Tag Archives: US nuclear stockpile

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.

Why America must not cut its nuclear arsenal any further

Russia and China are rapidly growing and modernizing their nuclear arsenals, North Korea is perfecting its warheads and missiles, Iran is racing towards nuclear weapons, and what do Western arms control advocacy organizations advocate? That the US disarm itself unilaterally, starting with deep unilateral cuts in its nuclear warhead stockpile and ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet.

But any further cuts to America’s nuclear arsenal or any component of its nuclear triad would be reckless, irresponsible, and very dangerous for national security by significantly weakening America’s only deterrent against nuclear threats. Weakening that deterrent (by cutting or neglecting it) is always dangerous for America, but it’s especially dangerous when hostile countries are building up their nuclear arsenals and other hostile countries are developing atomic weapons. So here are additional reasons why America must not cut its nuclear deterrent any further.

1) Russia is rapidly building up its nuclear arsenal, as it is allowed to do under the New START treaty. When that treaty was ratified, Russia was well below its ceilings on strategic nuclear warheads and their carriers. Now, it’s just 58 warheads below the limit and intends to continue building up to it. It also threatens to withdraw from the treaty if the US deploys any missile defense systems in Europe. It has also violated the treaty by holding bomber exercises without sending prior notification to the US.

It currently has 400-472 ICBMs, most of them multiple-warhead missiles (including some, such as SS-18 Satan ICBMs, that can carry 10 warheads and many decoys each), 141 Tu-95 and 16 Tu-160 strategic bombers, and over 200 Tu-22M and Su-34 bombers. Each Tupolev bomber can carry multiple nuclear-tipped missiles as well as nuclear free-fall bombs.

Moreover, Russia has 12-13 SSBNs and plans to have, in the next few decades, at least 12 SSBNs, most of which will carry 16 SLBMs but some (starting with the 4th Borei class SSBN) will carry 20 missiles – 4 more than what the American SSBN replacement class is planned to carry, thus outgunning the planned future SSBN fleet of the Navy, which will consist of only 12 boats. Cutting the SSBN fleet (or any other component of the nuclear triad) any further would weaken that fleet (and consequently, the US nuclear arsenal at large) vis-a-vis Russia’s boomer fleet further and give Moscow a nuclear advantage over the US, thus allowing Russia to blackmail the US and its allies with nuclear weapons. And why would Russia not exploit such advantage over the US mercilessly if it gains it? Of course it would.

On top of that, Russia has a much larger tactical nuclear arsenal than the US, with thousands (and potentially over 10,000) tactical nuclear warheads deployed on a wide range of delivery systems: cruise missiles (air- and sea-launched), SRBMs, aircraft dropping nuclear bombs, torpedoes, etc. The US has only a few hundred (400-500) tactical nuclear weapons, of which only about 200 are deployed in Europe.

In short, Russia enjoys approximate strategic nuclear parity with the US, has a huge advantage over the US in tactical nuclear weapons, and thus, any cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal or any element of the strategic triad would weaken the US vis-a-vis Russia and give Moscow a nuclear advantage over the US.

2) China is also quickly building up its arsenals. According to credible studies – unlike the guesstimates of the US intelligence community, which are almost 3 decades out of date, and the false claims of pro-disarmament groups – China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads – and the means to deliver them, including over 70 ICBMs, at least 72 (and up to 132) SLBMs, 120-130 MRBMs and IRBMs, and over 1,600 SRBMs, not to mention hundreds of LACMs and 440 nuclear-armed bombers.

China is now producing and deploying three new types of ICBMs (DF-31A, DF-41, JL-2) and MIRVing these missiles as well as its older DF-5 ICBMs and DF-4 IRBMs. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal (or any component of the nuclear triad) deeply would leave America with a much smaller nuclear arsenal than China’s (which consists of 1,800 – 3,000 warheads), thus enabling Beijing to blackmail and even attack America and its Asian allies, all of whom depend on the US umbrella.

Even bilateral cuts with Russia would thus gravely undermine US security, as they would deeply reduce America’s nuclear deterrent vis-a-vis China.

3) Other countries are also increasing their nuclear arsenals, despite, or perhaps because of, continous cuts to America’s deterrent. These countries include Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. Pyongyang and Islamabad cannot be deterred with a small number of nuclear weapons. Pakistan alone has over 100 nuclear warheads.

