February 18th, 2010
03:29 PM ET
10 years ago

Biden: 'Spread of' nukes 'greatest threat facing the country'

Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden staked out a middle ground on nuclear weapons policy Thursday, trying to reassure critics claiming the administration's disarmament efforts are either too fast or too slow.

"The spread of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat facing the country - and I would argue facing humanity - and that is why we are working both to stop their proliferation and eventually to eliminate them," Biden said in a 23-minute speech at the National Defense University in Washington.

"But until that day comes, we have to do everything in our power to maintain our arsenal and make sure it is reliable."

The vice president said U.S. nuclear laboratories that monitor the weapons' reliability had been neglected and underfunded in recent years.

"That's why earlier this month we announced a new budget that reverses the last decade of dangerous decline," he said. "It devotes $7 billion to maintaining our nuclear stockpile and modernizing our nuclear infrastructure. To put that in perspective, that's $624 million more than Congress approved last year and an increase of $5 billion over the next five years."

The administration has set out an ambitious nuclear weapons agenda in coming months, with President Barack Obama planning a nuclear proliferation summit at the White House in April.

The United States failed to reach agreement with Russia on a new nuclear arms reduction agreement by the end of last year, when the previous one expired, and those negotiations continue. The administration hopes its boost in funding to safeguard and analyze existing nuclear weapons will win new congressional support for the nuclear test ban treaty that has been awaiting action since 1996.

One arms control analyst warns, however, that the administration may be pushing forward on too many nuclear fronts simultaneously.

"The administration should recognize the relationship of non-proliferation and disarmament is something to achieve sequentially, not simultaneously," said Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation in a telephone interview. Spring and other administration critics worry that the United States may be unable to respond to future unforeseen threats if it denies itself any chance to test nuclear weapons.

Biden said new technology allows the United States to shift from its Cold War dependence on nuclear weapons.

"Reliance on new and existing conventional weapons will allow the U.S. to reduce its nuclear arsenal," Biden said. "With these modern capabilities, even with deep nuclear reductions, we will remain undeniably strong and in a position to defend our interests against all - all - our enemies."

Filed under: Joe Biden • Nuclear weapons
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    In additonal to nuclear threat coming from Iran, we've got a bunch of NUKES running lose in this country who are determine to have it their way or destroy it.

    February 18, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    No, politicians wasting trillions of dollars we don't have is a far more serious threat to the country.

    After forty years of facing the huge nuclear arsenal the Soviet Union had, the various pop-bottle rockets North Korea and Iran may have are absolutely trivial. The ruin of the US economy is a far more immediate threat, but since that's the likely result of the Democrats' insane spending spree, Biden would rather no one notice that. Nothing like a good "Eek, a nuclear bomb!" scare to distract people enough that they won't notice how thoroughly, egregiously, badly Obama &co are screwing up.

    February 18, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |

    THAT'S EXACTLY why we DON'T NEED nuclear power plants 'spread' out across America.

    Just what are you going to do with the nuclear waste? Keep it in cooling pools hopin the temperature NEVER changes or we have a nuclear spill?


    February 18, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. W l Jones

    It appears the world were detroyed at least once by them it is left up to us to make sure it dont happen again.

    February 18, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. John

    Spread of nukes a threat to the USA? Yes, definitely.

    Spread of me-first, greedhead Republicanism? Just as much a threat.

    February 18, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. britto-fl

    I think the greatest threat right now, is the GOP, teapartiers, birhers, rightwingers, of this country...forget the nukes, these people are so upset that we prefered a smart articulate and educated man over a sinal who picked a hillbilly for vp!

    February 18, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  7. Vietnam Combat Vet, Ohio

    you ever stop to think that maybe these other countries are just trying to keep up with America? After all we have a whole bunch of nukes.

    February 18, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  8. Jacq

    I think its the republicans

    February 18, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  9. Texas Jack

    You have it wrong again BIDEN. You and OBAMA are the largest threat to America. Please dear Lord help us from these people.

    February 18, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. Mandy

    I am furious that we are spending all of this money on our own nuclear technology, rather than simply taking out only their nuclear sites. We are stupid and are going about this the wrong way.

    February 18, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    CNN how long you going to keep covering for the elected nitwits you so adore.

    February 18, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  12. polly

    Here we go again. How could we have neglected any type of defense spending in the past few years? Oh well, add it to the tab.

    February 18, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. polly

    The greatest threat facing our country is the debt that we owe and can't pay back.

    February 18, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |

    Just last week Biden stated we were pretty safe and didn't need all the security precautions, saying McCain was "misinformed". This week the world is such a dangerous place we significantly increased the nuclear defense budget. Now that someone breached security at the Olympics and got close to Biden he now takes security seriously, but he sure doesn't care much about you and me until he's threatened personally.

    February 18, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. mjm

    Last week it was global warming.....before that it was the economy.....now it's "nukes".

    Every week it's a different sky falling with these guys.

    February 18, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  16. phoenix86

    It's the second greatest threat to America. The first is the possibiity of a 2nd term of this inept administration.

    February 18, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Victim of Republican Taliban

    Yes we need to make sure that Russia, China and other nuclear powers follow suit and reduce nukes. We survived the Cold War barely and the last thing we need is a new arms race.

    February 18, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  18. Jimmy James

    Meanwhile Obamas promise that he would talk to Iran is working out good. Even the IAEA which had been trying its best to protect Iran now says they are trying to develop a warhead. Do something now before Israel takes its own action to defend itself. If Israel attacks, the world economy will collapse as we know it and you won't be able to blame the party of No anymore.

    February 18, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. Bill from Philly


    Greatest threat is nukes? I thought it was climate change; I mean, health care; I mean, jobs; I mean, right wing activists; I mean, wall street, ... I'm confused.

    February 18, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  20. But Joe.......

    whatever you are doing isn't working because Iran gets closer every day......and what about N. Korea.......

    The truth is you don't care about our security...you just want to redistribute wealth from those who work to those that want to hang out on street corners....

    February 18, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  21. Monster Zero

    "That's why earlier this month we announced a new budget that reverses the last decade of dangerous decline," he said. "It devotes $7 billion to maintaining our nuclear stockpile and modernizing our nuclear infrastructure. To put that in perspective, that's $624 million more than Congress approved last year and an increase of $5 billion over the next five years."
    Spoken like the true numb nutts Joe Biden is, what happened to nuclear dis-armament treaties, swirled peas and fiscal responsibility Joe, you know all those things you and the campaigner in chief decried as GOP pandering and fear tactics, what enemies Joe??

    February 18, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  22. annie against biased news

    Just the other day bozo, jr. said there likely NO threats against the USA. bozo, jr needs to pull the hair plugs – they are interfering with his brain.

    February 18, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  23. terry,va.

    You reckon Joe! You and obummie are clueless.

    February 18, 2010 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. J.Williams san diego

    Wrong Dunderhead, the biggest threat is the community organizer who is WAY over his qualifications to even be in politics.

    February 18, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Right Leaning Independent

    Two months ago, Global Warming was the greatest threat! I guess that has been proven to be a farce so he has moved on to Nuclear weapons...

    February 18, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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