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Getting to Zero Starts Here: Tactical Nuclear Weapons

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A critical debate on nuclear weapons is once again in the limelight. President Barack Obama has unequivocally, ambitiously, and repeatedly stated his ultimate vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Under the Obama policy, zero nuclear weapons is, for the first time in U.S. history, an operational, tangible U.S. policy goal and thus a measuring stick against which to judge a host of shorter-range, less ambitious initiatives or actions.

The question of how to reduce or eliminate tactical nuclear weapons should be (and, Obama experts promise, will be) among the first in this ambitious campaign, once an agreement extending the logic and verification protocols of START is reached. An agreement to extend key provisions of the treaty, at least on an interim basis, will have to be reached by the time the current treaty expires December 5. A formal agreement is expected to follow early next year. Tactical nuclear weapons are an important priority partly because of their seemingly easy solution, but also because the challenges they present are emblematic of those in the larger arms control debate.

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