The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD -

Based on mil­i­tary cal­cu­la­tions, Obama de­clared in 2013 that the U.S. could safely re­duce its nu­clear force by one-third from New START lev­els. But ne­go­ti­a­tions to do so never took place. They seem even un­like­lier af­ter Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary ac­tions in Ukraine and Krem­lin rhetoric that U.S. of­fi­cials have con­sid­ered reck­less and dan­ger­ous. How­ever, Trump’s sug­ges­tions of in­ter­est in a grand bar­gain with Rus­sia, in­clud­ing nu­clear re­duc­tions, could pro­vide an av­enue for fresh talks.

Af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Trump or­dered a re­view of nu­clear forces, a Pen­tagonled process likely to take a year or more. Among the key ques­tions: whether to con­tinue Obama’s weapons mod­ern­iza­tion plan and a pos­si­ble with­drawal from New START. One el­e­ment of the mod­ern­iza­tion plan calls for a new-gen­er­a­tion ICBM force that could cost more than $100 bil­lion.

Stick­ing with New START would not nec­es­sar­ily con­strain the U.S. for long. It ex­pires in Fe­bru­ary 2021 un­less both sides agree on an ex­ten­sion. Be­sides the over­all war­head limit, the treaty al­lows each side a max­i­mum of 700 de­ployed launch­ers, in­clud­ing mis­sile si­los. Rus­sia and the United States can de­cide for them­selves how their to­tals are ap­por­tioned among the three weapons cat­e­gories: ICBMs, sub­marines and bombers.

The 50 un­der­ground si­los from which the Min­ute­man mis­siles are be­ing re­moved will be kept “warm,” mean­ing ca­pa­ble of re­turn­ing to ac­tive use. The mis­siles are be­ing put in stor­age. Those de­ci­sions came af­ter mem­bers of Congress from the ICBM base states — North Dakota, Wy­oming and Mon­tana — pushed for no elim­i­na­tion of si­los.

The 400 re­main­ing de­ployed ICBMs would be the fewest since 1962, ac­cord­ing to a his­tory of the force writ­ten by Hans Kris­tensen of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Scientists.

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