to by the writers of the 2007 op-ed. Such steps include seeking to bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (a mutual, not unilateral, prohibition) and extending the limitations on strategic armaments that have been judged for 40 years to be in the interest of the United States and Russia.

Mr. Obama’s speech in Prague was not a “holding pattern.” It was a statesmanlike speech in the grand American tradition on a subject of central national and world security interest.



The writer was special representative of the president for arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament from 1994 to 1997.

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