The Pentagon is doing its homework. It is examining the future need for U.S. nuclear weapons and the role these should play in U.S. strategy in the future. Obama charged them with this task in the “Nuclear Posture Review” in April 2010. Obama wants to know what the next steps to his long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons could look like and what he can offer Russia as a step to disarmament. The Pentagon is slowly coming to its conclusion.

It will submit alternatives to its commander-in-chief for a decision: a conservative one, a middle course and a proposal that would lead strategic thinking into new territory. The conservative recommendation is 1,000 to 1,100 operational nuclear weapons. With that the current nuclear strategy could continue to be implemented in which—as agreed with Russia—1,550 active weapons would still be permitted in the future.

The middle course allows for 700 to 800 active weapons. From the Pentagon’s viewpoint, that is the lowest limit for current strategic thinking. Lastly, the most radical proposal: 300 to 400 active weapons. A proposal which was also suggested by the experts. If it were to be adopted, strategic thinking would also have to change—minimal deterrence and “How much is enough?” would then be the brain teasers of the nuclear strategists.

Nothing is decided yet. And the clocks are still ticking quite differently. Obama’s recently presented budget proposal provides for higher, not lower, expenditures for nuclear weapons. In the upcoming months the clocks will also not be changed: Not until after the presidential election in the U.S. and in Russia in 2013 can there be serious negotiations about nuclear disarmament. Apropos Russia: The lower the number of permitted nuclear weapons in the future, the more threatening U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense is viewed there.