Nuclear deterrent cuts: wrong in the 90s, wrong today
The Left never ceases trying to make America weaker and less secure. Their biggest target right now is America’s nuclear deterrent – the country’s only defense against WMD attack, the only weapon system that has proven itself to always work, the only deterrent that has never failed and has kept America and its allies secure for 67 years (and counting), the most effective nonproliferation program ever invented, which discourages allies from developing their own nuclear weapons by reassuring them with an American nuclear umbrella.
Yet, the Left now wants to dismantle that crucial deterrent and thus disarm America unilaterally. This would be very dangerous and foolish. The deep unilateral cuts made by President Bush I between 1989 and 1993 are sometimes invoked as cuts that supposedly were “a good thing” and an example are emulate.
But the Left is wrong on that one as well. Those unilateral cuts of the Bush administration were also wrong.
The elder President Bush slashed the total nuclear stockpile by 50%, signed two START treaties (in 1991 and 1993), killed B-2 stealthy bomber production at just 21 aircraft, killed Midgetman small ICBM and air-launched cruise missile production, and completely stopped the development, production, upgrades, and testing of nuclear warheads. What were, and are, the results?
China has, since then, dramatically increased its nuclear arsenal – to between 1,600 and 3,000 nuclear warheads, according to General Viktor Yesin (a former Russian strategic missile force chief of staff) and Georgetown Professor Philip Karber, respectively. (Professor Karber was the DOD’s chief nuclear strategist under the Reagan Administration.) It has also produced enough fissile material for 3,600 nuclear warheads (Yesin says half of it has been used so far) and built 3,000 miles of tunnels and bunkers for its nuclear warheads and their delivery missiles). It has also modernized all three legs of its nuclear triad – the submarines, ICBMs, and bombers.
Russia initially cut its nuclear arsenal within the old START treaty framework, but since President Putin came to power, it has begun rebuilding it, and the New START treaty allows it to. START data exchanges show that Russia has significantly increased its nuclear arsenal since New START’s ratification by the US – exactly as Russian leaders said they would.
And throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Russia has been steadily modernizing its nuclear arsenal, especially the ICBM leg, but also the bomber and submarine legs of its nuclear triad. A new class of SSBNs has entered service, the modern Tu-160 Blackjack bomber is in production from stockpiled parts, Moscow is now developing a new bomber, and throughout that time, new ICBM types have been introduced in large numbers – the Topol, Topol-M, Yars, and now Yars-M.
Also, since 1991, India and Israel have significantly increased their nuclear arsenals, and two new states hostile to the US have joined the nuclear club: Pakistan in 1998 and North Korea in 2006. Iran, meanwhile, has made great progress towards nuclear weapons acquisition.
If the goal of Bush’s nuclear arsenal cuts was to convince others to do the same and rogue states to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, his policy is utterly failed – as it was always doomed to, because that is what always happens when the US nuclear deterrent is cut.
Another disastrous consequence of Bush’s foolish nuclear policies was the degradation of America’s nuclear weapons complex: the facilities, dating back to the Manhattan Project days, are now utterly dilapidated and require an urgent, complete renovation. Renovation that has been constantly delayed by successive administrations, including the Obama administration.
Yet another disastrous consequence of Bush’s stupidities has been the progressing obsolence of the nuclear warheads themselves and their delivery systems. Because no new warheads have been produced or tested since 1992, we don’t know if they’re reliable, and existing warheads require service life extensions. As for delivery systems, the majority of them are obsolete and nonstealthy and overdue for replacement.
The Air Force has already foolishly dismantled all of its stealthy cruise missiles and the contract to BEGIN developing new ones won’t be awarded until FY2015. The Air Force’s newest ICBMs, Minutemen-III, were deployed in 1976. (President Reagan deployed the more powerful Peacekeeper missile in 1986, but the elder Bush killed its production and the younger Bush dismantled all of the Peacekeepers the US had already produced. Russia, of course, did not reciprocate and actually increased ICBM production. The USAF, meanwhile, won’t get any new ICBMs until 2030 – if ever.)
