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ND Expert: Obama’s new strategy “significant step toward reducing nuclear dangers"

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David Cortright

Tuesday’s sweeping nuclear weapons policy issued by President Obama calls for new limits on when and how nuclear arms can be used, “reversing a decades-old policy of using nuclear weapons in the event of a conventional military attack or in response to chemical or biological weapons threats,” says

David Cortright, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

An expert on nonviolent social change, nuclear disarmament, and the use of multilateral sanctions and incentives as tools of international peacemaking, Cortright is author or editor of 15 books, including the forthcoming volume “Towards Nuclear Zero.”

The new policy outlines the “fundamental” purpose of U.S. weapons, which is to deter an attack on the United States or its allies.

“Under the new doctrine, nuclear weapons will have the sole purpose of deterring the use of nuclear weapons by another nuclear-armed state. The only exceptions to this blanket ‘non-use’ policy would be states that are in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—currently Iran, North Korea and potentially Syria. All other non-nuclear states would receive what in effect is a guarantee against nuclear attack, what nuclear strategists term a ‘negative security assurance,’” according to Cortright.

Such security assurances, according to Cortright, in the past have helped to persuade countries to give up the nuclear weapons option.

“The commitment not to use nuclear weapons against states in good standing with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty strengthens that agreement on the eve of its review conference, which convenes at the United Nations in New York in May. The new Nuclear Posture Review strengthens the treaty and gives it greater credibility and legitimacy as the ultimate international standard for nuclear security.”

Cortright adds that the new policy rejects proposals for developing new nuclear weapons and pledges continued efforts to negotiate with Russia for further reductions in nuclear weapons.

Media advisory: Prof. Cortright’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He is available for interviews and can be reached at 574-298-8584 (mobile) or