Don’t protect New START – trash it

The previously-reputable portal has published a ridiculous screed written by two arms control (read: unilateral US disarmament) activists, Daryl Kimball and Tom Collina of the extremely-leftist Arms Control Association. Their screed is a litany of blatant lies.

For starters, they claim that passing the HASC-reported FY2013 NDAA, or its provisions tying funding for implementing the New START treaty to funding for modernization of the US nuclear weapons complex – would “allow Russia to rebuild its nuclear forces above the treaty ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S.” This is a blatant lie, just like the rest of their “article”.

Nothing in the NDAA or its nuclear weapons provisions would withdraw the US from the treaty, violate it, or permit Russia to rebuild its nuclear arsenal above treaty ceilings. Moreover, Russian officials, including Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, have publicly and repeatedly stated that Russia will build up its nuclear arsenal up to (but not above) treaty ceilings no matter what the US does. And Vladimir Putin has stated he intends to order 400 ICBMs, at least 8 SSBNs, and other strategic weapons. So even if the US continues to underfund its nuclear weapons complex and neglect modernization of its arsenal, Russia will STILL build up its nuclear arsenal significantly, regardless of what the US does. Moscow has already built its deployed strategic arsenal up to 1,492 warheads, just 58 below the treaty ceiling, and this buildup will continue regardless of what America does.

Furthermore, data from the State Department’s Bureau of Verification and Compliance shows that as of last September, Russia had only deployed 516 ICBMs, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers, as opposed to more than 800 for the US, meaning Moscow was below treaty ceiling by almost 200 weapons. Russia still has a long way to go before it reaches, let alone exceeds, the treaty ceiling. And as stated above, Russia intends to reach it regardless of what the US does.

Besides these facts, there are other good reasons to fully fund the US nuclear weapon complex’s modernization:

  • The US needs to do this anyway, or the US nuclear arsenal and weapons complex will vanish by atrophy and neglect, which would mean unilateral disarmament. This would be the worst possible scenario and must be prevented at all costs.
  • President Obama promised, in writing, full funding for it, including for the modernization of the weapons, the facilities, and the delivery systems. It is imperative to hold him accountable for these promises. Promises are to be kept, not violated. Holding the Executive Branch accountable is one of the duties of the Legislative Branch.

Kimball and Collina lie throughout the entire article that the treaty “verifiably reduces U.S. and Russian nuclear forces” and “If Rep. Turner’s provision to tie up New START were to become law, Russia would likely halt its nuclear reductions as well”.

But that is a blatant lie. Russia is NOT conducting any reductions of its nuclear arsenal; it is building it up, and rapidly so. The treaty is not reducing Russia’s nuclear arsenal at all. Furthermore, even if the US stops its nuclear arsenal cuts, Russia will not withdraw from the treaty (because it’s building its arsenal up anyway), and even if it did, it would be no loss, because the treaty is worthless and mandates unilateral US reductions wile allowing Russia to grow its arsenal. And despite their praise of their treaty’s verification regime, it’s in fact very weak and worthless, rightly described as Potemkin’s village by the HF.

The authors decry the amount of money the US spends on its nuclear weapon complex, but this amount is really miniscule – less than $8 bn per year, which is a microscopic portion of the US defense budget and an even smaller portion of the federal budget or America’s GDP. Moreover, as Congressman Michael Turner and HF analyst Michaela Bendikova (among others) have pointed out, the US nuclear complex has been underfunded for decades and its facilities (which date back to the 1940s) have become decrepit. These facilities need significant funding increases just to be renovated. No, the US does not spend too much on its nuclear weapon complex; it spends way too little. Even the Obama Administration recognized the importance to greatly increase funding for it during the New START ratification debate, as did Congressional Republicans and the DOD (then led by Bob Gates); back then, it also promised funding for the CMRR center – the very facility that Kimball and Collina decry as too expensive and of marginal value, which is also a blatant lie. $6 bn, which they claim will be the cost of the facility, is a rounding error in the defense budget, not to mention the entire federal budget, and will be spent over several years, not in one year.

Furthermore, the CMRR is needed because, as Dana Priest has demonstrated in her WaPo article of September 16th, existing facilities are woefully obsolete, in decrepit condition, and cannot be affordably renovated to serve much longer. Her article leaves no doubt that the CMRR facility is a necessity. Furthermore, the Institute for Defense Analyses has calculated that the US needs to produce at least 125, and potentially up to 200, plutonium pits, but the current Los Alamos facility can produce no more than 20 plutonium pits annually.

