WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is poised to adopt a new policy potentially restricting the nation’s use of nuclear arms, U.S. officials said, and hopes to persuade Russia to agree to mutual cuts in nuclear arsenals that go beyond the arms treaty both sides will sign this week.

A policy review, expected to be released Tuesday, is likely to include language reducing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for its national defense. That reflects President Obama’s pledge to move toward a nuclear-free world, and could strengthen U.S. arguments that other countries should either reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons or forego developing them.

The White House also plans to urge Russia to adopt first-ever limits on shorter-range, less powerful nuclear weapons, where Russia holds an advantage, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

These officials said the administration’s new policy would stop short of renouncing the use of nuclear weapons except in retaliation to atomic attack, as some activists have advocated. But it would describe the weapons’ purpose as “primarily” or “fundamentally” to deter or respond to a nuclear attack.

Officials said the document was expected to move toward a policy that says the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons is to deter or respond to nuclear attack. That wording would rule out the use of such weapons to respond to an attack by conventional, biological or chemical weapons. Previous U.S. policy was more ambiguous.

The Obama administration plans to urge Russia to return to the bargaining table following Senate ratification of the new START arms reduction treaty, to be signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague on Thursday.

The White House hopes to overcome Russia’s expressed reluctance to move beyond START, especially if it means cutting Moscow’s arsenal of tactical, or short-range nuclear arms.


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