Minimum deterrence: Enhancing the possibility of war

DM-ST-93-02894Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has undergone several bouts of unilateral disarmament in strategic arms.  First, we stopped all production of tritium in 1988, a vital component in the production and refurbishment of nuclear weapons and revived it only much later (in 2005).

We conducted an unnecessary arms control agreement with Russia in 2010 – the New START Treaty – which, like virtually all previous arms control agreements with the USSR and Russia, suffered from many serious flaws.  For example, it had absolutely no accompanying compliance policy.  It had weaknesses in verification (which is completely distinct from compliance policy).  The treaty gave Moscow unilateral advantages. It did not include a force limit on Russia’s thousands of tactical nuclear weapons, an area where they far outnumber the United States. The treaty also counts certain conventional launchers against the force limit, hampering our goal of developing a Prompt Global Strike capability. These changes left Moscow a free hand to continue its nuclear modernization while we restricted the numbers of our deterrent forces without pursuing modernization.

We signed the agreement in spite of the fact that Moscow has continued its history of violating arms control agreements, even into the post-Cold War period.  We signed it as if China’s nuclear arsenal plays no role in the global strategic balance, but Beijing is not party to any of the extant relevant strategic arms agreements.

Our intelligence community tells us that China has between 300 and 400 ICBMS and SLBMs. One Russia expert, a former Colonel General of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, claims the Chinese could have as many as 1800 missiles.  Which is it?  Are we indeed able to verify the number of Chinese missiles when they are concealing most of them in the labyrinth of tunnels that they call the “Underground Great Wall”?  This is reportedly a network of 3,000 miles of tunnels through which trucks can pass, pulling road-mobile launch vehicles for ICBMs.

One always hesitates to criticize the estimates of our 16-agency intelligence community (IC).  But historically, there have been examples where the conventional wisdom within the community has been very difficult, if not impossible, to challenge, especially when its judgments are made on the basis of estimates rather than actual intelligence about the facts of the matter.  In the 1970s, the IC told us that the percentage of the Soviet economy devoted to the military was 5%.  In fact, it proved to be more in the realm of 50%.

China’s possession of strategic weapons and its ability to conceal them makes a big difference to the United States.  China considers the United States to be its main enemy.  It propagandizes its vast armed forces to consider us as such.  Its double digit annual growth in military expenditures is principally targeted to address American military capabilities.  It conducts cyber attacks and espionage against multiple types of targets in the US: industrial secrets, US Government classified networks, our national laboratories, academic centers specializing in Chinese affairs, and even the personal accounts of American sinologists.  It has dispatched somewhere in the realm of 50,000 intelligence collectors to our shores.  It has developed a neutron bomb.  It has conducted laser tests against US satellites.  It has developed an anti-satellite weapon designed to blind our intelligence capabilities and disrupt our command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence networks.  It is developing a blue water navy.  It has established a strategic presence at most of the world’s major strategic naval choke points.  It is flexing its muscles with aggressive territorial claims throughout its neighborhood, most notably in the South and East China Seas.

As we continue to hollow out our military and move in the direction of “minimum deterrence” in the realm of strategic weapons, our credibility as an ally in our mutual defense pacts with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan is eroding, to such an extent that each of these countries is making its own separate security preparations.

A policy of minimum deterrence, which is being pursued by the Administration, and which has been encouraged by several former Secretaries of State who have set forth a reckless and utopian vision of a nuclear-free world, is exactly the formula for enhancing the possibility of war – even conventional war.

Now that more than two decades have passed since the foreign policy community kept a serious eye on matters of nuclear strategy, it is high time that we be reminded about the implications of the irresponsible policy that is being pursued.

Fortunately, a recent study by the National Institute for Public Policy under the directorship of Dr. Keith Payne and former Secretary of Defense Dr. James Schlesinger reviews and thoroughly discredits the assumptions underlying this policy and how it portends ever greater insecurity for the US and its allies throughout the world: http://www.nipp.org/Final%20for%20Distro%207.17.pdf

It is now time for the US Congress to ensure that America will retain a serious and adequate strategic deterrent to maximize the prospects of realistic peace and not the fatuous vision of the utopians.

One thought on “Minimum deterrence: Enhancing the possibility of war

  1. Pingback: US-China nuclear security center in Beijing: A questionable initiative | John Lenczowski

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