They also tacitly admit that the Obama Administration IS underfunding the complex, while trying to change the subject:

“Rep. Turner and his allies complain that the administration’s $7.6 billion request for NNSA weapons activities for fiscal 2013 is 4 percent lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate.

But they ignore the reality that the FY2013 request is actually 5 percent higher than the 2012 enacted budget.”

But that is irrelevant, because, while a tiny 5% higher than the 2012 budget, the FY2013 request is still inadequate compared to what is needed and to what the Obama Administration promised. Indeed, according to multiple sources, the Obama Admin is requesting far less than what it promised during the ratification debate. Kimball and Collina also stated this non-sequitur:

“In fact, last year, the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee declined to fully fund the administration’s request for nuclear weapon spending increases, and this year the committee did not add funds above the administration’s request. (…) Far from being upset that the administration was not seeking CMRR funds this year, the House Appropriations Committee complained that the facility should have been shelved sooner.”

But that proves nothing, because HAC members are far more interested in funding unconstitutional pork projects in their home districts (especially that of Chairman Rogers, AKA the “Prince of Pork”) than in funding national defense. This is just more proof of this. Kimball and Collina further complain:

“Even so, Rep. Turner and company warn that without CMRR, the U.S. does not have the capability to make 50 to 80 newly produced plutonium cores or “pits” annually for refurbished warheads.

Their bill would authorize $100 million more for the facility next year, call on DoD to cover future costs and stipulate that it is built no later than 2024.

The reality, however, is that there is no identified need to produce that many plutonium pits. (…) Other NNSA facilities have “inherent capacity” to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA. CMRR deferral will not compromise NNSA’s ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile.”

That’s a lie, because there is a need for that many plutonium pits. The US needs them to fully refurbish its entire arsenal and to rebuild it after decades of cuts that have only made America less secure. And no, other NNSA facilities don’t have any capacity to support plutonium activities, because they are totally decrepit. The CMRR center, if built, would be a new facility. As Michaela Bendikova rightly writes:

“Kimball and Collina complain about levels of spending for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. In fact, this complex has been under-funded for years. Even the Obama Administration acknowledged the importance of this funding. It committed to request funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, the very facility Kimball and Collina criticize as too expensive and of little value. Indeed, the Administration’s enduring commitment has not endured for a year since the treaty entered into force.”

And while they claim that “there is bi-partisan agreement among congressional appropriators that additional nuclear weapon budget increases are unaffordable and unnecessary”, this consensus is completely wrong. Such increases are affordable and necessary, just to prevent the nuclear arsenal from atrophying, let alone to rebuild its size.

And while they falsely slander HASC Republicans by claiming that “this type of partisan “hostage taking” threatens to undermine U.S. national security”, it is them and their pro-disarmament allies inside and outside the US government who threaten America’s national security. Any cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, but especially deep ones on New START’s magnitude, and underfunding the nuclear weapon complex, threaten US national security. And while they repeatedly tried in the article to portray the HASC bill as a purely partisan trick, the fact is that the bill passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin of 55:6.

They also lied that “Continued, verified reductions of excessive U.S. and Russian arsenals will enhance U.S. security by reducing the nuclear threat.”

No, reductions of the US arsenal would not enhance US security or reduce the nuclear threat; the US is not a “threat” to anyone, and further reductions in its arsenal would only jeopardize its security by making the military much weaker and reducing its nuclear umbrella, which needs to be very large. This umbrella protects America as well as over 30 allies, who will doubt its effectiveness if it is continually cut, and will eventually have to develop their own arsenals, thus making the proliferation problem much worse. Russia, by contrast, is a protector to nobody and a threat to many, and a potential aggressor that needs to be deterred, as is China. The larger the US nuclear deterrent will be, the better.

Kimball’s and Collina’s false claim is a complete rejection of the proven Peace Through Strength principle (that strength, not weakness and disarmament, guarantees security and peace). Instead, they propose a Peace Through Weakness and Unilateral Disarmament paradigm: that cutting America’s nuclear deterrent, and thus weakening it and the entire US military as a consequence, would “enhance U.S. security”! Needless to say, it’s ridiculous.

