Obama said to plan controversial nuclear weapons executive order during last days in office

by WorldTribune Staff, July 11, 2016

As he nears the end of his second term, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing a series of executive orders that officials said would weaken the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Obama, in meetings with national security Cabinet members known as the Principals Committee, reviewed his options for executive actions on nuclear policy. None of the options require formal congressional approval.

President Barack Obama. /Getty Images
President Barack Obama. /Getty Images

“As we enter the homestretch of the Obama presidency, it’s worth remembering that he came into office with a personal commitment to pursuing diplomacy and arms control,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told the Arms Control Association on June 6. “Put simply, our work is not finished on these issues.”

According to a report in The Washington Post, the executive moves include declaring a “no first use” policy for the United States’ nuclear arsenal and a U.N. Security Council resolution affirming a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. “This would be a way to enshrine the United States’ pledge not to test without having to seek unlikely Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” the Post report said.

Obama is also considering offering Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty’s limits on deployed nuclear weapons, a delay on development of a new nuclear cruise missile, called the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, and cutting back long-term plans for modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal, which the Congressional Budget Office reports will cost about $350 billion over the next decade.

Republican congressional leaders said Obama using his final months in office to take such actions would betray promises to Congress and weaken the United States’ nuclear deterrent.

On June 17, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, wrote to Obama to warn him not to unravel their deal on nuclear modernization, which they said persuaded Congress to ratify New START.

“It’s pretty clear the Prague agenda has stalled,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which supports groups advocating for nuclear nonproliferation. “There isn’t anything that the president does that isn’t criticized by his opponents, so he might as well do what he wants. He’s relishing his last days in office.”