A recent op-ed by Representative Michael Turner (R–OH) draws attention to President Obama’s lack of clarity regarding his Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. Indeed, the study is about 11 months overdue.
Despite this lack of clarity, it is apparent that the study will recommend further unilateral reductions to United States nuclear weapons arsenals. In March, Obama stated that the U.S. has “more weapons than we need.”
Nuclear weapons reductions for the sake of reductions, however, should not be the driving force behind U.S. nuclear policy. A sound basis for nuclear reductions is the evaluation of the current strategic environment, and recent developments point in the wrong direction.
The U.S. is the only country without a substantive nuclear weapons modernization program, and Iran and North Korea are emerging as nuclear powers. In fact, North Korea already has nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile capabilities to reach the United States. Both Iran and North Korea are dangerous to their neighbors, U.S. allies, and U.S. interests in their respective regions. Additionally, China and Russia have been advancing and modernizing their nuclear arsenals and potentially conducting low-yield nuclear weapons tests.
China is also investing significant resources into space warfare and ballistic missile capabilities. To make matters even more difficult for the U.S., China has an extensive underground tunnel system that could possibly total 3,110 miles in length. This allows China to hide its capabilities and makes it almost impossible for the U.S. to determine the scope and pace of its nuclear weapons program.
Russia, for its part, has been openly hostile to U.S. interests, despite the Administration’s efforts to “reset” relations. In reality, Obama’s “reset” policy has been nothing but a list of concessions with no recognizable benefit for the U.S.
Additionally, during a recent missile defense conference in Moscow, the Russian chief of general staff Nikolay Makarov stated that a “decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens.” He referred to U.S. plans to deploy its missile defense system to Europe. If anything, this threat illustrates why the U.S. and its allies need missile defense.
Weakness invites aggression. For more than five decades, the U.S. nuclear arsenal guaranteed the safety and security of its way of life and provided assurance to its allies. Unilateral reductions may have unforeseen consequences in today’s world with many nuclear-armed players, some of them with adversarial intentions.
Nick Baranishyn is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.