Why Donald Trump is right about nuclear arms
‘Expanding and modernizing’ the nuclear deterrent is necessary
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.