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  • Disarmament Should Not Be the Driver of U.S. Nuclear Policy

    Recent news articles, including one by journalist and author Bill Gertz, indicate that the Obama Administration will soon release an update to a previous study of U.S. nuclear weapons policy that will recommend that the number of strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal be reduced to between 1,000 and 1,100. If the reporting is accurate, this proposal will reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads in theU.S. arsenal by about 50 percent.

    What is key to understand about the reporting on the pending study by the Obama Administration is how everything is focused on the numbers of warheads. In all likelihood, the reporting accurately reflects the views of the Obama Administration, because it is evident that its highest policy priority is to get the numbers on a downward trajectory to bolster its policy for achieving U.S.nuclear disarmament. In short, the numbers are derived, first and foremost, from disarmament considerations.

    Currently, theU.S.has about 2,000 warheads in the strategic arsenal. The precise number is not provided in data declarations released by the State Department, because the declarations only provide the accountable warheads under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

    The Administration’s misplaced priorities are exceedingly dangerous, because the most important consideration in the pending study should not beU.S.nuclear disarmament, but how to maximize the deterrent value of theU.S.nuclear arsenal. Arms control should be the means to this end, not an end in itself.

    It is disturbing, but not surprising, that the reporting on the pending study fails to mention in any way the many nuclear policy issues that should be addressed. These issues include: 1) the targeting policy for the nuclear force; 2) the survivability of the nuclear force and its support network; 3) the proper yield of the warheads; 4) the proper structure for both the U.S. strategic and short-range, or “tactical,” nuclear forces; 5) integration of the strategic nuclear force with strategic defenses; 6) the kill capacity of the weapons in the force against the strategic forces of the enemy; 7) the consequences of de-alerting the strategic and tactical nuclear forces; 8 ) the cost effectiveness of the proposed nuclear force compared to alternatives; 9) the effect on earlier commitments to modernize theU.S.nuclear weapons infrastructure; and, 10) integrating nuclear and conventional strike systems in the broaderU.S.arsenal.

    Nevertheless, it is important for Congress to recognize that these other important issues could still be addressed in the pending study. Their inclusion, however, will not mean that the study avoids serious flaws. Congress should make sure the answers provided by the study are not merely being used to justify the number the Administration wants in service to its disarmament goal. The news reports provide initial evidence that this is the flawed approach the Administration is using.

    As a result, these news reports should be causing all sorts of alarm bells to go off in Congress. Disarmament should be one area of consideration in the pending nuclear study, not the central driver for arriving at recommendations.

    Maintaining an effective deterrent should be the highest priority, and Congress should make it clear now—before the study is released—that it will move to block specific proposed steps where it is evident that these steps are the result of putting disarmament considerations first.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Disarmament Should Not Be the Driver of U.S. Nuclear Policy

    1. Zbigniew Mazurak says:

      "Arms control should be a means to this end, not an end in itself. (…) Disarmament should be one area of consideration in the pending nuclear study, not the central driver for arriving at recommendations."

      You are wrong. Arms control is not, and cannot ever be, a means to enhacing the value of the US nuclear deterrent, because arms control's very goal (and practical effect) is to WEAKEN the deterrent and reduce its value, with the ultimate goal of total disarmament.

      And no, disarmament should not be "one area of consideration", it should not even be considered and must be firmly RULED OUT. Disarmament's very goal is to totally DISARM the US military, i.e. strip America completelhy of its weapons and thus of its military deterrent. Its end result is always the same, and it's disastrous. Yet, this is what you, Mr Spring, are advocating, just at a little slower and more careful pace than the one at which Obama wants to do it.

      But a large nuclear deterrent is, and will always be needed to deter America's enemies. And the US cannot afford to cut it any further.

    2. Jon says:

      What we are witnessing is a destabilizing effect. Obama's goal of zero nuclear weapons is a dangerous dream. As our numbers go down, what will Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran do? Get rid of their nuclear weapons as well? Hardly. Russia is not interested in getting rid of all of it's nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are what gives Russia its source of power and prestige and respect in the world. What we should concentrate on now is the New START Treaty. And to stay at its warhead limit. The only thing that makes sense to me is to field fewer delivery vehicles to help shift money from the nuclear budget to the conventional budget and to hopefully alleviate any Russian desires to build its arsenal up from where it is now. Perhaps if we field only 300 icbms, Russia may determine they don't have to replace the R-36M. The only reason to completely get rid of nuclear weapons is if some new technology renders them obsolete. Otherwise, we should only continue to take baby steps at lowering our arsenal along with Russia and other nations, together. Unilateral disarmament is like sending cattle to slaughter.

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