Tag Archives: China’s nuclear arsenal

Rebuttal of Tom Collina’s blatant lies about US nukes

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Last week,the leftist Breaking Defense website published an utterly ridiculous screed by one of the most strident advocates of America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, Tom Collina, the “research director” of the Arms Control Association, which advocates disarming the US unilaterally and foregoing the deployment of any missile defense systems. (The ACA is funded by several grant-awarding organizations which also advocate America’s unilateral disarmament.

In his screed, Collina makes a lot of lies, all of which, of course, are designed to smear nuclear weapons and mislead the public into supporting that treasonous goal.

Here’s his biggest lie:

“However, at a time of increasingly tight budgets, the more we spend on excess nuclear weapons the less will be available for what Ukraine and NATO need most: economic aid and conventional military assistance.”

Total garbage. Firstly, America does NOT have “excess nuclear weapons” – if anything, it has too few. Russia has a (slightly) BIGGER nuclear arsenal than the US, totalling 2,800 strategic and up to 5,700 tactical nuclear weapons. In fact, Russia has more nuclear weapons (8,500) than the US, Britain, and France combined (8,200). Sources: the Federation of American Scientists and SIPRI’s 2013 Military Balance.

Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal alone rivals America’s in size, and is complemented by “tactical” nuclear weapons, many of which (the warheads of Russian cruise missiles) can be delivered to the US (because the aircraft and nuclear-powered submarines carrying them can travel intercontinental distances). And these warheads are NOT subject to any arms limitation treaty.

Russia’s ICBM fleet alone can deliver at least 1,684 warheads to the US; Russia’s submarine fleet, another 1,400; and Moscow’s bomber fleet (Tu-95s, Tu-22Ms, Tu-160s), another 2,000 if need be.

On top of that, the US has to deter China, North Korea, and Iran. China alone has at least 1,600 nuclear weapons and continues to build that arsenal up.

Not to mention the fact that Russia, China, NK, and Iran are threats to many but protectors to nobody, while the US has to provide a nuclear umbrella to itself and to over 30 allies around the world, many of whom will go nuclear if the US fails to provide an adequate umbrella. (Already 66% of South Koreans want to do that; meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has ordered nuclear weapons in Pakistan and DF-21 ballistic missiles in China.)

No, Mr Collina, the US nuclear arsenal is not excessive at all – if anything, it is too small.

As for economic aid, that is an obsolete, socialist idea. Ukraine needs to revive its economy by implementing free market policies, NOT begging for handouts.

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned recently that “tough, tough choices are coming” if the Pentagon is forced to make deep spending cuts, as required by law. He may slash about 30,000 soldiers and retire an aircraft carrier.”

Excuse me? Those are supposed to be “tough choices”? Are you kidding me? Reducing the active duty Army to levels roughly equal to those of 9/11 and retiring a single carrier is not tough – it’s a no-brainer. It’s like picking the low-hanging fruit. (After Hagel’s cuts, the Army will be just slightly smaller than on 9/11, and the American people will have NO appetite or stomach for any more ground wars for a long time to come.)

Aircraft carriers are hugely expensive and extremely vulnerable, and their a/c have very little range. Flattops essentially provide NO return for the huge taxpayer investment they cost. I have already submitted an article dealing with this issue to Proceedings; it awaits the Editorial Board’s review.

It would be far better for the DOD to invest seriously in the single most reliable deterrent against aggression – the US nuclear umbrella – instead of blowing money on oversized land armies and very vulnerable flattops.

“As Crimea shows, these priorities are backwards. We must not allow our increasingly important conventional military forces to be undercut by excessive investments in nuclear weapons.”

Utter garbage as well. America’s conventional forces are not being undercut by the nuclear arsenal, whose total cost (ca. $32 bn per annum) is only 6% of the total military budget (roughly $600 bn in FY2014). Even eliminating it altogether would NOT save America’s conventional forces from sequestration. Sec. Hagel is absolutely right to make the nuclear deterrent a priority for the above reasons. As for conventional forces – don’t make me laugh. The unilateral disarmament movement, of which Collina is an active member, opposes BOTH America’s conventional and nuclear forces. The US nuclear deterrent is merely their first target on their way to disarming America unilaterally.

