Tangled America: Why Another International Nuclear Arms Race Has Begun

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The United States signed its first arms deal with the Soviet Union in 1972. Since then, there has always been a warning that if its opponent in Moscow does not live up to the terms of the deal, the US United had to preserve the ability to extend American nuclear deterrence.

The 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) I saw a five-fold increase in Soviet and American nuclear warheads, even with limits placed on the global strategic nuclear delivery vehicles known as SNDVs. This rupture treaty was less of a problem then than it is today. Despite the huge increase in the number of Soviet multi-warhead ground missiles authorized, US officials have described the SALT agreement as consistent with the new era of “detente” and peaceful coexistence.

The SALT II treaty of 1979 continued this build-up, but modestly limited SNDVs to 2,250 but still allowed the growth of strategic or long-range nuclear systems to nearly twelve thousand warheads. At the same time, the associated arsenals of theater or short-range and low-yield or battlefield nuclear weapons were not subject to any limits given the severe difficulties encountered in locating and accurately counting such arsenals.

So, at the height of the Cold War, US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger estimated all Soviet nuclear weapons to be around thirty-five thousand – with the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, the archives in Moscow and Russian officials over openings revealed that the actual number was closer to forty-five thousand.

The START I and Start II Treaty process significantly reduced strategic nuclear warheads in the agreements reached in 1991 and 1993. Thus, the issue of “breakthrough” became more real. The Reagan administration defined in numerous directives of the NSDD or defense of national security the framework of the START reduction process and the accompanying rationale for the modernization of the American nuclear arsenal as early as 1981.

What was essential to signing these deals with Moscow – be it the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation – was America’s ability to “hedge” against a collapse of treaties supporting the cuts.

However, after the end of the Soviet Empire, the United States took a very long supply leave in which our nuclear elements were neither replaced nor modernized. The ability to cover was a problem. Production of the Trident submarine ended in 1992; the B2 bomber was terminated to only twenty aircraft in 1997 by Congress; and the new Peacekeeper 10 ground warhead missile was stopped at fifty missiles, and the small mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, nicknamed “Midgetman” was stopped.

After all, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and President HW Bush had agreed to major cuts in the START II Treaty of January 1993. Yeltsin spoke out at the United Nations in favor of both deep cuts in US and Russian nuclear weapons. and the deployment of global missile defenses. in cooperation with the United States.

But the Russian Duma rejected the START II treaty and the United States lost an opportunity to implement the treaty ban on “heavy” land missiles with multiple warheads. The Duma cleverly added to the deal a requirement that all future US missile defense work be kept in the laboratory, a ploy tried throughout Cold War history first by the Soviets. , then by the Russians. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev attempted the ruse at various summits with President Ronald Reagan, and subsequent Russian leaders attempted repeatedly to shut down US missile defenses, both of which are missile defense systems protecting the United States. Continents and their allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. .

In fact, it was Soviet Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev who called President-elect Richard Nixon in 1968 and urgently proposed that the two countries should ban missile defenses. The reason? The Soviet leader was convinced that the “thin” missile defense previously announced by the then Johnson administration to deal with China’s growing but still small nuclear arsenal was really aimed at blunting Soviet nuclear deterrence and should therefore be eliminated.

Of course, these discussions continued, culminating in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 which effectively banned the deployment of missile defenses by the United States. The treaty allowed each party to deploy around 100 interceptors to protect their capital (Washington and Moscow) or a nuclear missile base. But for the United States, both were politically untenable. Protecting only Washington but not the heart of America was a political non-starter. And protecting US missiles, but not people, could easily be defeated by the Soviets by simply launching a hundred more warheads at the US base to deplete the deployed interceptors.

With the Moscow Treaty of 2002 and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 2010, the United States and Russia further reduced the deployed nuclear warheads from six thousand (START I level) to twenty-two hundred. , then to 1550. The SNDV were reduced to no more than seven hundred. This is a reduction of nearly 90% from the maximum levels of nuclear warhead arsenals of the two countries reached in the late 1980s.

Ironically, in 2002 the United States also dropped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, especially in light of missile threats from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

Nonetheless, Moscow continued these two deals with Washington to reduce strategic nuclear forces by nearly 75%, establishing that there was nothing inconsistent with the deployment of robust missile defenses while simultaneously establishing strong nuclear deterrence, believable and modern, albeit at much lower levels.

Faced with much lower levels of nuclear warheads – levels not seen since the 1950s – the escape by the Russians could significantly alter the strategic balance as the Russians still have large, heavy ground missiles capable of deploying thousands of weapons. ‘additional warheads. In the case of all Russian systems, although they now have just over five hundred SNDVs deployed, that number could climb to seven hundred under the new START treaty and give the Russians additional capacity beyond capacity. current breakthrough to build four thousand to five thousand long-range strategic nuclear warheads.

Every president since the end of the Soviet empire has emphasized in four consecutive Nuclear Posture Reviews, also known as the NPR, that the United States must have a credible and sufficient covering capability, including infrastructure. reactive, to be able to balance any possible future treaty. breakthrough by Moscow.

The future US force of 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles, which includes 12 future Columbia-class submarines each with 16 missiles and 60 nuclear-capable bombers, could deploy another 1,280 high-speed missile warheads. In addition, there are 800 additional intercontinental ballistic missile warheads and approximately 40 additional warheads for each of the 12 U.S. submarines deployed, with 16 D-5 missiles per submarine. Together that makes a total of 2,770 warheads. If bombardment weapons are included in this number, then the number peaks at just under 4000.

But there are two caveats to this number. In the nuclear realm, fast-flying intercontinental ballistic missiles are the “coin of the kingdom” and in the hands of American adversaries more worrying than relatively slower vectors such as strategic bombers.

Thus, intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles would number less than three thousand, but it would take about four years to reach that number given the logistical challenge that the United States faces in constituting the ” cover ”which they have in their strength.

But now the United States faces two more challenges. One of its own making and one from China. Both are deadly serious.

As political analyst Patty Jane-Geller noted, Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of United States Strategic Command, said the military “is witnessing a strategic breakthrough byChina. “He warned thatChinais able to apply force to “any level of violence, in any area, in any geographic location, at any time,” Jane-Gellar said in a nuclear analysis released by Heritage Foundation.

US satellites have discovered some 350 to 400 new Chinese missile silos, each arranged in a grid about three kilometers apart. These new intercontinental ballistic missile “launchers” are designed to contain the DF-41 missile. The DF-41 is a ten-warhead missile. In total, the potential Chinese sprint towards nuclear superiority could indeed materialize, a possible construction of four thousand warheads which would represent 266% of the total warheads currently deployed in the American nuclear arsenal.

More worryingly, China’s future nuclear strength could be 400% of that of the United States today. alert nuclear forces.

The second challenge the United States faces is of its own accord. As Jane-Geller explained, “the Biden administrationwould have considered delaying thePentagonto modernize the nuclear forces of the United States during the Cold War. Worse yet, days earlier, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Sent a letter requestingBidenconsider reducing US nuclear forces.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wants the administration to throw all U.S. ground missiles, especially the new strategic ground deterrent, also known as GBSD. His committee’s previous proposals to do just that have failed 13-42, and on the House floor 166-266.

But despite those votes – in a democratically controlled chamber – the administration has bowed to pressure from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) And Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) To re-examine whether the GBSD is needed and whether there may be a cheaper and strategically viable alternative, either to extend the life of the fifty-year-old Minuteman-III, or perhaps to drop intercontinental ballistic missiles completely. (Extending the life of a possible obsolete asset such as the current Minuteman-III would achieve this goal.)


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