One Year in, Biden’s Nuclear Policies Look a Lot Like Trump’s

Speaking at a New Hampshire event for the 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden told the crowd, “We don’t need more nuclear weapons, period.” After the bluster and apocalyptic theatrics of Donald Trump, many voters hoped Biden’s decades of nuclear arms control experience would bring restraint and stability to the United States’ nuclear policies.

In Biden’s own words, “If you want a world without nuclear weapons, the United States must take the initiative to lead the world,” and yet, one year into his presidency, Biden has continued many of the nuclear weapons programs that began or advanced under Trump.

Currently, the U.S. pursues an a nuclear weapons modernizationProgram that was launched by Obama-Biden’s administration and is expected to cost at most $1.7 trillion2046 This includes large spending increasesOn a controversial low-yield, smaller nuclear warhead, the complete replacement of the intercontinental-ballistic missile force, new B-21 strategic Bombers, B52 upgrades, and more destructive nuclear warheadsAs well as other programs.

Biden also signed into law, December 27, the 2022 Act National Defense Authorization ActA nearly $770 billion military bill, which includes almost $28 billionFor nuclear weapons. The U.S. had a total inventory of 5,600 stockpiled nuclear warheads which, together with Russia, represent approximately 91 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Below are eight experts, activists, and analysts. Truthout their assessment of Biden’s first year of nuclear policies.

Increased transparency

Biden has been a better president than his predecessor. more transparentHans Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Budget, Stockpile, and Dismantlement Statistics Division. Nuclear Information ProjectThe Federation of American Scientists. For his increased transparency, the extension of a major arms treaty, and for initiating strategic talks with Russia and China, Kristensen gives Biden a grade of “B.”

With respect to the incomplete disclosure and slowing rate of dismantling retired nuclear warheads, however, he gives Biden a “C.” Furthermore, he’s concerned Biden’s forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review might not adopt a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy.

“[Biden’s] general military strategy and foreign policy are beefing up offensive capabilities and posturing in response to Russia and China,” Kristensen toldTruthout. “Many see that as necessary to deter those countries, but it may also work to stimulate their activities further.”

New STARTs at a Savings

Biden was widely praised for his efforts to extend the presidency. New START Treaty, This extension limits the use of long-range nuclear weapons by the U.S. and Russians, just two weeks after his presidency began. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, called the extension an “important and common-sense step.” John Tierney, a former congressman and executive director of the nonprofit Council for a Livable World, described the treaty’s extension as “one bright spot” in Biden’s first year, which he said was a “serious disappointment” otherwise.

“On the whole, the Biden administration has rubber-stamped every major big-budget nuclear weapons system produced under the Trump administration,” Tierney told Truthout. He further criticized Biden for failing to miss “low-hanging fruit,” including opportunities to cancel a new “unnecessary and wasteful” submarine-launched ballistic missile nuclear warhead, a life-extension program for the outdated B-83 megaton gravity bomb, and “more useable” nuclear weapons.

“At the moment,” Tierney said, “We must give [Biden] a ‘C-minus’ — a passing grade, but only barely.”

Grassroots movement Beyond the Bomb’s executive director, Cecili Thompson Williams, told TruthoutBiden’s support for a policy of no-first-use has been stated by Biden, but a rationaler nuclear posture has not been a priority in his administration.

“Without that leadership, nuclear hawks at the Department of Defense are once again succeeding in their resistance to common-sense changes to make our nuclear policy safer,” Thompson Williams said. Also giving Biden a “C-minus,” she called his first year “disappointing but with potential to improve.”

In September, 29 members were elected to Congress wrote to Bidento implore him not to spend too much on nuclear weapons and to reduce his dependence. This was followed up by a letter to the presidentDecember, signed by nearly 700 scientists and engineers, the resolution calls for a reduction of nuclear weapons in U.S. security.

Strategic Stability: What is the Solution?

Biden, who was elected president in January 2011, was confronted with four major international nuke challenges. Vows to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of ActionThis is also known as the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. Biden said the U.S. was “prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same.”

Assal Rad, a senior researcher fellow with the National Iranian American Council,Tells Truthout that despite high hopes that Biden would reverse Trump’s actions which helped drive the U.S. and Iran dangerously close to all-out war in 2019-20, in many ways, the Biden administration has continued the Trump administration’s “maximum-pressure” policy.

The continuation of sanctions that are devastating Iran’s citizens and its economy, Rad says, has only hindered efforts to revive the deal. She criticizes Biden for failing to act swiftly during the window of opportunity he had in his first five months as president to seek progress with Iran’s previous, more engagement-friendly Hassan Rouhani administration before staunch conservative Ebrahim Raisi was elected in June.

