The international community was enthusiastic after Barack Obama's visionary speech about a nuclear weapons-free world in Prague in April 2009.
But what is left of this euphoria? Enough to hope for four more years Obama, says Marco Fey in his HSFK-Standpunkt 3/12 "Vier Jahre Obama sind nicht genug! Die US-Nuklearwaffenpolitik am Scheideweg" ("Four years Obama are not enough!US nuclear weapons policy at the crossroads").
A lot has been achieved, although some steps took more time to be realized than initially estimated. New START marks a cornerstone in bilateral arms control with Russia. The treaty allows a maximum of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads , that is 30 per cent less than the SORT treaty allowed, which was negotiated by the George W. Bush administration.
Obama's turning away from the Bush policy is most visible in multilateral regimes: The administration recommitted the United States to the “grand bargain” of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and continuously stressed its obligation to further reduce the role and number of the US nuclear weapons stockpile. In May 2010 the Obama administration demonstrated transparency when foreign secretary Clinton presented the exact number of US nuclear warheads at the NPT Review Conference . By doing so, the US pressured other states to follow their example.
Despite these successes, some projects have not been realized: The ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is still on the agenda as well as further disarmament efforts with Russia. Mitt Romney being elected US President would mean a setback to disarmament policy and a comeback of a Bush-style policy, hostile to multilateral arms control. Calling for a higher defense budget and still viewing Russia as "number one geopolitical foe", his election could result in markedly higher levels of tension with Russia and China, Fey argues. He warns to not repeat old patterns and declares the upcoming elections crucial for nuclear arms control and disarmament.
This HSFK-Standpunkt is available as free PDF download.