Bush also killed B-2 stealthy bomber production at just 21 aircraft, instead of the 132 originally planned, thus causing the unit cost to shoot up dramatically, to 2 bn dollars per copy (including development and testing costs) because economies of scale were lost. Had the 132 originally planned B-2s been built, each of them would’ve cost no more than a B747.
As a result, the USAF now has only 20 bombers capable of penetrating anything better than primitive Soviet air defense systems – only 20 capable of defeating advanced Russian and Chinese air defense systems like the S-300, S-400, HQ-9, HQ-12, and HQ-16, and upgraded Soviet systems like the SA-11/17. 20 stealthy bombers is not even close to enough. As a result, in 1996, during that year’s crisis with Iraq, US commanders in the Middle East had fewer than 20 stealthy bombers available to deal with Iraq – proving that 20 B-2s were not enough, as Gen. Chuck Horner observed.
Carrier-based aircraft were not and aren’t stealthy, and short-range stealthy strike jets couldn’t take off because US allies in the region forbade the US to use their bases and airspace in 1996.
And now, because Bush killed the B-2 at 21 aircraft, and because the next generation bomber program has been repeatedly and inexplicably delayed, the USAF will not get a new bomber until the mid-2020s – and that’s assuming that the Democrats don’t kill the next gen bomber program, as they have repeatedly tried to.
Bush’s unilateral nuclear cuts and utter neglect of the nuclear weapons complex also resulted in thousands of highly-educated, highly-skilled nuclear scientists leaving government service and joining the private sector or retiring without being replaced. The nuclear weapons complex today suffers as much from a brain drain and personnel shortage as from obsolence. And you can thank the two Bushes, as well as Clinton and Obama, for that.
Also, Bush unilaterally withdrew US tactical nukes from South Korea and from surface warships. Did anyone reciprocate? No. North Korea has, since then, developed, deployed, and tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of all ranges, while Russia continues to keep numerous nuclear weapons in various forms on its surface warships and submarines.
Those are the disastrous consequnces of the elder Bush’s deep unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent. And these consequences still bedevil us today.
Yet, despite that, the Democrats and other proponents of America’s unilateral disarmament falsely claim that this “was a good thing” and that the US should continue to cut its arsenal further and unilaterally.
They want to cancel long overdue facility and warhead refurbishment programs; long overdue bomber, cruise missile, and submarine replacement programs; and cut America’s existing arsenal deeply and unilaterally, below 1,000 or even below 800 (according to Rep. Jim Cooper) warheads – at least twice less than what China has.
They want to disarm America unilaterally at a time when – as even the pacifist Stockholm Institute for Peace Research Studies (SIPRI) and Danish pacifist Hans M. Kristensen admit – everyone else is modernizing and/or growing their nuclear arsenals.
Indeed, America’s adversaries – Russia, China, and North Korea – are all growing and modernizing their arsenals.
Russia’s and China’s nuclear arsenals, militaries, and base infrastructure are so large and so reduntant and disperses that the US needs thousands, not mere hundreds, of nuclear warheads to deter them – especially to deter both of them. And both of them will have the ability to reduce the US arsenal in a preemptive first strike, if it’s cut as deeply as the Dems’ and their pacifist bankrollers like the Council for a Livable World want to.
Russia is in the midst of the largest nuclear buildup since the Soviet times. Russia has 2,800 strategic and up to 4,000 tactical nuclear warheads, deployed and nondeployed. It has 434 ICBMs *most of them multiple/warhead/armed), 251 strategic bombers (each carrying up to 6 nuclear cruise missiles and many also carrying a nuclear freefall bomb), and 14 ballistic missile subs with 16-20 missiles each, and 4-12 warheads per missile, depending on its type (Sinyeva missiles carry only 4 warheads; Liner missiles carry 12). Russian boomer subs can launch their missiles while being homeported.
Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal is even larger. It consists of up to 4,000 warheads in various forms: nuclear depth charges, nuclear bombs, warheads for short-range missiles, nuclear artillery shells, etc. Russia can deliver them by many means: surface warships, submarines, cruise missiles, artillery pieces, SRBMs, etc.