“The Biden administration now finds itself in a much more challenging position to restore the deal,” Rad said. “Now, more than ever, we need diplomatic resolutions to global issues and an even-handed approach on nuclear proliferation.” On Biden’s Iran nuclear policy, Rad gives the president a “C” for not “succeeding to accomplish anything but not yet entirely failing by escalating tensions further.”

A Dangerous Status Quo

After whiplash diplomacy in which Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” only to later fawn over “beautiful letters” he received from Kim Jong Un, Northeast Asia analysts were hopeful the Biden administration would lead to a less erratic, more substantive phase of nuclear diplomacy.

Although Biden said he shares South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s stated goal of “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Christine Ahn, executive director of Women Cross DMZ, tells Truthout, “much of this is rhetoric,” and the Biden administration has not changed what she called the “failed policies of sanctions, military exercises and the travel ban.”

“The U.S. will continue these militaristic policies until North Korea makes progress on denuclearization, which won’t happen as long as the U.S. continues its hostile policies,” Ahn said. She gives Biden a grade of “D” because “he hasn’t done anything to improve relations with North Korea [including declaring an end to the Korean War], which will be pivotal to advance denuclearization.”

Strategic Stability

China is the third-largest state with nuclear weapons, after Russia and the U.S. China is expanding its nuclear capabilities but it is not expanding its nuclear arsenal. arsenal remains a fractionof the two other countries. Tong Zhao is a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program. Truthout that Biden understands the importance of direct engagement on nuclear matters with China’s President Xi Jinping.

Writing from Beijing, Zhao noted that Biden achieved “some success” by prompting Xi to acknowledge the importance of discussing strategic stability at their first virtual meetingIn November, Xi acknowledged something he previously didn’t acknowledge.

In its broadest sense, Zhao said, “strategic stability” refers to the maintenance of generally stable bilateral [U.S.-China] relations. It refers to stable nuclear relations by mitigating nuclear arms races or the use nuclear weapons.

Zhao called the Biden administration’s nuclear policymaking “pragmatic” for his willingness to start with less-difficult issues such as crisis prevention and confidence-building measures. Zhao gives Biden an “A-minus.”

The Good, Bad and Incomplete

Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball, told Truthout that Biden’s first year of nuclear policy has been a mix of good (New START); bad (an enormous nuclear budget); and incomplete or mixed (Iran, North Korea). “It’s not a simple answer that can be boiled down to a letter grade,” Kimball said.

The association published an article in July issue brief which details why Biden’s 2022 nuclear budget is “very unhelpful,” what Kimball described as an “excessive and extremely costly plan to upgrade all major aspects of the nuclear weapons arsenal.” Exactly what the role and purpose of nuclear weapons is in Biden’s national security strategy will be detailed in the forthcoming Nuclear Posture ReviewExpected in early 2022

“The jury is still out on whether the president will follow through on his pledge during the campaign, and in his interim national security strategy, to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and to restore U.S. leadership on nuclear arms control and disarmament,” Kimball said. “I have my deep concerns about whether this Nuclear Posture Review will do that.”

The one area where Kimball gives Biden an “F” is for his failure to speak about the importance of reducing growing nuclear competition and the need to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. “I think it’s a failure of leadership in his first 12 months not to have delivered a major or even a minor policy speech on the subject,” Kimball said.

If Biden chooses to do so, he will be able to change that when he is elected. Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear WeaponsNew York’s January 4th is the start of the year

Nuclear Weapons are Now Illegal

One of the most notable nuclear developments of Biden’s first year in office occurred just two days after he was sworn in as president. On January 22, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear WeaponsThe Treaty on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), entered into force, making nukes illegal under international law. Adopted and ratified by at least 58 countries, the U.S. and the other eight nuclear-weapons-possessing nations oppose the ban.

As Arms Control Association’s Kimball points out, the TPNW contributes to a common goal shared by nuclear-armed states and non-nuclear-armed states, which is the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons. The TPNW also strengthens the ban on the possession and usage of nuclear weapons.

Beatrice Fihn is the executive director of The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, notes that when Biden took office, he inherited a disarmament situation that was “in tatters,” but says the TPNW created a bright spot. “Instead of embracing this, the Biden administration has aggressively attacked the TPNW and relentlessly pressured allies to abandon the treaty.”

Biden’s disarmament policy, Fihn told Truthout, is a “D-minus” — “not the leadership that can save us from nuclear disaster.”