Tag Archives: US nuclear weapons

The US Needs To Immediately Trash the INF and New START Treaties

Last year, Obama administration recently – and very belatedly – announced it had found Russia in violation of the INF treaty, which prohibits Moscow and Washington from developing, testing, deploying, or otherwise possessing ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee passed its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which would seriously address those blatant Russian violations – something the Obama administration has refused to do.

Russia has been flagrantly violating the treaty since at least 2010, and we conservatives have been warning about this since 2011-2012, when credible reports of such violations first emerged. However, until now, the Obama administration and the pro-arms-control crowd have long been denying this fact – until this violation became too obvious and too easily provable to deny it.

Specifically, Russia has repeatedly flight-tested a new ground-launched cruise missile (R-500) of a range prohibited by the treaty (500 to 5,500 kms) and utilizing Iskander ballistic missile launchers; has flight-tested and deployed Iskander ballistic missiles also within that range envelope (exactly 500 kms, to be specific)[1]; and has flight-tested the Rubezh ICBM at a range of 2,000 kms – again, within the treaty’s envelope. (Some arms control advocates, such as Hans M. Kristensen, STILL deny that Russia has violated the INF Treaty, because, supposedly, the R-500 missile hasn’t been deployed, only tested. This is dead wrong, however.[2])

Now that Russia has effectively made the INF treaty a dead letter and a worthless piece of paper, the administration and its supporters in the pro-unilateral-disarmament community (including the Ploughshares Fund, the Arms Control Association, and other groups) are calling on the US to continue to unilaterally adhere to the treaty and to cut its own arsenal even further – even as Russia continues to build up its own and deploying missiles banned by the INF treaty. They denounce any proposals by strong-defense advocates in and out of Congress to develop America’s own intermediate-range ground-launched missiles.

This article will rebut their claims and thus make an irrefutable case as to why the US should immediately withdraw from the INF and New START treaties.

The Urgency Of The Threat

Firstly, they – spoken for by Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione and ACA’s Thomas Collina – falsely claim the Russian violation is not a grave or immediate threat to American and allied security.

This is dead wrong. Russia’s INF Treaty violation IS an immediate threat to the US AND its allies. These intermediate range missiles allow Russia to target its allies in Europe and Asia (and all US bases there) with very accurate missiles carrying very deadly payloads (nuclear and conventional). With ranges measured in hundreds (Iskander-M/K) and thousands (R-500, Yars-M) of kilometers, these missiles allow Russia to hold all US allies in Europe, and most in Asia, hostage to their nuclear weapons WITHOUT involving Russia’s strategic missile force. This is a very urgent threat.

Russia Will Never Comply With INF – It Faces A Grave Chinese Threat 

Secondly, the advocates of unilateral disarmament falsely claim that there is still time to “resolve this issue” through “patient diplomacy”, and that enough pressure can force Russia to scrap the forbidden missiles and come into compliance with INF. Says Cirincione:

“Concerns are raised privately in hope of resolving them. When that fails, they are made public. When that fails tougher diplomacy is tried. (…) This violation is more than a technical violation, but since it is not an immediate threat to the U.S. or our allies, there is time to use the established arms control mechanism to pressure Russia to halt the cruise missile program, verifiably dismantle any missiles tested in violation of the limits and agree to abide by the treaty’s terms. (…) Congress could back the administration’s efforts and add some clout by confirming into office the man in charge of verifying Russian compliance with arms control treaties. Frank Rose has been patiently waiting more than one year – 384 days – to be confirmed in his post as the assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance. (…) We have cajoled the Russians back into compliance before and – with the right staff in place and a united approach – we can do it again. In the process, we can prevent the Russians from rebuilding the weapons that Ronald Reagan so painstakingly destroyed.”

This is also utterly wrong. There is no way in hell that Russia will come into compliance with the INF treaty and dismantle its intermediate range missiles. Why? For two reasons.

Firstly, Russia has NEVER complied with ANY arms control treaty. On the contrary, it has violated EVERY arms reduction treaty it has ever signed, from the SALT I and II treaties, to the Limited and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to the Chemical Weapons Convention, to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaties.

Secondly, and even more importantly, abiding by the INF treaty is decidedly NOT in Russia’s national interest; on the contrary, it is in its security interest to violate the accord. The reason why is China’s deployment of over 1,200 short-range, and over 120 medium and intermediate range (DF-4, DF-21, DF-25, DF-26C), ballistic missiles, as well as hundreds of intermediate range (DH-10, CJ-10) ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM). China has literally hundreds of such weapons, and they can deliver nuclear or conventional warheads to anywhere in Russia – WITHOUT the need to involve China’s intercontinental missiles.

