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By Peter Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis, Potomac, Maryland - Senior Warrior Maven Columnist
Peter Huessy Analyzes an Essay by William Hartung, who calls for the unilateral reduction by the USA of 70% of its nuclear assets allowed by the New START nuclear treaty, leaving the US with seven nuclear assets which if destroyed by a Russian or Chinese or North Korean pre-emptive strike would put the US out of the nuclear deterrent business. In CAPS, the analysis takes the Hartung essay posted in The Hill this week and answers key points made and illustrates again the folly of the obsessions of the US based disarmament community.
HARTUNG’S FOLLY: MAKING IT EASY FOR OUR ENEMIES TO DISARM US
In April 2009, just a few months after taking office, then-President Obama gave a speech in Prague, where he said the following:
"[A]s a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
The speech was widely praised and was the principal reason Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.
But talking about eliminating nuclear weapons and getting the job done are two very different things. To be fair, Obama didn't claim it would be easy, saying "this goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime."
President Obama did have two signature achievements on nuclear weapons policy - the conclusion of the New START nuclear reductions treaty with Russia and the multilateral deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). New START cut deployed U.S. and Russian warheads by one-third and preserved and expanded a rigorous verification regime that injects a measure of predictability in nuclear relations between Washington and Moscow. NEW START ALLOWS BOTH PARTIES TO THE DEAL TO DEPLOY 2200 WARHEADS AT THE SAME LEVEL AS THE 2002 MOSCOW DEAL. HARDLY A ONE THIRD CUT.
The Iran deal headed off a potential war between Washington and Tehran and put enforceable limits on Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Both were significant accomplishments that made the world a safer place. THE JCPOA DEAL ALLOWS IRAN TO DEVELOP AN INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM, THEN HAS THE RESTRICTIONS ON ENRICHMENT EXPIRE. IRAN NOW IS ENRICHING TO 60 % WHICH IS NEARLY 20 TIMES THE ALLOWED LEVEL AND NO ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN —SO MUCH FOR THE JCPOA BEING ENFORCEABLE. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE IAEA REQUIRED INSPECTIONS TO FULFILL THE JCPOA TERMS, IRAN REFUSED SUCH ACCESS TO THE UNITED NATIONS INSPECTORS.
But domestic and international politics and a lack of sustained attention to the issue conspired to make New START the last step towards nuclear disarmament of the Obama era. There was no
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follow-on agreement to New START, and no effort to rethink the massive nuclear modernization plans being pursued by the Pentagon and the Department of Energy, which were actually reaffirmed and expanded by the Obama administration as part of the price of winning Republican support for Senate ratification of New START. THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DECIDED THE NEW START TREATY ALLOWED AND CALLED FOR THE MODERNIZATION OF AN AGING NUCLEAR DETERRENT WITHOUT WHICH THE USA WOULD GO OUT OF THE NUCLEAR BUSINESS AS THE COMMANDER OF US STRATEGIC COMMAND HAS TESTIFIED. NO ONE FORCED THE ADMIN TO SUPPORT THE NEEDED NUKE MODERNIZATION PROGRAMS. EVEN IF WE BUILT NO NEW BOMBERS, SUBS, ICBMS, OR PLATFORMS, WE HAVE TO REDO NC3, INFRASTRUCTURE AND WARHEADS JUST TO MAINTAIN THE SAME DETERRENT REQUIREMENTS AT NEARLY 2/3RDs OF THE TOTAL NUCLEAR COSTS.
Meanwhile, President Trump did everything in his power to erase the Obama nuclear legacy and attack arms control more generally, abandoning the Iran deal, THE DEAL WAS BEING TRASHED BY IRAN withdrawing from a longstanding agreement on intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe NO RUSSIA REPEATEDLY VIOLATED AND REFUSED TO ABIDE BY THE TREATY and adding new warheads and weapons systems to the Pentagon's already massive, three-decade-long nuclear modernization plan, which could cost up to $2 trillion. THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DID NOT ADD A SINGLE WARHEAD ABOVE THE NÉW START TREATY LIMITS AND ASKED FOR RESEARCH FUNDS TO REBUILD A NAVY BASED CRUISE MISSILE THE USA HAD IN ITS INVENTORY THROUGH EVERY PRESIDENT IN THE NUCLEAR AGE EXCEPT OBAMA WHO CANCELLED THE MISSILE.
As a candidate and now as president, Joe Biden has embraced the Obama legacy by renewing the New START treaty with Russia and promising to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. Time is of the essence on the Iran deal. The administration must seize on recent, promising signs of progress to reenter the deal as quickly as possible, before domestic politics in the U.S. and Iran make it much more difficult to do so. WHAT SIGNS OF PROGRESS WOULD HARTUNG BE REFERENCING? IRANS SPIKE IN TERROR SUPPORT INCLUDING MISSILE ATTACKS AGAINST SAUDIA ARABIA AND AGAINST USA NAVAL VESSELS.
One the broader nuclear front, Biden has pledged to "head off costly arms races and reestablish our credibility as a leader in arms control." THERE IS NO ARMS RACE BY THE USA. WE WONT BEGIN THE DEPLOYMENT OF OUR NEW DETERRENT UNTIL 2029. RUSSIA IS 92% COMPLETED ITS OWN MODERNIZATION WHICH BEGAN AROUND 2006.
