Obama nuclear weapons manifesto is detailed

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The Obama administration is releasing a major statement on nuclear weapons policy that will herald a further shrinking of the U.S. arsenal, even as it rejects some sweeping steps advocated by arms control advocates.

The statement, to be released Tuesday, will announce that the arsenal will shrink by thousands of warheads, and it will further restrict when the weapons may be used, U.S. officials say. But the administration has rejected proposals to declare that the “sole purpose” of nuclear arms is deterrence, nor will it promise that the United States won’t be the first to use nuclear weapons in a war, say people who have been close to the discussions.

The document, called the Nuclear Posture Review, is an important part of President Obama’s program to reduce nuclear arms, which moves into a higher gear in the next few days. Obama will sign a U.S.-Russian arms treaty in Prague, the Czech capital, on Thursday and will host a nuclear security summit in Washington next week.

His review is expected to omit some of the more hawkish statements made in 2001 in President George W. Bush’s review.

The Bush document said the United States might in some circumstances use nuclear weapons against countries that didn’t have them. It said the United States should consider preemptive strikes against countries developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Monday night, the White House released an outline of the review, saying it “focuses on preventing nuclear terrorism and proliferation and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.”

In his effort to persuade other nations to forswear nuclear arms, Obama must show that his administration is also moving away from them. Obama has said he will “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”

Arms control advocates who have been following the discussion say they view the nuclear manifesto as a positive step but not as bold as they might have wished.

Tom Collina, research director of the Arms Control Assn., said other countries would be encouraged to hear that the administration had decided for now not to develop a new nuclear warhead. He said, however, that he thought some nations would be distressed that the U.S. was unwilling to declare that nuclear arms were solely meant to deter nuclear attacks.

The document will point to the new U.S.-Russian arms treaty to show progress in reducing the United States’ arsenal. The administration says the treaty will scale back the number of deployed long-range warheads by 30%, though some analysts believe the cuts may actually be much smaller.

The review is widely expected to announce additional reductions from the estimated 2,000 nuclear weapons held in reserve.

The document is expected to announce that the Pentagon will retire the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, a ship- and submarine-launched cruise missile that has been in storage. But it is expected to leave unresolved the issue of whether to retire the estimated 200 tactical, or battlefield, nuclear weapons that are based in Europe. Christi Parsons in Washington contributed to this report.