The Obama administration is determined to use its final six months in office to take a series of executive actions to advance the nuclear agenda the president has advocated since his college days. It’s part of Obama’s late push to polish a foreign policy legacy that is plagued by challenges on several other fronts.
President Obama announced his drive to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them in his first major foreign policy speech, in Prague in 2009. In his first years, he achieved some successes, such as the New START treaty with Russia, the Nuclear Security Summits and the controversial Iran deal. But progress waned in the past year as more pressing crises commanded the White House’s attention. Now, the president is considering using the freedom afforded a departing administration to cross off several remaining items on his nuclear wish list.
In recent weeks, the national security Cabinet members known as the Principals Committee held two meetings to review options for executive actions on nuclear policy. Many of the options on the table are controversial, but by design none of them require formal congressional approval. No final decisions have been made, but Obama is expected to weigh in personally soon.
“As we enter the homestretch of the Obama presidency, it’s worth remembering that he came into office with a personal commitment to pursuing diplomacy and arms control,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told the Arms Control Association on June 6. “I can promise you today that President Obama is continuing to review a number of ways he can advance the Prague agenda over the course of the next seven months. Put simply, our work is not finished on these issues.”