Rescuing the best aspects of Obama's nuclear policies is a worthy undertaking, but President Biden can and must go further. A good place to start would be by revisiting the Pentagon's costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons modernization plan. As part of that effort, he should cancel the plan to spend $264 billion to develop, build and operate a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). THIS COST IS FOR 60 YEARS. CURRENTLY THE COST OF THE NEW ICBM IS $1.5B ANNUALLY AND OVER THE NEXT DECADE WILL BE ROUGHLY $3.5 BILLION ANNUALLY AND WILL BE THE LEAST EXPENSIVE OF ALL ALTERNATIVE NUCLEAR DETERRENT SYSTEMS.
Canceling the new ICBM would be good politics as well as good policy. A poll carried out by ReThink Media on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists found that 60 percent of Americans favored either forgoing the development of a new ICBM, eliminating ICBMs or eliminating all nuclear weapons. ACTUALLY 56% OF AMERICANS POLLED IN THIS SURVEY ACTUALLY SUPPORTED EITHER BUILDING A NEW ICBM OR EXTENDING THE LIFE OF THE CURRENT MMIII. THE POLL FOUND IF A STUDY OF ALTERNAIVES FOUND THE GBSD THE RIGHT WAY TO GO, 56% SUPPORTED BUILDING THE NEW ICBM. HOWEVER, THE POLL INFORMATION WAS RIGGED TO GET A PREDETERMINED ANSWER. .
As former Secretary of Defense William Perry has noted, ICBMs are "some of the most dangerous weapons in the world" because the president would have just a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch them in a crisis, greatly increasing the risk of an accidental nuclear war based on a false alarm. THE AUTHOR ASSUMES THE ONLY SCENARIO WHERE RUSSIA WILL ATTACK THE USA WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS WOULD BE AN ALLOUT ATTACK ON OUR ICBM FORCE REQUIRING THE LAUCH OF UPWARDS OF 1000 RUSSIAN WARHEADS. SUCH AN ATTACK WOULD BE SUICIDAL AS IT WOULD PRECIPITATE A MAJOR USA RETALIATION. MUCH MORE LIKELY IS RUSSIA USING LIMITED NUMBERS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS UNDER AN ESCALATION TO WIN STRATEGY. HERE THE USA ICBM FORCE WOULD BE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE WITH ITS SINGLE WARHEAD CAPABILITY. ELIMINATING OUR ICBM FORCE WOULD MEAN ALL USA NUCLEAR FORCES WOULD DECLINE FROM OVER 500 TO AROUND 10 THAT SMALL NUMBER OF NUCLEAR ASSETS WITH AN ASW TECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGH COULD BE DESTROYED BY RUSSIA AND PUT THE USA OUT OF THE NUCLEAR BUSINESS.
Bearing this in mind, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) are co-sponsoring a bill - the "Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act" - that would take funds slated for the new ICBM and invest them instead in efforts to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine.
The arguments against ICBMs are underscored in a blueprint for a "deterrence-only" nuclear strategy developed by the organization Global Zero, which persuasively makes the case for a revamped nuclear arsenal that eliminates ICBMs and relies on smaller numbers of nuclear-armed submarines than are currently deployed, along with a reserve force of nuclear-armed bombers. GLOBAL ZERO PROPOSED 6 SUBMARINES (NOT 12) WITH BOMBERS ONLY DEVELOPED IF SUBS HAD TECHNOLOGY HICCUPS. THIS WOULD LEAVE THE USA WITH A DETERRENT OF HAVING ONLY 150 WARHEADS AT SEA ON ALERT ABLE TO HOLD AT RISK ONLY A SMALL MINORITY OF RUSSIA OR CHINESE TARGETS MOST OF WHICH WOULD BE LEFT IN A SANCTUARY. A NUCLEAR FREE WORLD IS A FAIRY TALE AND NOTHING HARTUNG PROPOSES WILL BRING BETTER NUCLEAR STABILITY. AS FOR MARKEY’S PROPOSAL, HARTUNG FORGETS THAT THE SENATOR WOULD SPEND $74 BILLION TO KEEP THE 50-YEAR-OLD MINUTEMAN AROUND FOR ANOTHER 30 YEARS NOT INCLUDING THE RISING COST OF SUSTAINING THE OLD MINUTEMAN VS THE NEW GBSD.
Adopting this approach would have a stabilizing effect and could set the stage for further measures aimed at achieving the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, as required under the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January of this year after it was ratified by 54 nations, but none of the major nuclear powers, yet. Canceling the new ICBM project would be a good place to start towards the goal of creating the nuclear-free world that Barack Obama endorsed and Joe Biden could help advance.
William D. Hartungis the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy.
Peter R. Huessy – Mr. Huessy is the President of Geostrategic Analysis, a Potomac, Maryland-based defense and national security consulting business, and Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute, a Senior Fellow at ICAS, a senior consultant with Ravenna Associates, and previously for 22 years Senior Defense Consultant with the National Defense University Foundation at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.He is and has been a Guest Lecturer at the School of Advanced International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, at the Institute of World Politics, at the University of Maryland, at the Joint Military Intelligence School, at the Naval Academy and at the National War College.