During his SOTU speech, Obama announced his intention to cut the barely-adequate US nuclear arsenal even further, below the 1,550 deployed strategic warheads allowed by the New START treaty. He said he would do so together with the Russians. This (together with Republicans’ and the public’s general disinterest in defense issues) probably softened the Republican response to and criticism of Obama’s plans. And wrongly so, because cutting America’s nuclear deterrent is ALWAYS wrong – even if it is done with Russia.
For decades, Americans have been told the lie that cutting the nuclear deterrent is fine as long as it is done bilaterally with Moscow. (Today, many proponents of America’s disarmament are openly propagating the lie that even cutting the nuclear deterrent unilaterally and deeply is fine, but most Americans and policymakers, quite sensibly, reject that claim.) Making such cuts bilaterally, with Russia, is supposed to make them OK.
But they’re NOT OK. They’re still wrong and dangerous. Here’s why.
First and foremost, Russia has decided to make itself an enemy of the United States and, under Vladimir Putin, it has engaged in very aggressive, provocative, anti-American behavior – in both word and deed. In terms of rhetoric, Russia has been constantly spewing radically anti-American rhetoric from its state-owned media outlets (TV, radio, newspapers) at home and in the United States (vide e.g. the Kremlin-owned “RussiaToday/RT” network operating in the United States, and allowed to do so by the Obama Administration despite being an anti-American propaganda-tool of a foreign regime hostile to the US, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act); hysterical propaganda campaigns against the US and American foster parents; mobilizing its thugs to demonstrate against the US and to assail American diplomats; Vladimir Putin’s unending stream of anti-American propaganda; smear campaigns against those Russians (like MP Dmitry Gudkov) who are not hostile to the US; and discriminatory laws such as the recent statute banning the adoption of Russian children by American citizens.
Russia’s hostility has been even worse when measured in deeds. Russia continues to shield the odious, WMD-wielding regimes of Iran and Syria – the ayatollahs and Assad – from UN sanctions and to supply them with weapons – which are often used against innocent civilians, especially in Syria. Moscow continues to back the odious, torture-practicing, totalitarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and the Kim family regime of North Korea. It continues to occupy Georgia, which it attacked without any justification whatsoever in 2008. It continues to supply Iran with uranium which Tehran is enriching to ever-higher levels. It continues to wage a Cold-War-style arms race against the US.
But most troubling are Russia’s increasingly aggressive military actions and its repeated threats to preemptively strike the US and its allies with nuclear weapons. In the last 9 months, Russia has flown US bombers into or near US airspace and practiced nuclear strikes against the US military four times – a frequency not seen since the tensest years of the Cold War – and earlier this year held the largest nuclear triad exercises since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Four times in the last 9 months the Russian Air Force’s Tupolev intercontinental bombers came into or near US or allied airspace, practicing attacks against the US military. The first such instance in the last 9 months was in June, when the RuAF’s Tu-95 bombers, escorted by Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters and supported by AWACS and tanker aircraft, flew very close to Alaska and its missile defense installations. When asked by the press what they were doing there, Russian Air Force spokesmen said they were “practicing attacking the enemy”. (USAF fighters intercepted those aircraft.)
Then, on July 4th, to poke America, the Russians flew their bombers into US airspace over California, thus essentially committing an act of war. (Again, an interception was made.)
Then, last month, on February 12th, Russian Tu-95 bombers flew around the island of Guam, a highly important US military hub in the Western Pacific with strategically important air, naval, and landbases.
And just a few days ago, Russian Tu-95 bombers flew over South Korea just as the US and South Korean militaries were practicing defending South Korea from its aggressive Northern neighbor.
Moreover, in the last 6 years, highly-ranking Russian military and civilian officials have repeatedly made threats to preemptively attack the US and its allies with nuclear weapons, especially if they don’t toe Russia’s line and deploy missile defense systems on European soil.
That is the behavior of a hyper-aggressive threat to world peace and security, NOT of a responsible, trustworthy partner who can be mollified, made a responsible, productive partner, and trusted to honor commitments – whether on arms reduction or any other issue whatsoever.
Secondly, Russia has repeatedly stated that it does NOT want to be involved in any further arms reduction and has flatly refused to even enter such negotiations, let alone to make any cuts in its vast arsenal of 6,800 warheads (including 2,800 strategic warheads), 14 ballistic missile submarine with 16-20 missiles each, 251 strategic bombers, and 434 ICBMs that are, by themselves, capable of carrying 1,684 warheads to the CONUS, not to mention Russia’s vast arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
Thirdly, cutting America’s nuclear deterrent bilaterally, with Russia, only weakens that deterrent – and thus, America and its military – generally as well as vis-a-vis the other nuclear powers, especially China.
And China, contrary to the lies of the proponents of America’s nuclear disarmament, has far more than the mere 240 warheads they claim. It has between 1,274 and 3,000 nuclear warheads. No one knows for sure how many exactly, but it’s obvious it has far more than just a few hundred:
- It has built a vast, 3,000-mile-long network of tunnels and bunkers for missiles and nuclear warheads. You don’t build such a huge network for just a few hundred warheads and their carriers – because you don’t need to. You build such a vast network only for a huge nuclear arsenal.
- Publicly available, open-source data indicates that China has far more than just a few hundred warheads. For example, it has 430 nuclear-capable strike and bomber aircraft (H-6s, JH-7s, Q-5s), 36 MIRVable DongFeng-5 heavy ICBMs, over 30 DF-31 ICBMs, some DF-41 ICBMs, over 80 DF-21 medium range ballistic missiles (as well as 40-60 of their older DF-3 and DF-4 cousins), 1,600 short-range ballistic missiles, hundreds of nuclear capable CJ-10/20 and DH-10 cruise missiles, and 6 ballistic missile submarines (one Xia class and five Jin class boats).
- Two very credible analysts – former DOD nuclear strategist Professor Philip A. Karber and former Russian missile force Chief of Staff Gen. Viktor Yesin – have made credible analysis showing that China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads.
Now, why does China lie and refuse to release any credible information about its nuclear arsenal (and about its armed forces and military buildup in general)? Because lying and secrecy are very effective methods of concealing one’s military buildup, lulling one’s opponent into a false sense of security, deceiving the enemy as to one’s own capabilities and intentions, and keeping the enemy guessing and unready for your actions and capabilities.
This is why Sun Tzu, whom the Chinese military and government are strictly following, advised deception, lying, and total secrecy. He wrote in his treatise on military affairs, the Art of War:
“All warfare is based on deception.
Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Chapter I, verses 17-18
“Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength. (…)
Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.
By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.” – Chapter V, verses 17 and 19-20
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Chapter VII, verse 19
China’s military buildup will be addressed in a separate article; here, I will just state that it’s no coincidence that China has engaged in a secret, massive nuclear weapons buildup and that it refuses to release any accurate information on it and instead feeds the world with blatant lies about its nuclear arsenal and nuclear weapons employment policy. The Chinese have learned deception (and its value) from their master and fellow countryman, Sun Tzu.
In short, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to cut America’s nuclear deterrent any further, and doing so even bilaterally with Russia – even under a treaty – is still absolutely unacceptable. Obama Admin officials and their political appointees wearing uniforms must not be allowed to get away with the cover that “we only support doing so bilaterally with Russia”. That is still not good enough. The ONLY correct answer is “the US nuclear arsenal must not be cut any further.”