Now, major shifts in nuclear weapons policy in the United States appear to be less likely, and while Biden may insist on certain adjustments, the prospect of a historic shift away from the nuclear arsenal appears to be fading. The outlook will be clearer when the Biden administration completes its so-called nuclear posture review — an internal relook at the numbers, kinds, and purposes of nuclear weapons in the United States’ arsenal, as well as the policies that govern their potential use. It is possible that the results will be made public as early as January.
The largest unknown is how firmly Biden will weigh in on these issues, which will be determined by the White House’s assessment of the political risk involved. During his time as Vice President, Biden spoke about the need for innovative approaches to nuclear strategy. However, increased fears about China and Russia would appear to provide Republicans with greater political leverage as they seek to depict such shift as a gift to nuclear foes such as the United States.
The Russian Federation became a more pressing focus of Biden’s attention in recent weeks as President Vladimir Putin dispatched an estimated 100,000 troops to positions near Ukraine’s border and requested security guarantees from the United States. Biden and Putin spoke by phone on Thursday about Ukraine, and senior American and Russian officials are slated to hold more in-depth discussions in Geneva on January 9-10.
Ploughshares Fund policy director Tom Z. Collina thinks the challenges with China and Russia complicate the politics of Biden’s nuclear review, but they should not prevent him from taking steps to minimise nuclear hazards. Ploughshares Fund is an advocate for nuclear disarmament.