The Obama Administration is considering further deep, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent, which would be foolish, suicidal, and disastrous. Nevertheless, the State Department’s “International Security Advisory Board”, composed these days of biased pro-disarmament activists such as Ploughshares Fund director Joe Cirincione, is urging the Obama Administration to make such unilateral cuts, and invokes President Bush the elder’s unilateral reductions and his unilateral withdrawal of American nukes from South Korea (i.e. kowtowing to North Korea) as examples to follow. The Heritage Foundation’s Michaela Bendikova nicely (if not assertively enough) refutes these proposals thus:
“Why should the U.S. enter a mutual agreement with the Russian Federation if said country cannot be trusted to fulfill its part of the agreement? Even worse, Russia has violated every arms control agreement it has entered, with the exception of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that has been in force for only about two years.
New START turned out to be a very bad deal for the U.S. In this treaty, President Obama gave away U.S. leverage on missile defense and strategic weapons. The U.S. has barely anything left to negotiate on tactical nuclear weapons where Russia has a dramatic advantage. The ISAB incorrectly calls them “nonstrategic,” but in reality, any use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield will have strategic consequences.
The ISAB proposes that both countries should implement “mutual” reductions below the New START level and include tactical nuclear weapons. Yet, the report recognizes that Russia is planning to “build back up to treaty limits,” while, “[i]n contrast, the United States is expected to proceed slowly down to treaty limits.” There is no meeting of minds regarding mutual nuclear weapons reductions. In fact, since New START entered into force, the Russians launched the most extensive nuclear modernization programs since the end of the Cold War.
The ISAB report concludes that “Russia may simply say no, due in large part to cultural or bureaucratic barriers to transparency and further reductions. These initiatives would test Russia’s intentions to find possible realms of longer-term agreement.”
Russia’s intentions are clear. Its leaders repeatedly stated that they are not interested in the next round of negotiations unless the U.S. is willing to limit its missile defense systems, which the Senate’s ratification of New START prohibits. In addition, Moscow repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons preemptively if the U.S. continues to deploy ballistic missile defenses to Europe. Until the Russian Federation demonstrates its willingness to change its aggressive posture, the U.S. should not engage in any negotiations.
The ISAB’s assumption that the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be wholly derived from the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal is wrong. The U.S. guarantees nuclear security to more than 30 allies around the world. Russia is a threat to many but the protector of none. In addition, Russia maintains superiority in tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons modernization plans, and has a far more capable nuclear weapons production complex.
In addition to Russia, the U.S. must consider the Chinese nuclear arsenal, as well as North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs. Undertaking unilateral reductions at this time is not only circumventing congressional powers, but will be perceived as weakness by U.S. adversaries, further destabilizing an already uncertain international situation.”
Be sure to read it. It’s a great blogpost, so I’ll just add my two cents:
1) China’s nuclear arsenal is far larger than most people know. It actually numbers at least 1,800, and potentially up to 3,000, nuclear warheads, as concluded in separate studies by Professor Philip Karber (a former top DOD nuclear strategist) and Russian Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin (SMT). General Yesin and WFB’s resident China expert Bill Gertz have spoken about this inter alia here: http://freebeacon.com/number-the-nukes/
2) Cutting the US nuclear arsenal unilaterally is ALWAYS foolish. It’s a unilateral concession which the other side will pocket without reciprocating. This is ALWAYS the case. As former SECDEF Harold Brown (who OPPOSES unilateral cuts) has said “When we build, they build. When we cut, they build.”
3) While Russia’s nuclear arsenal is not the sole consideration, it (and the scale of Russia’s nuclear modernization and its nuclear complex), by itself, warrants maintaining the present size of the nuclear arsenal (and indeed, enlarging the stockpile) indefinitely. Russia has 2,800 strategic and untold thousands of nuclear warheads – and them means to deliver all of them. Its ICBM fleet alone can deliver 1,684 warheads to the US.
4) President Bush’s unilateral initiatives all FAILED to elicit Russian or North Korean reciprocation. Russia retains its huge tactical nuclear arsenal and the means to deliver it, and North Korea has developed nuclear weapons (and the means to deliver them to the US) despite the US unilaterally withdrawing its nukes from South Korea.