Defense Department roundtable on the Nuclear Posture Review

Earlier this week, the Defense Department’s Blogger Roundtable with Dr. Bradley R. Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense, and Admiral John Roberti, Deputy Director for Strategy and Policy, J-5, The Joint Staff, about the Nuclear Posture Review. The transcript here (PDF 106kb) as the podcast is here.

My question was aimed at the public diplomacy opportunities of the nuclear weapons talks & events, which range from the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to the Nuclear Summit next week to the START replacement negotiations, to the May non-proliferation conference at the United Nations. My question below is followed by the responses of Dr. Roberts.

The issue of nuclear weapons is one of the strongest planks in traditional diplomacy — particularly of the United States, Russia, Iran, North Korea. This rollout, if you could call it that, of the NPR is highly public, demonstrated by this call.

You’re using methods to make the discussion personal and really engage individuals. The discussions next week and in May create opportunities for USG to engage others –governments and opinion makers — to shape support for current and future U.S. policies, including and outside the NPT process.

What expectations or hopes do you have in influencing the global view of nuclear weapons, in particular the opportunity to bolster U.S. negotiating, particularly in relation to Russia, China, Iran and North

MR. ROBERTS: Well, that’s a broad question. (Laughter.)

Q: I like to make it easy.

MR. ROBERTS: Yeah, thank you. That was kind of you, yeah.

There is no mistaking the fact that the United States’s choices about nuclear weapons — nuclear weapons strategy, policy and capabilities — are hugely influential. …

We as an administration are, as a first principle, committed to transparency on all matters. This nuclear posture review is the first unclassified review. It does not exist in classified form. It’s not as if we produced a classified version and then boiled it down for unclassified release. There is no classified version.

We wanted all of our thinking to be clear to explain why we made — to not just state the choices we made, but to explain why we made them and to express our ambitions for cooperative international activity.

Now, this is also a reflection of our own learning of the lessons of the last administration, which produced a classified Nuclear Posture Review, which was leaked before the unclassified version was done. And then in our legal system, it’s not been lawful to produce the unclassified summary, because doing so would make it clear what the classified information was. So the last administration could never really talk about its Nuclear Posture Review publicly. And there were, of course, stakeholders domestic and international who felt cut out.

We have had, as I indicated, extensive international consultations already. We’re going to spend a lot more time doing that. We see ourselves as trying to renew an international effort to reduce nuclear dangers, to renew or to strengthen the international resolve to address emerging 21st century security challenges. And we hope that we’ll find support in the international community to do these things.

The NPT review conference will be a milestone, but only one among many. We’re seeking to build what the prior administration called "constructive agendas of cooperative action" with all of these stakeholders. And we have a fair degree of optimism that we’re going to make some good headway on some hard problems in the next few years.

Grim at also asked a public diplomacy-related question.