Pro-disarmament, anti-defense groups in the US, founded during the Cold War and still active today, have not given up in their drive to disarm America unilaterally. In the last 2 years, they have released their specific proposals for deep cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent which they consider only the first step towards America’s unilateral disarmament. In this paper, I will explain why the public and the Congress should completely and permanently reject any such proposals.
How big is the threat? Why do we need a large arsenal?
Under New START, while the US is obligated to unilaterally cut its deployed strategic nuclear warheads to just 1,550 and the number of deployed delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers) to a paltry 700, Russia, which was below these limits before the treaty was ratified, was (and still is) allowed to grow its nuclear arsenal. Russia currently has 1,492 deployed strategic nuclear warheads (with another 1,308 in reserve, for a grand total of 2,800 strategic warheads) and slightly fewer than 700 deployed strategic delivery systems: 12 operational SSBNs (with 16 SLBMs each), 434 ICBMs (SS-18, SS-19, SS-25, SS-27, SS-29), and over 100 intercontinental Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers. Thus, as then-Defense Minister Anatoliy Syerdyukov said in 2011, Russia does not have to decommission a single delivery system or warhead.
Thus, contrary to the popular myth, under New START, Russia does not have to, and is indeed not cutting, anything. Moreover, Moscow is now building up to New START levels, which Moscow openly declared as its defense policy goal shortly after New START was ratified. In other words, Russia is building up, while America is unilaterally cutting its own nuclear arsenal.
Moreover, Russia’s fleet of well over 100 strategic Tu-22M bombers is not subjected to the treaty.
On top of that, Russia has untold thousands (potentially up to 14,000) tactical nuclear warheads deployed on a wide range of delivery systems, from tactical ballistic missiles (the SS-26), to torpedoes, to artillery pieces, to tactical bombers like the Su-34. Russia refuses to reveal how many of them does it have, and they are not limited by any treaty. The US has fewer than 500 tactical warheads, mostly deployed in Western Europe.
China, meanwhile, has conducted a huge nuclear buildup since the 1980s. Contrary to the myth spread by pro-disarmament groups (which spread it to lull the public into thinking that America can cut its arsenal safely), China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads. The 1,800 warhead estimate comes from former Russian Strategic Rocket Forces chief of staff Gen. Viktor Yesin, who has revealed that China has enough fissile material for 3,600 nuclear warheads. Former chief DOD nuclear strategist and now Georgetown University professor Dr Philip Karber estimates China’s nuclear arsenal to consist of 3,000 warheads, based on China’s fissile material stockpile as well as its 3000-mile long network of secret tunnels and bunkers for nuclear warheads and missiles. You don’t build 3,000 miles of tunnels for just 240 or 300 warheads.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has recently warned that China’s nuclear arsenal may be much higher than often estimated and that, therefore, all proposals to cut America’s nuclear arsenal further must be thoroughly reviewed and treated skeptically.
So Russia and China both have very large nuclear arsenals and intend to grow them further.
And the US provides a nuclear umbrella not only for itself, but also for over 30 allies who depend on it for survival and who, thanks to this nuclear umbrella, do not currently need to develop their own nuclear weapons. They need to be protected not only against Russia and China, but also against North Korea and Iran.
And these deterrence responsibilities require a large nuclear arsenal. They cannot be met with an arsenal smaller than the current one. General Robert Kehler, the current Strategic Command leader, and his predecessor, Gen. Kevin Chilton, both say that the current US nuclear arsenal is “exactly what we need” and have rejected calls for further cuts. Moreover, Chilton says, quite correctly, that the current arsenal is the minimum needed.
Under New START, the US will be allowed only 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on 12-14 ballistic missile submarines, 420 ICBMs, and a handful of strategic bombers (currently B-52s and B-2s).
How far do proposals of cuts go?
The Arms Control Association calls for deep, reckless cuts in America’s deterrent, below New START limits: down to just 300 ICBMs, the current (or smaller) handful of strategic bombers, and just 8 SSBNs with no more than 16 missiles each. This would mean unilaterally cutting the arsenal by 120 ICBMs with their 360 associated warheads and the SSBN fleet by more than half, from 14 to just 8, only 4-5 of which would be at sea at any given time (the rest would be in maintenance).
This would result in a unilateral cut of the deployed strategic arsenal to just 1,190 warheads, down from the 1,550 under New START. But ACA wants to go even lower, to “1000 or fewer warheads”.
