Shireen M Mazari An interesting policy development has taken place in the US under the Obama administration. As one recalls, Obama made much of nuclear disarmament and on his commitment for this goal. Well, it appears being in office alters many perspectives and President Obama's worldview on many issues has altered qualitatively from the positions he espoused as candidate Obama. It is not only on Kashmir that he has reneged; on nuclear disarmament he has also shifted positions because now he is also rationalising the military use of nuclear weapons by the US. Ironically, his administration is giving out that it is going to limit the use of nuclear weapons - but using them in any circumstance still means rationalising their military potential And this is the great 'concession' or shift the US is going to tell the world it is making as a move towards a nuclear-free world that Obama was ostensibly seeking before he became president To further keep connected to the Bush first use of nuclear weapons, the Obama administration has also declared that its new limitations on the use of nukes even in self-defence will not apply in the context of "outliers like Iran and North Korea" - which means indirectly Pakistan would get the fallout also of nukes used in Iran, in terms of our proximity While trying to convince the world of his anti-nuke credentials, Obama has not even moved to declaring a no-first-use policy for the US. Instead, the new US strategy merely states that nuclear weapons would not be used against non-nuclear weapon states, even if they used other WMD against the US. Of course, there is also an expectancy that the new strategy for nuclear weapons, use would renounce the development of any new nuclear weapons and WMD threats would be deterred with "a series of graded options". The Nuclear Posture Review is a Congressional requirement from all US administrations and one has to see how far Obama will go but clearly he is not going anywhere near his earlier stated goal of a nuclear-free world. Ironically, this policy revamp has come just as Obama is to go to Prague to sign what is being hailed as a landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with President Medvedev of Russia. However, from our perspective, the START is also more cosmetic than anything else and will still leave the two countries way ahead of the rest of the world in terms of nuclear weapons. Effectively, it is a cost reduction treaty and may be an effort to fool the world that the US and Russia actually mean business on eliminating nuclear weapons Just a glance at the essentials of the Treaty makes things only too clear. To begin with, the Treaty along with its Protocol and Annexes will have to go before the US Senate for consent to ratification - so there is every chance it may flounder at that stage as have the CTBT and earlier US-Soviet bilateral arms control treaties. Under the Treaty, the US and Russia, in terms of strategic offensive reductions, would in about seven years have fewer strategic arms and each side would determine for itself the structure of its strategic forces within the aggregate limits of the Treaty. But when both sides have a glut of these arms, reductions will barely make a difference in their capabilities - especially when the US now does not see Russia as the threat but non-state actors What are the aggregate limits? A comfortable number of 1,550 warheads - be they deployed on ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) or SLBMs (sea-launched ballistic missiles); while each deployed bomber equipped for nuclear armaments counts only as one warhead toward this limit Also, a combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy nuclear-capable bombers. Finally, a separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed nuclear-capable heavy bombers. The most alarming aspect of the Treaty is that there are no constraints on missile defence and conventional strikes. Now it is well understood that missile defence, apart from weaponising space, also makes the military use of nuclear weapons more rational. So the US and Russian intents on this count should be absolutely clear. The Bush agenda of missile defence is being continued by Obama, today, just as so many other Bush military policies are Of course, all these nuclear dramas are being enacted ahead of the global nuclear security summit being hosted by Washington. So the world will be given this impression that the US is serious about nuclear disarmament when in fact it is simply rationalising the use of nuclear weapons given today's strategic and economic constraints. The reality is that the US continues to undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime by operationalising the 123 (nuclear) Agreement with India, by aiding Israel's nuclear programme and by targeting Iran for exercising its right to develop low-grade uranium enrichment as allowed for under the NPT. All this cannot be papered over by a nuclear policy that may claim to reduce the military use of nuclear weapons but which still sees this as a rational policy option; nor by a START that leaves a vast strategic nuclear arsenal in US and Russian hands and that seeks no control over missile defence. As for tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons, there is simply no mention of them at all in any US plan to downsize its nuclear arsenal Does the US really regard the rest of the world as downright foolish? The grandiose Prague 2009 speech of Obama promising nuclear disarmament, the CTBT and so on has, a year later, come to naught. Now he (Obama) only has the Summit to cash in on - but one hopes the world will not give the US a free ride on an issue on which it has been the biggest and most frequent offender. Tailpiece: How absurd for the US to state that as part of its training to the Pakistan military it is imparting training in interrogation in a "rule of law framework". Given the US's own record in Iraq, Bagram and Guantanamo, to cite the most obvious but not the only, examples, the US military has no idea of respecting human dignity or rights as far as its prisoners go The White House declared that it has to ensure that US aid does not go to "army units that violate human rights" - quite right but shouldn't the US get its army to clean up its own act first? This is certainly not to condone extra-judicial killings by any Pakistani state outfit - it must be condemned - but to simply point out the hypocrisy of the US trying to adopt a high moral ground on this count