The Biden administration will face early decision points regarding the modernization of critical elements of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise in an environment buffeted by competing forces and pressures.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), colloquially known as the “Ban Treaty,” is hailed by supporters as the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons states, including the United States, have criticized the treaty on its shortcomings as a legal instrument for disarmament. Beyond this criticism, the United States has done little to engage with the Ban Treaty or its supporters. But ignoring the Ban Treaty is a bad idea that will exacerbate the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear states and could lead to a dangerously uneven pace of international disarmament.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, preceded by wide debate, is enjoying a honeymoon of sorts. Domestically, it received strong support and close to full funding while internationally, it has received strong support from allies. However, controversy over the NPR may be just around the corner. There needs to be strong bipartisan commitment to nuclear infrastructure and delivery system modernization as well as arms control.