“And we don’t have to. The United States can stay at nuclear warhead levels set by the 2010 New START treaty and still save billions over the next decade by scaling back and delaying new delivery systems.”

Utter nonsense again. Firstly, New START levels are inadequate to deter Russia and China; second, New START is a worthless and treasonous treaty obligating only the US (not Russia) to cut its arsenal while Moscow is allowed to increase its own; and thirdly, Russia has cheated on EVERY arms control treaty it has signed, INCLUDING New START, as Bill Gertz has recently revealed in the WFB.

And “scaling back and delaying new delivery systems” would be utterly suicidal and a recipe for a Russian nuclear first strike. It would mean having far fewer systems (and thus a much less survivable arsenal), and NO new systems coming online for decades – at a time when existing delivery systems are already reaching the end of their service lives! This means, in practice, complete unilateral disarmament!

The Minuteman ICBM and air-launched cruise missiles will go out of service in the 2020s. The B-52 cannot operate in anything but friendly-controlled airspace. The Ohio class will start leaving service later this decade, and even under CURRENT funding projections, there will be a big gap in the SSBN fleet, with a low of just 10 boats in the early 2020s – unless the SSBN replacement program is hastened.

The cost of replacing them is not huge and will likely be far less than the $355 bn Collina falsely claims – but delaying it any further will significantly increase the price tag.

If a superior U.S. nuclear force did not restrain Moscow from annexing Crimea, how would an even larger force stop further Russian adventurism? It would not. The paradox of nuclear weapons is that they are too destructive to be used, so both sides are “deterred” from doing so.”

These are also blatant lies. The US nuclear arsenal, as proven above, is SMALLER and OLDER than Russia’s, and it was never intended or built to deter Russia from annexing… the Crimea, where it already had almost 30,000 troops and dozens of ships anyway. It was never intended to deter Russia from invading the Ukraine, which neither the US nor the EU had any intention of defending or supporting (and Putin knew it), a country the West has kept out of NATO and the EU and has essentially left to fend for itself.

Putin knew that the West would never offer more than verbal protests and tepid sanctions if he went into Ukraine. Which is why he did that. He knew that Ukraine was outside America’s security perimeter.

The US nuclear deterrent is intended to provide security for the US itself and for its NATO and non-NATO allies (e.g. SK, Japan) – and it has been doing that successfully, without any failure, ever since its inception in 1945.

And if nuclear weapons cannot deter Putin in the Crimea or elsewhere, conventional weapons – which have far less striking and thus deterring power – cannot do that, either. Is Collina suggesting the US deploy its soldiers in the Ukraine and used in a shooting war with Russia? Does he envisage US Army BCTs taking on Russian brigades? Because if he’s not, conventional forces are utterly useless in Ukraine.

As former US Strategic Command leader Gen. Kevin Chilton has stated, conventional weapons cannot replace nuclear arms as deterrents, because the former lack the overwhelming striking (and thus deterring) power of nuclear arms.

Collina also approvingly quotes former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who has falsely claimed that:

“Nuclear-weapons enthusiasts seem to have an inexhaustible appetite for bad arguments.”

In fact, Western anti-nuke activists, the advocates of the West’s unilateral disarmament, seem to have an inexhaustible appetite for bad arguments, lying, and disarming their own countries unilaterally.

And while nuclear weapons might not be useful in Ukraine, there is little the US can do there anyway (who’s suggesting putting US conventional troops there?). But building up the US nuclear arsenal and accelerating missile defense deployment in Europe would do three good things:

1) Increase US and allied security by finally providing a bigger, more adequate, and modernized deterrent;

2) Finally showing strength to Russia after many years of appeasement and unilateral disarmament – which is what emboldened Russia to take one aggressive action after another, culminating in the invasion of Ukraine; and

3) Be a huge geopolitical, diplomatic, and prestige defeat for Russia, which strongly opposes both. It’s time to stop giving Russia what it wants. It would mean Russia has finally lost the veto on US and NATO security matters that Obama gave Moscow in 2009 by cancelling GBI missile defense deployment in Europe. Russia (and other aggressors and bullies) only understand the language of force, and they respect only those who are stronger than them. To deter Russia and have a better negotiating position vis-a-vis Moscow, the US needs to have stronger nuclear AND conventional forces.