America’s arsenal is not excessive at all; it is, in fact, already barely adequate, if you ask former SECDEF James Schlesinger and the current STRATCOM commander. STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler and his predecessor Gen. Kevin Chilton say America’s current arsenal is “exactly the right one”. Gen. Kehler says he disagrees with proposals of further cuts. The current stockpile size (5,113 deployed and nondeployed warheads) is barely adequate to deter Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Deterring them requires, and will require, a very large nuclear stockpile.

Moreover, as stated above, Russia is reducing its nuclear arsenal at all.

“As the Pentagon said in January, “It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory, as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.”

A smaller nuclear force would also save money.”

But that Panetta-led DOD assertion was a mere foolish wish, a product of wishful thinking by ignorant DOD bureaucrats appointed by Obama, and not based on any analysis or evidence. No, America’s deterrence goals cannot be achieved with a smaller arsenal. There is a limit to which one can safely cut the arsenal, and that limit has already been reached. Any further cuts would jeopardize national security and make deterrence difficult, if not impossible to maintain, because then, America’s deterrent would become too small (smaller than Russia’s and possibly China’s), less survivable and less credible to friend and foe alike. The size of the arsenal matters greatly. Russia, as stated above, is rapidly growing its arsenal, up to New START treaty limits, and enjoys a huge lead over the US in tactical nuclear weapons; and China is expanding and modernizing its own arsenal (which already consists of up to 3000 warheads). The US needs to have a larger arsenal than they do. Deterring them requires, and will require, a very large nuclear stockpile.

And Kimball and Collina’s false claim that “A smaller nuclear force would also save money”, that is a blatant lie. Not only would it dramatically jeopardize national security (which cannot be measured in dollars), making reductions (especially deep ones) in the nuclear arsenal would be far more costly than maintaining it at current, or even pre-START, levels. That’s because the dismantlement of warheads and their delivery systems is always far more expensive than maintaining them. Indeed, New START implementation costs amount to billions of dollars PA. Trashing New START and eliminating these costs would pay for the CMRR facility in a few years.

Maintaining BOTH Air Force legs of the nuclear triad costs taxpayers only $3.6 bn per year, again only a rounding error in the USAF’s budget, and a bargain price to keep the nation safe. The ICBM leg costs only $1.1 bn per year, and the bomber leg only $2.5 bn per year, to maintain.

Kimball and Collina also lied that

“The major threats the U.S. faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms.”

No, the biggest threats the US faces today are Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, and specifically, their nuclear and ballistic missile programs. ONLY nuclear arms, and ONLY in large numbers, can address these threats. There is NO alternative to nuclear arms – not missile defense, not conventional weapons, not anything else. As retired VADM Robert Munroe has said, nuclear deterrence has kept America safe since 1945, and it’s a proven strategy. As for proliferation, terrorism, and cyber attacks (of which China is the biggest sponsor), these threats cannot be addressed by cutting the US arsenal; in fact, cutting it would make proliferation much worse, because any idiot could then build 300 nuclear warheads and reach nuclear parity with the US, and because America’s nuclear umbrella would be woefully insufficient to protect its allies, thus forcing them to develop their own nuclear weapons, thus making the proliferation problem even worse.

The New START is a disastrous, treasonous treaty that isn’t even worth the paper it is printed on. It obligates the US to make deep, unilateral reductions in its nuclear arsenal while Russia is allowed to greatly build up its own. It imposes onerous limitations on missile defense. It does nothing to address Russia’s tremendous advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. It is the worst treaty the US has ever signed up to, except the Law of the Sea Treaty, which the Obama Administration also supports. It should not be protected. It should be trashed. The US should withdraw from it, and the sooner it does so, the better.

Kimball’s and Collina’s errors and lies all stem from the same root cause – the irredeemably flawed ideology of nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. And if something is basically and irredeemably flawed, nothing good can come of it. Nuclear disarmament, and in particular, the New START, itself is the problem. Nothing good can come of such policies. Such treaties and policies are completely worthless and, in fact, dangerous for the US as they undermine America’s security. The ONLY thing that can protect America is a large nuclear arsenal.

Their article is a litany of blatant lies, and should be ashamed of itself for publishing it.


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