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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 03:20 | SYDNEY

Clinton gives a nuke speech

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23 October 2009 09:14

Secretary Clinton's speech to the US Institute of Peace made news because it happened to coincide with signs of progress on the Iran front. But Clinton said little of substance on that issue, and quite properly played down the apparent small victory that has been won (the Iranians haven't signed off yet, as far as I know). 

As others have said, this one-off agreement would only cover a finite stock of Iranian enriched urnanium. It would buy time for futher negotiations and reduce the chances that Israel will strike Iran in the near future. That would be no small achievement, but Clinton wasn't shouting about it from the rooftops. 

Clinton did say some intriguing things about the US attitude to its own nuclear weapons, starting with this:

Let me be clear: the United States is interested in a new START agreement because it will bolster our national security. We and Russia deploy far more nuclear weapons than we need or could ever potentially use without destroying our ways of life. We can reduce our stockpiles of nuclear weapons without posing any risk to our homeland, our deployed troops or our allies.

Interesting choice of words. Others might say that the very purpose of this arsenal is to ensure that it could destroy Russia's 'way of life', and vice versa. That's what deters both sides from using them. Clinton seems to believe that nuclear capability can easily be reduced below that level without undermining the credibility of the deterrent. It is enough to be able to destroy a few dozen cities, she seems to be saying. We don't need to threaten complete annihilation.

Then there was this:

But we must do more than reduce the numbers of our nuclear weapons. We must also reduce the role they play in our security. In this regard, the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review will be a key milestone...Carried out in consultation with our allies, it will examine the role of nuclear weapons in deterring today’s threats and review our declaratory policies with respect to the circumstances in which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons.

First of all, 'key milestone'? Is there any other kind of milestone?! Second, is the reference to examining declaratory policies a hint that the US will consider a no-first-use pledge?

Photo by Flickr user madmonk, used under a Creative Commons license.

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