Barack Obama’s hopes of reshaping US foreign policy stand on the brink of failure Wednesday night, after two of his most cherished initiatives — nuclear disarmament and better relations with Moscow — were dealt serious setbacks.
According to a leaked Nato document seen by the Guardian, a move to withdraw US tactical nuclear weapons from Europe has been omitted from the alliance’s draft strategic doctrine, due to be adopted by a summit this weekend in Lisbon.
Meanwhile in Washington, a Republican leader in the Senate signalled that the nuclear arms control treaty Obama signed in April with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is unlikely be ratified this year. Most observers say that if the treaty is delayed until next year, it will be as good as dead, as the Democratic majority in the Senate will be even thinner by then, following the party’s losses in the midterm elections.
Together the setbacks mark a new low point for Obama’s ambitions, set out in a landmark 2009 speech in Prague, to set the world on a path to abolition of nuclear weapons.
“All this stuff was integrated — the nuclear package and the Russian relationship,” said Steven Clemons, policy analyst. “In terms of the long-term international significance it’s the most important thing Obama has done, and it has just come apart.”
In the latest draft of Nato’s “new strategic concept”, seen by the Guardian, nuclear weapons remain at the core of Nato doctrine, and an attempt to withdraw an estimated 200 American B-61 nuclear bombs from Europe, a legacy of the cold war, is not mentioned.
Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium had pushed to have the tactical weapons removed, with the encouragement of supporters of disarmament in the Obama camp including the US ambassador to Nato, Ivo Daalder.
However, in a victory for France, which led a rearguard action against diluting nuclear deterrence in Nato doctrine, the draft strategic concept states that the weapons would only be removed as a trade-off with Moscow.
Advocates of disarmament still hope the door to withdrawal could be left open in another strategic review, possibly next year. But Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, said the Lisbon document represented a lost opportunity for the alliance. gns