Moreover, ACA proposes long-term unilateral disarmament by not developing (let alone deploying) any new strategic bombers or ICBMs, and not replacing the current ones when they retire (America’s sole ICBM, the Minuteman-III, was deployed in 1969, and the last MMIII missiles were deployed in 1976; their service lives will expire in 2020). This would be a huge unilateral cut in America’s nuclear deterrent, to just 8 SSBNs and a shrinking handful of aging bombers, with no ICBMs. Thus, the nuclear triad would shrink to a dyad and eventually a monad.
The Stimson Center similarly advocates cutting the nuclear stockpile deeply and reducing the delivery systems fleet to just 300 ICBMs, 10 ballistic missile subs, and the current bomber fleet. While it does not oppose developing a new long-range bomber, it wants that bomber to be purely conventional, not nuclear-capable, meaning there would be no replacement for current bombers when they retire.
The Massachusetts-based “Project on Defense Alternatives” proposes to cut the nuclear deterrent even further: to just 900 deployed warheads, only 7 ballistic missile submarines (with just 3 of them at sea at any time), 140 SLBMs for them, and no more than 200 ICBMs, down by more than 50% from the 420 allowed by New START. It also wants to eliminate the bomber leg of the triad, devoting the bombers solely to conventional missions, and opposes the Next Generation Bomber program, even though that program is absolutely necessary, because current bombers, except the handful of B-2s, are nonstealthy and completely unsurvivable in defended airspace, even against legacy Soviet air defense systems such as the SA-2 and SA-3. This would mean that bombers (except B-2s) would be easily shot down, and their pilots would die or be captured and tortured by America’s enemies. This is the fate that the ACA and the PDA want to inflict on American pilots. For more on that subject, see here, here, and here.
In other words, the cuts would be even deeper, down to just 900 warheads, over 3 times fewer than China has (3,000) and far fewer than what Russia has (2,800 strategic warheads deployed and nondeployed, as well as untold thousands of tactical nukes).
The Soros-funded “Center for American Progress” supports even deeper cuts: down to just 311 nuclear warheads in total. Just 11 more than France, almost 10 times fewer than what China has, and at least ten, and probably more, times fewer than Russia’s total nuclear arsenal (2,800 strategic and untold thousands of tactical nuclear warheads).
Their disastrous cuts would also dramatically slash the fleet of delivery systems. For example, cutting the ICBM fleet from 420 to 300 would make it much smaller than Russia’s, which consists of 434 ICBMs, all of which are younger than the youngest Minuteman-III ICBM currently in service, and many of which have far more throw-weight and warhead delivery capacity: the SS-18 can deliver 10 warheads and up to 30 penetration aids, and the SS-19 can deliver 6, the RS-24 (SS-29) can deliver 4 (with penetration aids). Together with Moscow’s 216 single warhead SS-25 and SS-27 ICBMs, they can deliver 1684 warheads. So the cuts in America’s deterrent power would be even deeper than raw ICBM numbers would indicate.
Cutting America’s ICBM fleet to just 200 would give Russia an advantage of 234 ICBMs.
The hypocrisy of pro-disarmament groups
The hypocrisy of pro-disarmament groups is astounding. Not only do they advocate that America cut its nuclear arsenal below New START levels deeply and unilaterally, they have no problem whatsoever with the nuclear buildups and modernization of the nuclear arsenals of America’s adversaries.
They have no problem with the buildups of the Russian, Chinese, North Korean, and Pakistani nuclear arsenals. They have no problem with Russia’s development of the PAK DA next generation strategic bomber (scheduled to enter service in 2020-2025), next-gen heavy ICBM (“the son of Satan”, i.e. the replacement for the SS-18), or next-gen SSBN class (the Borei class, whose boats #4 through #8 will wield 20 SLBMs each).
They have no problem with China’s 2001 attempt to acquire Tu-22M and Tu-95 strategic bombers (which was put on hold only because the PLA Navy wanted money for aircraft carriers, but which is likely to be revived, so expect China to acquire these bombers in the near future). They have no problem with China’s deployment of 2 new ICBM classes in the last 7 years alone (the DF-31 in 2006 and the DF-41 in 2007).
They have no problem with North Korea’s and Iran development of ICBMs capable of hitting the US and China’s supply of such missiles and their launchers to North Korea – they even deny that North Korea has any such missiles, or that Iran is developing them!
What they seek is only one thing: America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, so that America won’t have any nuclear arms or long-range missile defense systems. (ACA opposes missile defense per se.)
This would be national suicide. It would invite a nuclear attack on the United States and its allies. It’s absolutely unacceptable and, dare I say, treasonous. These proposals must be completely and permanently rejected.