Why Don­ald Trump is right about nu­clear arms

‘Ex­pand­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing’ the nu­clear de­ter­rent is nec­es­sary

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Peter Vin­cent Pry Peter Vin­cent Pry is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Task Force on Na­tional and Home­land Se­cu­rity.

The lib­eral main­stream me­dia is all aghast that Pres­i­dent-elect Trump is call­ing for “ex­pand­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing” the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent, and if nec­es­sary win­ning a new nu­clear arms race with Rus­sia. Even the usu­ally “fair and bal­anced” Fox News has for three days (and count­ing) re­ported un­crit­i­cally the view of the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion that Mr. Trump is “ir­re­spon­si­ble” and “reck­less”— as if the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion is a left­wing lobby ded­i­cated to uni­lat­eral nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment of the United States.

The public might get the false im­pres­sion from Fox re­port­ing that the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion is part of the U.S. Govern­ment and a source of of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion. In fact, the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion is no more to be trusted on mat­ters of na­tional se­cu­rity than Green­peace or Ploughshares, all of whom want to achieve Pres­i­dent Obama’s “a world with­out nu­clear weapons” start­ing with the United States.

One ex­am­ple of the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion dis­in­for­ma­tion re­ported as fact by Fox is that the nu­clear bal­ance be­tween the United States and Rus­sia is about equal and com­prises many thou­sands of war­heads — 7,100 U.S. ver­sus 7,300 Rus­sian nu­clear weapons. The Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion, Green­peace, and Ploughshares ar­gue that 7,100 U.S. nu­clear weapons is “overkill” so the U.S. can af­ford to take the lead in mak­ing deeper cuts.

But the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion’s al­leged 7,100 U.S. nu­clear weapons is count­ing weapons in the U.S. “stock­pile” — which in­cludes nu­clear weapons re­tired, ware­housed, and await­ing dis­man­tle­ment. These weapons are not de­ployed in the op­er­a­tional force, would re­quire months or years to re­fur­bish and make de­liv­er­able, and are re­ally no more part of the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent than ob­so­lete bombers rust­ing away in the desert.

In fact, the real U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent — com­pris­ing weapons that are de­ployed and op­er­a­tional, mean­ing they can be promptly used — is 1,550 strate­gic weapons (as per­mit­ted un­der the New Strate­gic Arms Re­duc­tion Treaty) and 200 tac­ti­cal weapons.

So the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent com­prises al­to­gether 1,750 weapons.

Rus­sia has at least 4,750 nu­clear weapons, and prob­a­bly a lot more.

Rus­sia has 1,750 strate­gic nu­clear weapons — 200 more than per­mit­ted by New START, and they con­tinue build­ing. Rus­sia also has at least 3,000 tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons. Es­ti­mates of Rus­sian tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons range from 3,000-20,000.

Thus, Rus­sia has achieved a dan­ger­ous pre­pon­der­ance in over­all num­bers of nu­clear weapons — a mar­gin of su­pe­ri­or­ity it never had dur­ing the Cold War.

Rus­sia also has a huge ad­van­tage in nu­clear weapons moder­nity. Rus­sia’s nu­clear weapons are mostly brand new. In­deed, Moscow has fielded “third gen­er­a­tion” nu­clear weapons, that have no coun­ter­part in the U.S. de­ter­rent. Rus­sian third gen­er­a­tion nu­clear weapons are less for de­ter­rence and more for warfight­ing, de­signed for spe­cial­ized ef­fects like elec­tro­mag­netic pulse (EMP) for de­stroy­ing elec­tron­ics, “clean” war­heads that make no ra­dioac­tive fall­out, neu­tron war­heads for anti-ar­mor and air de­fense, x-ray war­heads for anti-satel­lite and mis­sile de­fense.

U.S. nu­clear weapons are decades old, de­signed and built long ago dur­ing the Cold War for a very dif­fer­ent threat en­vi­ron­ment, when mas­sive col­lat­eral dam­age from blast and ra­dioac­tive fall­out was con­sid­ered de­sir­able, to make nu­clear war un­think­able. To­day, these char­ac­ter­is­tics only make U.S. nu­clear weapons un-use­able, and there­fore close to use­less, even for de­ter­ring North Korea.

More­over, the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent is so aged that its safety and re­li­a­bil­ity is ques­tion­able.

Ev­ery nu­clear weapon in the U.S. in­ven­tory is now many years be­yond its orig­i­nal de­sign ser­vice life. We have lit­er­ally been patch­ing and re­pair­ing the nu­clear de­ter­rent, re­ly­ing on com­puter models and the judg­ment of tech­ni­cians (who have never ac­tu­ally built a nu­clear weapon) to an­nu­ally cer­tify the safety and re­li­a­bil­ity of U.S. war­heads.

Our best nu­clear weapons ex­perts, in­clud­ing John Foster and Low­ell Wood — who de­signed the nu­clear weapons in our cur­rent in­ven­tory — have chal­lenged the ef­fi­cacy of so-called “sci­ence­based stock­pile stew­ard­ship” that be­gan dur­ing the Clin­ton Ad­min­is­tra­tion. In­deed, dur­ing the Clin­ton years, the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee warned that this pol­icy was a ploy for even­tual uni­lat­eral nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment in the re­port Sci­ence-Based Stock­pile Stew­ard­ship: Ero­sion By De­sign.

That is why Mr. Trump is not “reck­less” or “ir­re­spon­si­ble” to call for “ex­pand­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing” the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent. Ex­pan­sion and mod­ern­iza­tion of the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent is nec­es­sary to re­store par­ity to the nu­clear bal­ance with Rus­sia — and to de­ter Moscow from think­ing it can use its nu­clear ad­van­tage for nu­clear black­mail or ag­gres­sion.

Even those who want “a world with­out nu­clear weapons” should sup­port ex­pan­sion and mod­ern­iza­tion of the U.S. nu­clear de­ter­rent. His­tor­i­cally, nu­clear arms con­trol has worked only when the U.S. has had some­thing to trade.

Rus­sia, China, and North Korea will not trade some­thing for noth­ing.

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