PLA_ballistic_missiles_range-590x362

(Source: Department of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, Washington DC, 2008.)

So Russia, like the US, is facing a huge threat from China’s ballistic and cruise missiles – and unlike the US, Russia is facing that missile threat right on its doorstep. Yet, Russia, like the US, is prohibited from fielding any intermediate-range ground-launched missiles to counter China, with which it shares a border and with whom it fought a short border war in 1969.

No wonder, then, that for years Russian leaders have called the treaty unjust and have been grousing about withdrawing from it. As they have said, the treaty prohibits only Russia and the US – but not China or anyone else – from fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles.

It is absolutely NOT in Russia’s NOR in America’s interest to continue to adhere to such an unequal treaty that only binds two countries in the world and no one else, while other nuclear powers continue to deploy intermediate range missiles and China continues to amass a large arsenal of these.

The difference between the US and Russia is that Russian leaders will do what is in their country’s interest, while America’s leaders will continue to insist on slavish, unilateral adherence to useless arms control treaties no one else observes.

North Korea Doesn’t Succumb to US Pressure – Neither Will Russia

Moreover, if anyone truly believes Russia can be “pressured” into compliance with the INF treaty, they should look at North Korea. That country has been a world pariah – subject to the world’s harshest international sanctions regime – for decades. It is shunned even by its sole formal ally, the PRC, which is now buddying with South Korea instead. It is the world’s most isolated and most heavily sanctioned country.

Yet, many decades of the world’s harshest sanctions regime have completely FAILED to force North Korea to stop, or even slow down, its nuclear weapons programme. Now North Korea has 20 miniaturized nuclear warheads (which it can mate with missiles) and enough highly-enriched uranium to build another 20 – plus missiles capable of reaching at least Alaska. In fact, North Korea’s regime is immensely proud of the fact that it has successfully defied the entire world’s pressure and developed that arsenal.

Does anyone really think Russia will succumb to American pressure and comply with arms control agreements, when the world’s greatest pariah, North Korea, has not?

So there is absolutely ZERO chance of Russia complying with the INF Treaty. It won’t, because it is not in its national security interest. Nor in America’s, for that matter.

It Is In America’s Vital Interest To Withdraw

Cirincione also falsely claims that:

Pulling out of a treaty that blocks the Russians from deploying weapons that we don’t have and don’t need would be foolish. (…) We have nothing to gain from pulling out of the INF treaty. We already have long-range nuclear weapons trained on hundreds of targets in Russia. We don’t need a few dozen more.”

This is also utterly wrong.

Russia now has more ICBMs, strategic bombers, and nuclear warheads than the US, and plans on adding still more, so the US DOES need to build up its nuclear arsenal – and fast. Moreover, deploying IRBMs (nuclear- or conventional-armed ones) in Europe and Asia would enable the US to hold at least some Russian and Chinese targets at risk without involving America’s intercontinental missile or bomber force – thus freeing up those intercontinental missiles and bombers for being aimed at other targets. More broadly, it would allow the US to counter China’s large deployment of short-, medium-, and intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles in East Asia (including the DF-16, whose range is 1,000 kms, the DF-21, whose range is 1,770 kms, and the DF-26C, which boasts a 3,400 km range).

Withdrawal from the INF Treaty would also allow the US to expand its conventional precision strike options against any targets. Right now, the US relies singularly on conventional-armed, subsonic JASSM-ER and Tomahawk cruise missiles (whose range is just 1,000 and 1,700 kms, respectively) for attacking soft targets and on its tiny fleet of strategic bombers for attacking more distant and hardened targets. But those missiles and bombers are subsonic and thus not good at attacking fleeting or otherwise time-sensitive targets.

Contrary to Cirincione’s false claims, America has nothing to gain by remaining a party to the INF treaty, to which only America adheres, thus essentially disarming itself. But disarming the US unilaterally, so that it will be vulnerable to Russia, is precisely Ploughshares’ and ACA’s goal.

Moreover, the INF treaty is not blocking Russia from anything – even though it formally prohibits Moscow to deploy intermediate range missiles. But the Kremlin is simply not complying with it, and there is no Earthly force which can force it to. Treaties are worth something ONLY if all parties adhere to them; if one or more party violates them, they’re worthless. It’s time to recognize that the INF Treaty is a dead letter.

Fact: the useless INF and New START treaties are not barring Russia from anything.

Beyond INF, Moscow is also violating a host of other arms limitation agreements, including the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, the Open Skies Treaty, the Missile Technology Control Regime accord, the Budapest Memorandum, and the Vienna Memorandum, and has recently withdrawn from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

Trash New START, Too

Likewise, it is in America’s best interest to immediately withdraw from the Obama administration’s utterly failed New START treaty and to start building up, not cutting, its strategic nuclear arsenal. It is utterly foolish to adhere to treaties Russia violates; it is even more foolish and downright suicidal to abide by treaties which require only the US – not Russia – to cut its nuclear arsenal.