What’s more, Russia and China are GROWING, not shrinking, their nuclear arsenals. Russia has been doing so since New START ratification – as allowed to do so by that one-sided treaty, which requires cuts only in the US arsenal. Russia is adding warheads as well as delivery systems. It has resumed Tu-160 bomber production from stockpiled parts.
Moscow is not only growing its arsenal but also becoming more aggressive as well. In the last 12 months, Russia has practiced simulated nuclear bomber strikes on US missile defense facilities five times, each time flying dangerously close to US or allied airspace, and three times flying into Air Defense Identification Zones – forcing US or allied fighters to scramble. For more, see here and here.
“Who told you that the Cold War was ever over? It transforms; it is like a virus,” said Russian KGB/FSB defector Sergei Tretyakov in an interview with FOX News in 2009.
And yet, the Left wants America to disarm unilaterally in the face of such an aggressive Russia wielding thousands of nuclear weapons!
China also has a large arsenal – contrary to the false claims of pacifist groups. It has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads according to General Viktor Yesin (former Russian missile force chief of staff) and Professor Philip Karber, respectively. It has recently built 3,000 miles of tunnels and bunkers for its nuclear missiles and warheads. You don’t build such a vast network for only a few hundred warheads.
China currently has 86ICBMs (20 DF-4s, 36 DF-5s, at least 30 DF-31/31As, and at least one DF-41), over 1,600 SRBMs, hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles, at least 100 MRBMs (DF-21s and DF-3s), 6 ballistic missile submarines (5 Jin class, 1 Xia class, with at least 12 nuclear-armed missiles per boat), and 440 nuclear-capable aircraft (H-6, Q-5, JH-7).
Both Russia and China are also rapidly modernizing their entire arsenals of warheads and delivery systems. Russia is developing or producing several new ICBM types: the Yars silo-based and Yars-M road-mobile ICBM, a rail-mobile ICBM, the “Avangard” ICBM (little is known about it), the “Son of Satan” ICBM intended to replace the SS-18 Satan heavy ICBM, a “pseudo-ICBM” with a 6,000 km range, and another ICBM recently mentioned by Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin.
Russia is also developing a next-generation bomber and has recently fielded the Kalibr sub-launched cruise missile, the Kh-102 air-launched cruise missile, new warheads, and the Su-34 attack aircraft.
China is also modernizing by fielding new ICBMs (DF-31As, DF-41s), a new air-launched cruise missile (CJ-20), the new Jin class of SSBNs, improved variants of the JL-2 sub-launched ballistic missile with a 12,000 km range, and a sub-launched cruise missile. It’s also developing a new class of SSBNs (follow-on to the Jin class) and has ordered 36 Tu-22M bombers. Concurrently, both China and Russia are also developing missile defenses.
Moscow and Beijing aren’t the only nuclear threats to America, though. North Korea has 8-12 nuclear warheads, ICBMs capable of reaching the US, and – through its successful satellite test conducted last December – demonstrated capability to mate nuclear payloads to missiles, confirmed by the DIA and by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. North Korea has, since the last crisis, announced it will GROW, not give up, its nuclear arsenal – and has recently test-fired several SRBMs again. Meanwhile, Iran is racing towards nuclear weapons.
And yet, the Dems want America to dramatically and unilaterally cut America’s nuclear deterrent in the face of all of these nuclear threats! What’s more, they lie that cutting America’s deterrent unilaterally will make her and the world safer and more peaceful!
Do you see the absurdity of their claims, Dear Reader?
Let’s not mince words. The elder Bush, like his son, was a fool. His unilateral cuts in and neglect of America’s nuclear deterrent dramatically weakened America and put its security, and that of its allies, at unnecessary risk, while emboldening America’s adversaries and encouraging nuclear proliferation.
Cutting America’s nuclear deterrent further – especially unilaterally – would only aggravate these problems, and could possible invite a nuclear first strike on the US.