Taking another shot at cutting nukes
President Obama wants the
number of deployed U.S. strategic nuclear warheads reduced from the
1,550 limit set by the 2010 treaty with Russia to closer to 1,000,
depending on an agreement with that country.
In a June 19 speech
in Berlin, Obama said: “After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined
that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a
strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed
strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek
negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”
review of the Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy was only the third
such study since the end of the Cold War. Led by the Defense Department,
it included representatives from the departments of State and Energy
(which builds the weapons), plus the Office of the Director of National
Intelligence and the National Security Council.
It led to a new
presidential nuclear employment guidance under which the Strategic
Command sets contingency nuclear targeting plans for the U.S. triad of
delivery systems: strategic bombers, along with land-based and
sub-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
report released June 12, Defense stated that the 2018 levels specified
in the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty “are more than adequate for
the United States to fulfill its national security objectives.” That
left open the option of more cuts.
The president also wants to take
some deployed ICBMs off constant alert. The White House, in a fact sheet
released the day of the speech, said the president had directed the
Defense Department “to examine and reduce the role of launch under
attack [the phrase for constant alert] in contingency planning.”
Because, as the White House said, “the potential for a surprise,
disarming nuclear attack is exceedingly remote.” That’s because no
country, including Russia, has the capability to knock out enough
nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from responding with a more
devastating nuclear counterattack to the enemy country.
example, Russia or another country would have to have enough warheads to
simultaneously hit all the nuclear-capable delivery systems allowed
under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that will be in effect
after 2018. That means probably 420 land-based ICBMs, along with 60
nuclear-equipped bombers and 12 strategic submarines, at least eight of
which would be out to sea.
The “first strike” attack theory —
which never could have been carried out — caused the United States and
the Soviet Union to build up to 10,000 strategic nuclear warheads each
during the Cold War. That’s what both are now reducing.
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