'The US should accelerate cuts to its nuclear arsenal'
10 July 2012
Further cuts beyond those agreed in the New START treaty would pave the way for a world where the weapons may never be used again, argue Daryl G Kimball and Tom Z Collina from the Washington-based Arms Control Association
In the coming weeks, following a long bipartisan tradition, United States President Barack Obama is expected to take a step away from the nuclear brink by proposing further reductions in American and Russian arsenals. This would be a welcome step toward making the world safer while redirecting defence dollars to higher priority needs. Back in 1986, then US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev shifted away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles - which peaked at about 70,000 nuclear warheads - and started down the path of reductions that continues today.
American and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds and the world is safer for it. Within weeks, President Obama is expected to announce revisions to outdated nuclear deterrence requirements that would allow another round of US and Russian nuclear stockpile reductions, beyond those mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
As Obama said in March: "We have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal." Obama's efforts to reduce excess nuclear stockpiles have strong military and bipartisan support. In April, General James Cartwright - former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of US nuclear forces under former US President George W. Bush - called for a reduction in US and Russian nuclear arsenals of 80 per cent on current levels. He wrote, along with other authors including former senator Chuck Hagel, that the current American and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence".
In March 2011 - former US secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former secretary of defence Bill Perry and former senator Sam Nunn wrote that "deeper nuclear reductions should remain a priority," and that the US and Russia, which led the build-up for decades, "must continue to lead the build-down." And Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in June: "I can't see any reason for having as large an inventory as we are allowed to have under New START, in terms of real threat, potential threat. The more weapons that exist out there, the less secure we are, rather than the more secure we are."
Today, it is clear that the US can maintain a credible deterrent at lower levels of nuclear weapons than the 1,550 deployed strategic warheads allowed by New START. There is no reasonable justification today for such high numbers. The Obama administration outlined its approach to nuclear policy in its April 2010 nuclear posture review. The NPR stated that the "fundamental role of nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the US and our allies and partners". This is a major shift away from the Cold War-era strategy of "prevailing" in a nuclear war and using nuclear weapons to counter conventional military threats.
By signalling that America is prepared to accelerate reductions and go below New START ceilings - Washington could induce Moscow, which is already below New START levels, to rethink its plans to build up its forces; including a new long-range missile with multiple warheads. It could also eventually open the way for discussions with other nuclear-armed states to limit their stockpiles.
Further nuclear reductions would also help trim the high cost of maintaining and modernising US nuclear forces, which is estimated to cost $31bn annually. Fresh thinking is in order. By discarding outdated nuclear war plans, Obama can open the way for lower US-Russian nuclear force levels. This would enhance the prospects for mutual, verifiable reductions involving the world's other nuclear-armed states - and reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will be used ever again.This article first appeared on sister site PublicServiceEurope.com
HAVE YOUR SAY
11 July 2012
So in reality, flowery love & peace language, is dressing up a cut in defence spending.
Yes the cold war arsenals were far too big, but cut US/Russian deterrents below 900 warheads each & the small rogue state arsenals start to look big. That makes the world more dangerous, not safer.
John Hartley - Woking/Surrey/UK