Gates backs war­head

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates re­cently dealt a po­lit­i­cal blow to anti-nu­clear ac­tivists by in­form­ing Congress that he strongly sup­ports ef­forts to de­velop a mod­ern­ized nu­clear war­head known as the Re­li­able Re­place­ment War­head (RRW).

Anti-nu­clear ac­tivists say the war­head, an up­grad­ing of the ex­ist­ing B-60 nu­clear war­head, poses a pro­lif­er­a­tion risk and is un­der­min­ing sta­bil­ity.

“Nu­clear weapons con­tinue to play a crit­i­cal role in the de­fense of the United States, its al­lies and friends,” Mr. Gates said in a let­ter to Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mex­ico Repub­li­can. “Their unique ca­pa­bil­i­ties con­trib­ute in vi­tal and ir­re­place­able ways to the abil­ity to de­ter ad­ver­saries and dis­suade oth­ers from pur­su­ing nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties on their own.”

Mr. Gates said in a May 4 let­ter to Mr. Domenici that the mil­i­tary re­quire­ment for a re­place­ment war­head is “clearly de­fined” to sup­port up to 2,200 strate­gic nu­clear war­heads and a re­serve as a “hedge against fu­ture needs.”

“I strongly sup­port the RRW ef­fort and be­lieve it to be es­sen­tial to sup­port­ing this re­quire­ment in the fu­ture with a smaller, safer, more re­li­able nu­clear stock­pile,” he said.

The RRW will re­place old war­heads and up­grade them with ad­vanced safety and se­cu­rity fea­tures.

Re­gard­ing claims that the war­head will un­der­mine the nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, Mr. Gates said “non­nu­clear-weapon states, such as Iran and North Korea, are un­der­min­ing the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime with nu­clear pro­grams that are con­trary to the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and its safe­guards.”

He also left open the pos­si­bil­ity that the United States might need to re­sume un­der­ground nu­clear test­ing in the fu­ture but said the re­place­ment war­head would de­crease the need for fu­ture test blasts.

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