BreakingDefense itself approvingly published Collina’s screed and falsely called him:

“Tom Collina, a respected expert in nuclear weapons and arms control…”

Balderdash. Collina is not a “respected expert” on anything, ESPECIALLY not nuclear weapons and arms control. He’s an ignoramus and an ideological advocate of America’s unilateral disarmament. Calling him an expert is an insult to every real expert out there. Being a longtime anti-nuclear activist does not make one an expert. And while I would not call myself one, I know far more about nuclear weapons than he ever will.

Shame on him for lying so blatantly and advocating America’s unilateral disarmament, and shame on BD for publishing his utterly ridiculous screed.

CNS and Cirincione are lying; America needs a LARGE nuclear deterrent

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The leftist, California-based “Center for Nonproliferation Studies” and the also leftist, Democrat-run CBO have recently released rigged “studies” claiming that nuclear weapons modernization and maintenance will cost the US $355 bn over the next decade and$1 trillion over the next 30 years.

These figures are wildly exaggerated and not based on any accurate statistics, and their purpose, of course, is to propagandize and mislead the public and the Congress into foregoing the US nuclear deterrent’s modernization – thus allowing it to decay and rust out due to old age. In other words, these leftists want to disarm the US through nonmodernization and nonreplacement of its nuclear deterrent – by simply allowing it to decay without refit or replacement.

Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione, a radical anti-nuke leftist activist whom Frank Gaffney has often humiliated on TV, goes even further and demands deep cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent right now. He falsely claims that the deterrent is still configured to prevent a massive nuclear attack by Russia and not to counter 21st century challenges. He falsely claims further that “configuring” the nuclear arsenal to counter “21st century threats” would permit radical, deep cuts in that arsenal.

All of these are blatant lies. I’ll show you why. I’ll start with why the US needs to maintain a large nuclear arsenal and modernize all of its legs.

So why exactly?

Because the 21st century threat environment – the very environment Cirincione claims to be concerned about – requires a large, modern US nuclear arsenal.

The biggest threats to US security by far are Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran (in that order). Nothing else comes even close to posing as much a security threat as these four hostile dictatorships. Specifically, it is their military buildups, and particularly their nuclear programs, that pose the biggest threat to US, allied, and world security.

Russia and China both have large nuclear arsenals. Moscow has 2,800 strategic nuclear warheads (according to the Federation of American Scientists), of which 1,500 are deployed and 50 further will be soon, and around 4,000 tactical nuclear warheads (many of which can be delivered against the US). To deliver them, Russia has over 410 ICBMs, 13 ballistic missile submarines, 251 strategic bombers, and around 20 attack submarines capable of carrying nuclear cruise missiles anywhere in the world. To deliver its tactical warheads, Russia has those attack submarines plus short-range ballistic missiles, attack aircraft, surface warships, artillery pieces, and IRBMs such as the Yars-M.

China has at least 1,600, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads, according to former Russian missile force chief Gen. Viktor Yesin and Georgetown Professor Philip Karber (who was the DOD’s chief nuclear strategist under President Reagan). To deliver them, Beijing wields 75-87 ICBMs (and is adding more every year), 120-160 strategic bombers, 6 ballistic missile subs, over 120 MRBMs, over 1,200 SRBMs, and 280 tactical strike aircraft. Note that China, like Russia, is adding more nuclear weapons and delivery systems every year.

Both Moscow and Beijing are now growing and rapidly modernizing their nuclear triads: they are developing, producing, and deploying next-generation ICBMs, ballistic missile subs, and bombers. Both of them are now developing stealthy intercontinental bombers capable of hitting the US, as well as rail-mobile ICBMs.

To cut the US nuclear arsenal any further, let alone deeply, in the face of these aggressive Russian and Chinese nuclear buildup aimed exclusively at the US and its allies, would be utterly suicidal and indeed treasonous. It would openly invite a Russian or Chinese nuclear first strike on the US.