Unsurprisingly, the pro-unilateral-disarmament crowd opposes this idea. ACA’s Tom Collina falsely claims that:

“Releasing Russia from existing limits on strategic nuclear forces makes no sense, especially at this time of severe tensions between the West and the Kremlin. (…) If the United States were to stop reducing its nuclear forces under the 2010 New START treaty, Russia would likely do the same, and could even build up its forces. (…) Rubio and his colleagues* go too far with a March 25 resolution that would hold Russia accountable for “being in material breach of its obligations” under the treaty by calling for a halt to U.S. implementation of further strategic nuclear reductions, a move that would likely trigger a similar Russian response.”

Collina’s claims are patently false, just like everything else ACA and Ploughshares claim. Russia is NOT reducing ANYTHING – except reducing arms control treaties to dead letters.

Russia is ALREADY building up its nuclear arsenal, and has been for several years – with the Russian nuclear buildup ACCELERATING after New START was ratified. That’s because New START obligates only the US – but not Russia – to cut its strategic nuclear arsenal, and doesn’t even limit Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal at all.

It is RUSSIA that is building up its nuclear arsenal, while the US is disarming itself unilaterally.

Moscow is currently:

  • increasing its total number of deployed strategic warheads;
  • replacing single-warhead Topol and Topol-M missiles with 6-warhead Yars ICBMs;
  • replacing 4-warhead Skiff sub-launched missiles with Bulava and Liner missiles capable of carrying 10-12 warheads;
  • building a new class of guided missile submarines;
  • resuming the production of Tu-160 strategic bombers, capable of carrying 12 nuclear warheads each;
  • in sum, adding greater quantities of warheads and warhead carriers of all types.

As with the INF treaty, the US needs to reconsider whether or not to slavishly and unilaterally adhere to an arms control treaty that leaves it completely disadvantaged vis-a-vis Russia.

Cirincione And Co. Claim to Follow Reagan, Yet Bash His Policies

But Cirincione and Co. don’t just insist on America’s unilateral compliance with INF; they openly claim Ronald Reagan’s deployment of intermediate range missiles was a “failed policy” that should not be revisited:

“If we built new intermediate-range missiles, where would we deploy them? Europe? The last time we tried that, millions of citizens took to the streets of Europe in protest of U.S. and Russian weapons. There is no reason to revisit the failed policies of the past.”

Actually, the REALLY failed policies of the past (and the present) are the arms control policies Ploughshares, the ACA, and the Obama administration advocate: disarming the US unilaterally, and unilaterally adhering to arms control treaties. This is supposed to encourage others to be nice and disarm themselves. In practice, it has never worked. It has always failed spectacularly.

Russia has NEVER complied with ANY arms control treaties it has signed. It has flagrantly violated every one of them. That previous US presidents have allowed Moscow to get away with that is NO justification for letting Russia off the hook today. THAT is one of the failed policies of the past.

By contrast, Reagan’s deployment of US intermediate-range missiles in 1983 – which Cirincione falsely claims was a “failed policy” – actually reestablished nuclear balance between the US and the USSR in Europe, countered Russia’s 1,200 intermediate-range missiles there, and in 1987 forced the Kremlin to come back to the negotiating table and agree to dismantle all of these missiles. Gorbachev wanted to stop the arms race and reduce Soviet military spending to try save the stagnant Soviet economy. But he couldn’t do so unilaterally, so he had to agree to a treaty.

Because you can bring Russians into agreement ONLY when negotiating and acting from a position of STRENGTH, not weakness and appeasement. Unilaterally adhering to arms control treaties nobody else complies with leads to America’s weakness and dramatically REDUCES America’s security. This is precisely what the Obama administration has been doing, and precisely what the arms control crowd advocates.

Cirincione is advocating an alternate version of history where Ronald Reagan was an anti-nuclear peacenik. Urging conservatives not to attack the international arms control regime, he falsely claims:

Before letting loose the wrecking ball, they should check in with one of the principle architects of the regime and one of the toughest and most pro-arms control presidents in U.S. history: Ronald Reagan. (…) This was never President Reagan’s approach.”

Dead wrong again. While Reagan did (wrongly) indulge in arms control bargaining, he never allowed arms reduction policies and accords to cut America’s defenses to inadequate levels or to leave the US at an inferior military position vis-a-vis its adversaries. He never signed any agreements, nor implemented any arms reduction policies, that he feared would leave the US disadvantaged. He rejected calls for a nuclear freeze and for abandoning the SDI and his large-scale nuclear arsenal modernization programme. For Reagan, arms control talks were subordinate to the US military’s needs and to the need to win the Cold War against the USSR – not the other way around.

