Initial reactions suggest the Nuclear Policy Review opens the door to nuclear “war fighting,” or closes it; raises the nuclear threshold, yet lowers it; continues some Obama administration policies and programs, or departs from them dramatically; goes too far in portraying a confrontational approach to Russia and China, yet does not go far enough. It’s fundamentally different from the Obama administration’s nuclear policy, but it is also largely the same. If the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review reflected a slightly left-of-center compromise perspective, which probably fell to the right of President Obama’s preferences and those of many Democratic congressional leaders, the 2018 NPR is a slightly right-of-center policy that falls to the left of statements from President Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill. The document largely falls within the nuclear policy mainstream; contains considerable continuity with its predecessor in policy and program specifics; has some notable differences in tone, content, and context; and includes political compromises in hopes of preserving consensus around an expensive and long-term modernization program.
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