That’s because, in order to be survivable and credible, a nuclear arsenal MUST be large – no smaller than the enemy’s. Otherwise, it will be very easy for the enemy to destroy in a preemptive first strike, and even without one, it will be too small to hold most of the enemy’s military and economic assets at risk.

Moscow and Beijing not only have large nuclear arsenals, they’re quite willing to use them. In fact, in the last 7 years, Russia has threatened to aim or use nuclear weapons against the US or its allies on 16 separate occassions, and in the last 2 years has flown nuclear-armed bombers into or close to US and allied airspace. In May 2012, when its bombers overtly practiced a nuclear strike on Alaska, the Russian Air Force said to the press it was “practicing attacking the enemy.”

Not only that, but in its military doctrine Russia openly claims a right to use nuclear weapons first – even if the opponent does not have any nuclear weapons!

Moreover, the US now has to deter not only Russia and China, but North Korea and Iran as well.

On top of that, the US has to provide a credible nuclear deterrent not only to itself, but to over 30 allies around the world: all NATO members, Israel, Gulf countries, and Pacific allies such as the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. These allies are watching the state of the US nuclear arsenal closely and will develop their own if the US cuts its umbrella further. Thus making the problem of proliferation – which the CNS and Ploughshares falsely pretend to be concerned about – that much worse.

The truth is that the need for a large nuclear deterrent, and the nuclear triad, has never been greater. America needs them now more than ever. In this 21st century threat environment marked by three (soon to be four) hostile nuclear powers, two of them with large nuclear arsenals, it would be utterly suicidal and foolish to cut the US nuclear arsenal further, let alone deeply so.

OK, but what about the cost?

The cost isn’t – and will not be – nearly as high as the CNS and the CBO falsely claim. It will amount to roughly $200 bn per decade according to the DOD and the Air Force Global Strike Command.

But even if one accepts the CBO’s exaggerated figure of $355 bn per decade, that still amounts to only $35.5 bn per year, out of a total military budget of $607 bn in FY2014. That is a paltry 5.8% of the military budget.

Anyone who claims that America cannot afford to invest 35.5 bn per year – a meager 5.8% of its military budget – in modernizing its nuclear deterrent (its most valuable shield against aggression) – is an idiot or a deceitful, lying bastard.

In fact, even the leftist Center for Nonproliferation Studies admits in its “study” that even at the peak of US nuclear modernization efforts, the US will devote only 3% of its military budget to nuclear modernization. Which means 97% will be spent on non-nuclear programs. And that’s during the peak years of nuclear modernization efforts. The CNS says such proportions would be similar to those seen under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s – the last time the US modernized its nuclear deterrent.

(Indeed, if the cost of nuclear modernization seems great, it is precisely because of the many decades of nonmodernization, neglect, precipitous cuts, and underfunding of the US nuclear arsenal. These many decades of neglect have consequences, and the bill for these three decades of negligence has now arrived.)

Furthermore, the CNS itself admits that the US spends only 8 billion dollars per year maintaining its nuclear triad. This is consistent with USAF figures, according to which ICBMs cost only $1.1 bn, and bombers only $2.5 bn, per year to maintain.

But the CNS and other leftist organizations – such as the ACA and the CLW – still have the nerve to claim that nuclear modernization, and in particular Ohio class submarine replacement, “threatens to jeopardize the rest of the fleet.” This is a blatant lie, considering that by their own admission nuclear modernization, even at peak years, will consume only 3-6% of the total military budget.

The fact is that America’s nuclear weapons budget and modernization programme is, and will certainly remain, way too small to threaten any conventional programs.

On the contrary, it is conventional weapon programs’ escalating costs that are threatening nuclear modernization. For example, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will cost $12.8 bn by the time it’s completed, and the next carrier, the Kennedy, will cost $10.8 bn. The tri-service F-35 Junk Strike Fighter program will cost an astounding $391 bn to develop and procure!

The Navy could save itself a lot of money, and be able to buy lots of different ships (including new SSBNs) if it ended its obsession with hyperexpensive and vulnerable aircraft carriers, cut its carrier fleet, invested more in submarines, and dramatically cut its internal bureaucracy – ESPECIALLY at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which procures ships.

