There are few issues that are more important for the security of mankind than the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. The danger of proliferation is evident in Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and even India. Further, the number of nuclear weapons and material in the former Soviet Union and in Russia proper is a key risk to everyone including the Russians themselves. The hope is that both the U.S. and Russia will agree in time to mutual reductions in order to lower nuclear arms levels.
Discussions on a technical and low level are already underway to see if a true mutual and proportionate reduction level is doable. Both Republican and Democratic past foreign policy and national security leaders have endorsed deep reductions from the present levels.
We are likely to see in the coming weeks a statement by President Obama in response to the issuing of the Strategic Posture Review document now in the works which could create a real possibility of further reductions in American nuclear weapons. There is a growing consensus that the numbers we are permitted to have, under the New START treaty, of 1,550 deployed and some 5,000 in stockpiles is unnecessary for deterrence purposes and each warhead or missile on hair trigger alert is an existential threat of a major catastrophe for our globe.
The key to this decision will be a close review of what is really needed for deterrence and many experts both military and civilian are indicating that numbers like 1,000 or even much lower are more than enough to ensure security for all and may even increase security with the necessary adjustments in deployment, transparency, and confidence building. Indeed given the inspections provisions under New START, the instruments do exist to ensure stability and confidence on all sides.
There are many advantages to major reductions in nuclear weapons. For America, the reasons include major cost savings by not having to maintain, deploy, and safeguard so many weapons. Taking them off hair trigger makes the world a much safer place and with many weapons deployed on invulnerable subs there is high confidence that our deterrent and retaliatory capability would remain even after an attack. However, the likelihood of such an action is infinitesimal given the clear consequences for all.
The problem is that like trying to get the American economy to grow with a logical and effective stimulus program, the decision to reduce our nuclear stockpile and change some of our strategic posture options has become enmeshed in highly partisan politics where the Republicans seem ready to oppose even slight and mutual reductions of nuclear weapons. Indeed, they seem bent on an illogical desire to increase such weapons and pile money into a massive system which is unnecessary and would create more danger than reduce risks.
There is a clear need for a moratorium on mindless partisan fights that seemed only aimed at destroying Obama’s election chances rather than on sound strategic realities. The GOP seems just to be focused on pilling more money into the military-industrial sector at the expense of building a truly prosperous, fairer, and broader economy and creating goods and service needed here in America.
The pilling of money into Republican-supporting front groups by military-orientated firms underlines the corrosive impact of coming to reasonable and fact-based decisions on weapons numbers and deployment. Thus the answer to better security lies in a major change in the ability of unaccountable money to determine U.S. politics, budget decisions, and where our country is headed.
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