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PacNet #9 – Does the Nonproliferation Tail Wag the Deterrence Dog?

February 5, 2009

In recent months there have been several U.S. government and private task force reports regarding future U.S. nuclear weapons policies and strategic force posture, all intended to inform the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which is expected at the end of this year.  The studies underscore the important role that U.S. nuclear forces play in reassuring allies and bolstering extended deterrence, but a few foreshadow an emphasis on nuclear nonproliferation to a degree that the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence could be weakened (at least when viewed by allies like Japan or Korea).  Devaluing the nuclear component of extended deterrence is feasible, but it must be done carefully and with a compensating effort to boost conventional military cooperation and strengthen other aspects of our alliances.