The fact is that the US nuclear modernization program is perfectly affordable, cheap, and absolutely necessary in light of the nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Therefore, the claims of the CNS, the ACA, the CLW, Ploughshares, and other leftist, anti-nuclear organizations are utterly false, as always.

Defense Issues Weekly – week of May 12th, 2013

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A satellite photo, with markings, of China’s underground submarine base at Jianggezhuang near Qingdao in northeastern China. The base is super-hardened against air and missile attacks. While this 2000s photo depicts only a Han and a Xia class submarine present outside the base, more submarines were based inside. This is the base from which Chinese SSBNs going on deterrence patrols against the US probably operate. Photo source: DigitalGlobe/”China’s Nuclear Forces,” Imaging Notes, Winter 2006, p. 25.

DOD releases report on China’s military power

On Tuesday, May 7th, the DOD released its annual report on China’s military power and defense policies. The report is much longer and more detailed than last year’s, which was dramatically shortened to just 10 unclassified pages, ostensibly to cut costs while costing more to prepare than 2011’s much longer report.

This year’s version, at 92 pages, gives a great amount of information – both verbal and graphic – on China’s military power, the dispersal of its troops and bases, and the ranges of its missiles. However, while analysts consider it a significant improvement over last year’s document, this year’s still significantly understates China’s military power.

For example, it claims that China’s air force still flies, for the most part, obsolete 2nd- and 3rd-generation fighters and that modern fighters are still a minority in its fleet. This is factually incorrect: the J-7 and J-8 fighters which the report refers to, at 569 aircraft, are now less numerous than the PLAAF’s modern fighters, which number 587 (J-10s, J-11s, Su-27s, Su-30MKKs, JH-7s). Moreover, modern aircraft’s share of the PLAAF’s fleet will only grow overtime: 70 additional J-11s as well as 24 Su-35s are on order and an unknown number (but possibly hundreds) of 5th generation stealthy J-20 and J-31 fighters are poised to join the fleet.

Moreover, the J-7 and J-8, despite their age, are actually superior to the costly F-35 now under development: they can fly much higher and faster and are more agile. The J-7 has a max altitude of over 57,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 2; and its light weight and low wingloading ratio make it a superior dogfighter to the F-35. The J-7 can defeat an F-35 easily by simply refusing to be a straight, level target. In Vietnam, MiG-21s (on which the J-7 is based) routinely defeated American F-4 fighters.

The report also significantly understates China’s nuclear arsenal and submarine fleet. It claims that only 3 modern Jin class SSBNs (“boomers”) are in service, even though there were that many as early as 2007/2008; China actually has 5 in service with a sixth one under construction. This is intended to replace the old Xia class SSBN, still in service, which, together with the Jins, gives China a 6-boat SSBN fleet and thus already a continous at-sea nuclear deterrent – which the report falsely claims China doesn’t yet have.

Nonetheless, the report does warn of a large ongoing expansion of China’s sub fleet – it plans to deploy a total of 8 Jins and 6 Shangs (other sources say 6-8) and is developing a new SSBN (Type 096) and attack submarine (Type 095, Tang class). Two Tangs have already been deployed, and these are much quieter than China’s previous, noisier submarine classes.

This makes mockery of Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s recent claim that “we own the undersea domain” and that “the Chinese are not there yet”, especially in light of the fact that the USN can only supply 10 attack submarines to combatant commanders when its own minimum need is 16, and the fact that the USN’s anti-sub-warfare skills and equipment have atrophied.

The report claims that the range of the JL-2 SLBM is only 7,200 kms and can reach only parts of Alaska. But the JL-2 actually has a range of 8,000 kms according to multiple Chinese and Western sources (including SinoDefence and GlobalSecurity), and the report’s map deceptively shows the JL-2’s range as if it were launched from Chinese mainland. (p. 81)

But the JL-2 is a submarine-launched missile, meaning China can launch it from anywhere on Earth. Even with a 7,200 km range, the JL-2 could reach Los Angeles if launched from 160 degrees east, well west of Hawaii. With an 8,000 km range, it can reach LA from a position just east of 150E, i.e. just east of Japan.

