AbstractsPolitical Science

Shifting Away From Cold War Nuclear Thinking? Nuclear Strategy under the Obama Administration

by Anna Péczeli

Institution: Corvinus University of Budapest
Department: Nemzetközi Kapcsolatok Doktori Iskola
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Nemzetközi kapcsolatok
Record ID: 1178487
Full text PDF: http://phd.lib.uni-corvinus.hu/831/


Altogether, the dissertation contributed to the ongoing debate over U.S. nuclear strategy by providing a working definition of Cold War nuclear thinking. Despite the Obama administration’s pledge to shift away from the legacies of the Cold War, this concept still seems to be relevant to describe many aspects of the current U.S. nuclear weapons policy (although in some cases this might not be a bad thing, and in other cases the rational to maintain these elements might not be the same as before). Identifying the specific requirements of this concept in the declaratory policy, in the force structure, and on the operational level served to provide an analytical framework for the examination of the Obama administration. In the framework of this comparative analysis, the author found that the Obama administration shifted away from Cold War nuclear thinking in its declaratory policy but it still retains key elements of the Cold War on the operational level. On both levels, there are continuities, and there have been significant changes as well, but the major difference is the level of these changes and the underlying reasons for continuities. In the declaratory policy, only a few elements remained from the Cold War, and most of these policies have been adjusted to limit the role and mission of nuclear weapons. The main reasons for not implementing more dramatic changes have been the political commitment to credibly reassure allies, and the desire to build a bipartisan support behind the nuclear posture. In the meanwhile, retaining conservative elements on the operational level has been explained primarily by bureaucratic resistance and greater strategic considerations. Despite some dramatic changes since the end of the Cold War, key elements of Cold War nuclear planning still guide strategic planners, which puts a tremendous pressure on force level requirements. In this regard, the dissertation proved that as long as some (or all) of these operational policies are changed, the chances of dramatic force reductions are extremely remote, regardless of how favorable the political circumstances might be.