4) Last but certainly not least, the US needs a large nuclear deterrent to protect its 30 treaty allies and other friends who depend on the American nuclear umbrella. This cannot be done with a small arsenal; it would be woefully insufficient to reassure allies about that arsenal’s credibility – and the credibility of America’s guarantees.

Unlike Russia and China, which are threats to many and protectors to nobody except North Korea, the US is responsible for providing a nuclear deterrent not just for itself but for over 30 allies in Europe and Asia, who are threatened by Russia and China.

Any further cuts will cause these allies to doubt America’s nuclear deterrent and, at some point, develop their own nuclear weapons, thus making the proliferation problem much worse. And who could blame them? They cannot afford to bet their own security and national insistence on America sobering up from its “world without nuclear weapons” fantasy in 2016.

If nuclear proliferation is the concern, cutting or eliminating America’s own nuclear deterrent is the worst way to handle it. It would only make matters worse.

As three distinguished CSBA analysts observed in December 2010′s edition of Foreign Affairs, America’s nuclear arsenal is shrinking just as its deterrence commitments are expanding substantially, and if the US cuts its nuclear arsenal below New START levels, “Washington will have fewer weapons to support these commitments, which will raise questions about its ability and its willingness to defend its allies and its partners if they are threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran.” The same must be applied to those allies threatened by Russia, China, or North Korea.[1]

Deep cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent would also encourage America’s enemies to develop their own arsenals, since any idiot can build a paltry 300 warheads, if that’s all that’s required to match the US. Many of America’s adversaries would gladly do so, if 300 warheads were enough to match the US.

So we would see many new nuclear powers – America’s allies as well as adversaries. Thus, further cuts in America’s arsenal, far from “setting an example” and “showing leadership”, would be a huge blunder and would gravely exacerbate, rather than solve or ameliorate, the problem of nuclear proliferation.

America’s nuclear deterrent is a crucial ASSET in curbing nuclear proliferation, rather than an obstacle. Cutting or eliminating it would do nothing to solve the proliferation problem. It would only exacerbate it.

Disarmament advocates sometimes falsely claim that the nuclear deterrent and its delivery systems are siphoning money away from higher defense priorities. This is a blatant lie.

Firstly, there is NO higher priority than nuclear deterrence, which protects America and its allies against the most catastrophic threats. Secondly, as demonstrated above, 450 ICBMs and ~90 nuclear bombers combined cost only $3.6 bn per year to maintain, a tiny rounding error (0.6%) in the DOD’s $531 bn annual base budget. Maintaining nuclear warheads costs barely $7.589 bn per year, again a rounding error in America’s total defense budget (which includes the DOE’s defense programs, including warhead maintenance). Combined, these tiny numbers add up to only $11.189 bn, i.e. a paltry 1.73% of the total military budget ($645 bn in FY2012).

Even eliminating the entire nuclear arsenal immediately wouldn’t produce any real savings.

As for replacement delivery systems, a single Next Gen Bomber will only cost, at most, $550 mn; a new ICBM, only ca. $70 mn (same as a Minuteman-III); and a new SSBN will cost only $2.4 bn if the DOD chooses a modified Virginia class design.

No, the nuclear deterrent is not siphoning dollars away from anything – it is other DOD programs, especially the egregiously expensive F-35 program (whose price tag is $396 bn), that are consuming money that could otherwise be invested in the overdue modernization of the nuclear deterrent – the only weapon system that has never failed America in the last 67 years.

Don’t be fooled by their claims. They don’t care about America’s defense or about defense priorities; all they want is America’s unilateral disarmament. Falsely claiming that the nuclear deterrent somehow siphons money away from other defense programs is just their latest excuse.

The record of the last 22 years is undeniable: decades of “arms reduction” and deeply cutting the US nuclear arsenal have only made America and its allies less secure and have utterly failed to stop nuclear proliferation, or to prevent China from significantly building up its nuclear arsenal.

Those who believe that America can safely cut its nuclear arsenal further are living in a kumbayah world of make-believe, a fantasy world which has nothing to do with the real Planet Earth.

No, America’s arsenal is not “oversized” nor “ripe for cuts”, nor is it expensive to maintain. It must not be cut. It must be retained at its current size (if not grown) and fully modernized along with the supporting infrastructure.

[1] Eric Edelman, Andrew Krepinevich, Evan Braden Montgomery, The Dangers of a Nuclear Iran, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2010, pp. 76-77.