ReaganPeaceQuote

Most importantly, when Ronald Reagan caught the Soviet Union cheating, he did not hesitate to withdraw the US from useless arms control accords. Such was the case with the SALT-II accord: when Reagan found the USSR in violation of the treaty, in 1986, he withdrew the US from it.

As Reagan himself said: “No violations of a treaty can be considered to be a minor matter, nor can there be confidence in agreements if a country can pick and choose which provisions of an agreement it will comply with.”

Cirincione invokes Reagan’s failure to withdraw the US from the ABM treaty in the face of Soviet violation of it as supposed “proof” Reagan would support his position, rather than urge INF treaty withdrawal.

This is completely wrong. The only reason Reagan didn’t withdraw the US from the ABM treaty was because liberals in the federal government, especially in the State Department, fiercely resisted the idea, and continued to until George W. Bush finally withdraw the US from that useless treaty. A fight against the entrenched liberals in the federal bureaucracy over the ABM treaty was, alas, beyond Reagan’s strength, time, and patience.

Cirincione also falsely accuses the US of violating the INF treaty:

The Russians have their own complaints about us. We have actually built a brand-new intermediate-range missile. But we don’t call it a missile. We call it a target and use it to test our anti-ballistic missile interceptors in the Pacific. The Russians think it violates the treaty; we disagree.”

But this is utterly false. The mock missiles used to test American missile defenses do NOT violate the INF treaty, because that treaty allows for mock missiles to be used as targets. Article VI, paragraph 3, of the treaty clearly states:

3. If a GLBM is of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the earth, it shall not be considered to be a missile to which the limitations of this Treaty apply.

Paragraph 11 of the same article also clearly states:

11. A ballistic missile which is not a missile to be used in a ground-based mode shall not be considered to be a GLBM if it is test-launched at a test site from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from GLBM launchers.

Cirincione also complains that reintroducing American intermediate range missiles in Europe or Asia could spark protests like those of 1983 against American Pershing and cruise missiles. But these protests were financed by the Soviet Union, and in any case, America’s military deployments should be determined solely by America’s and its allies’ security needs, NOT European popular opinion.

****

So, to close, the question before US policymakers is quite simple:

Russia is flagrantly violating the INF treaty (and a host of other arms limitation agreements) by testing and deploying missiles banned by that accord, and has been doing so for years. In so doing, Moscow is gravely threatening America’s and its allies’ security. Should the US continue to UNILATERALLY adhere to treaties Russia is not abiding by and has no intention of abiding by?

This writer says no. The Obama administration, the Democratic Party, and arms control advocacy groups, however, say “yes, the US should continue unilaterally adhering to arms control treaties nobody else abides by.”

*******************

Footnotes:

[1] The INF Treaty prohibits both the US and Russia from producing or deploying any ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles which have a range equal to or exceeding 500 kms but not greater than 5,500 kms. The Iskander (SS-26 Stone) missile’s range is exactly 500 kms, putting it squarely within the INF Treaty’s jurisdiction and thus making it illegal.

[2] Kristensen is dead wrong, because the INF Treaty doesn’t merely prohibit the production, stockpiling, and deployment of ground-launched missiles of such range; it also prohibits maintaining any production, maintenance, storage, or test facilities for them (the treaty calls them “missile support facilities”):

9. The term “missile support facility,” as regards intermediate-range or shorter-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, means a missile production facility or a launcher production facility, a missile repair facility or a launcher repair facility, a training facility, a missile storage facility or a launcher storage facility, a test range, or an elimination facility as those terms are defined in the Memorandum of Understanding.

The Elimination Protocol attached to the treaty further stipulates that any test or training missiles and the associated equipment is ALSO subject to elimination:

3. For both Parties, all training missiles, training missile stages, training launch canisters and training launchers shall be subject to elimination.

 

4. For both Parties, all stages of intermediate-range and shorter-range GLBMs shall be subject to elimination.

Article IV of the treaty requires that not only the banned missiles themselves, but also their support facilities and support equipment be completely dismantled and never reconstituted:

Article IV

 

1. Each Party shall eliminate all its intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, and all support structures and support equipment of the categories listed in the Memorandum of Understanding associated with such missiles and launchers, so that no later than three years after entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter no such missiles, launchers, support structures or support equipment shall be possessed by either Party.

Yet, Russia has tested the prohibited R-500, SS-26, and RS-24 Rubezh missiles on some of its military proving grounds – which makes these test facilities a violation of the treaty – and has produced test examples as well as retained production facilities for intermediate range missiles – all of which is a violation of the above provisions of the treaty.

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

nukeexplosion

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.