Iran’s nuclear energy chief, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, declared Friday that the country will continue uranium enrichment for energy, though most outsiders suspect it will be used for nuclear weapons.
Even more troubling, this news comes directly after President Obama’s declaration in Germany that he wants further reductions in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. He hopes that he is setting an example others will follow.
To re-embark on the “road to zero,” President Obama wants another nuclear reduction treaty with Russia—on the heels of the New START treaty from his first term in office. But as Heritage Distinguished Fellow Kim Holmes explains in a recent op-ed, “Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t believe in the ‘road to zero.’ He finds it a fantasy that would undermine Russia’s strategic power.”
Obama’s attempts to reach the “road to zero” are misguided. For one thing, Congress remembers the short end of the deal they got in New START and likely will not want a repeat. For another, Russia is not interested in any deal that reduces its nuclear capability at all. Finally, Russia’s arsenal is not the primary nuclear threat the U.S. should be worried about.
Since the reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal from New START were announced in 2010, North Korea has repeatedly threatened to fire missiles at South Korea and the U.S. and has conducted nuclear tests that prove it has the capability to deliver on that threat. In Iran, though new President Hassan Rowhani expressed interest in direct talks with the U.S. over its nuclear program, Iran is in fact close to “critical capability,” according to The Economist. This is “the point at which it could make a dash to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more bombs before…Western intelligence agencies would even know it had done so.” Clearly, none of President Obama’s previous cuts to the nuclear arsenal has convinced those who wish the U.S. harm to do the same.
More nuclear weapons reductions on America’s part will not suddenly change the aspirations of America’s enemies for nuclear weapons. As Ronald Reagan advised, “Experience has taught us that preparedness deters aggression and that weakness invites it.” The only game changer in a proliferating world is, and will continue to be, a strong U.S. nuclear deterrent.