Similarly, the report wrongly claims that the DF-21 land attack and anti-ship ballistic missile’s range is only 2000 kms. In fact, the DF-21A, the longest-ranged land attack variant, has a range of 2,700 kms, and the DF-21D ASBM, 3,000 kms – stretching out almost to the Second Island Chain, including Taiwan. This means any surfance ship within 3,000 kms of China’s coast can be sunk.

The report admits, for the first time, that China is testing a DF-41 multiple-warhead ICBM, but does not include it on its missile range map nor acknowledge that the DF-41 may very well already be deployed (it was first photographed in 2007). It also claims the DH-10 land-attack cruise missile has only a 2,000 km range; in reality, it’s 4,000 kms, more than enough to reach Guam.

Last but not least, Richard Fisher, a Chinese affairs expert with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, has criticized the report for failing into account China’s supply of transporter-erector-launchers for North Korean KN-08 ICBMs.

General Dempsey bows to the Muslim Brotherhood

An Army Lieutenant Colonel currently lecturing at the Joint Forces Staff College has been denied promotion and faces possible dismissal following an intervention by Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Dempsey, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, ordered an investigation after Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations filed a complaint with the DOD urging LTCOL Matthew Dooley, a combat veteran and West Point graduate, to be punished after LTCOL Dooley was found to teach his students about the dangers of radical Islam. The National Defense University, which oversees the college, has not found any fault with Dooley’s teachings.

Dooley, a West Point graduate, has 6 combat deployments and 18 years of military service under his belt. An Army promotion board unanimously recommended him for promotion to battalion command, praising his career and accomplishments. However, in 2011, a student of Dooley’s complained about his supposedly offensive teachings to the DOD, and General Dempsey was informed. Dempsey, a political general, personally ordered that Dooley be denied promotion and that an investigation aimed at throwing him out of the military be initiated. The investigation has reached its predetermined conclusions, claiming that he was a “poor officer” and resulting in his firing.

The Washington Times has narrated the story in more detail here.

France makes defense cuts, retains ambitions

The French government announced some painful cuts to the military last week, as it looks to defense spending to cut France’s massive budget deficit.

While the cuts will not be as deep as in other countries – defense spending will be frozen in nominal terms (and cut slightly in inflation-adjusted euros) – there will be a cut of 24,000 personnel, mostly from the defense ministry’s administrative staff, but also a reduction of the number of troops deployable abroad from 30,000 to 15,000-20,000. The Navy will have only 15 “first-rang frigates” rather than 17, and the fleet of fighters for the Air Force and Navy combined will be cut sharply, from 300 to 225. France will also not resume production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Moreover, the government has delayed the delivery of new weapon systems, which, in the long term, will cost more than if they were to be delivered sooner. The decisions, outlined in the new White Paper on National Defense, will form the basis of the Law on Military Procurement for 2014-2019 and for the defense budgets for those years.

The defense cuts have been criticized from both the Right and the Left. Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon has denounced them as weakening the stature of France; far-right leader Marine Le Pen has called for defense spending to be ring-fenced and kept permanent at 2% of GDP. Mainstream right-wing UMP (neo-Gaullist) party politicians have also expressed worries. So have retired generals, who estimate that with just 15-20K troops deployable abroad France will have little capacity to intervene abroad in defense of its national interests and be only a minor contributor to coalition operations alongside the US, Britain, or other allies.

Under the plans, announced recently in detail by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Ecole Militaire in Paris, the French military will avoid the deep cuts in programs imposed on other Western militaries. However, it is already a small military by American standards. Furthermore, it is estimated that 20,000 deployable troops won’t be enough to make a significant contribution to allied operations. The same can be said of its plan to cut the combined Air Force – Navy fighter fleet to just 225 aircraft, down from 300 today.

Moreover, there is a basic criticism of the White Paper: that it is being made to fit the budget, rather than the other way around, i.e. some critics claim that the government is putting the cart before the horse by making the strategy fit the budget. This is the same mistake that the governments of the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, and other countries have made, which has made them less secure.