U.S. allies unite to block Obama’s nuclear ‘legacy’
President Obama’s last-minute drive for a foreign-policy legacy is making U.S. allies nervous about their own security. Several allied governments have lobbied the administration not to change U.S. nuclear-weapons policy by promising never to be the first to use them in a conflict.
The governments of Japan, South Korea, France and Britain have all privately communicated their concerns about a potential declaration by President Obama of a “no first use” nuclear-weapons policy for the United States. U.S. allies have various reasons for objecting to what would be a landmark change in America’s nuclear posture, but they are all against it, according to U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and nuclear experts.
Japan, in particular, believes that if Obama declares a “no first use” policy, deterrence against countries such as North Korea will suffer and the risks of conflict will rise. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally conveyed that message recently to Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the head of U.S. Pacific Command, according to two government officials.
U.S. allies in Europe have a separate, additional concern. They don’t want any daylight between their nuclear policies and those of the United States, especially since Britain, France and the United States all are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. In the case of an emergency, those differences could cause real coordination problems.
“It’s my understanding that the defense ministries of many of our allied nations have lobbied the White House against changing this doctrine, and there’s been particularly strong opposition from the U.K., France, Japan and South Korea,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, , an anti-proliferation advocacy group that supports the policy change. “We have an interest in creating an international norm that no one should use nuclear weapons first. The allies lobbying against it are nervous nellies.”
The White House is considering declaring a “no first use” nuclear-weapons policy as one of several ways Obama can advance his non-proliferation agenda in his final months in office. Several options are under debate, and no final decisions have been made on “no first use.”
The president wants to roll out announcements on nuclear policy in September to coincide with his final appearance at the U.N. General Assembly, officials said. One administration official told me that, in part because of allied concerns, the internal push on “no first use” was not gaining traction…
One assumes that “no first use” is an issue the Canadian government would simply prefer to duck. Then there are these American plans: