Democrats in Congress have proposed having the U.S. declare to the world, including America’s enemies, that it never will use a nuclear weapon in a first strike.
For any reason.
Advocates for disarmament also have suggested unplugging missiles so they would not launch even if a command code was sent, eliminating Minuteman ICBMs, limiting its arsenal to 200 or 300 deployed warheads and getting rid of warheads on some submarines.
But an expert in the field, Peter Huessey of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense-consulting firm, warns such a move would weaken national security.
“Such a small U.S. nuclear arsenal would be totally unable credibly or effectively to hold at risk whole swaths of Chinese or Russian military assets,” he wrote recently at the Gatestone Institute.
“U.S. deterrent policy has, for seven decades, meant being able to prevent, or take away, the military ability of an adversary to continue a fight. This capability means that America’s long-standing retaliatory policy needs to be to destroy the remaining military weapons and tools an American adversary possesses. Deliberately deciding to leave an adversary’s military capability intact makes no sense, and would effectively jettison America’s long and successful deterrent strategy.”
He was discussing the modernization of America’s nuclear weapons.
The best result, he suggested, comes when modernization is combined with a measure with “verifiable arms control agenda; either the continuation of existing arms control treaties, expanded arms control efforts, or both.”
He noted Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, which caused the treaty to become defunct.
There are growing concerns that with the anticipated demise of the INF treaty, the continuation and extension of the 2010 New START treaty may be adversely affected as well, he said.
If that happens, there would be effectively no “arms control limits.”
But instead of working with American allies to develop a coherent policy, he said, those who oppose nuclear modernization are suggesting the U.S. give up the first-strike option.
“All five of these initiatives would be unilateral, taken by the United States only, and would reverse the bipartisan consensus secured nearly a decade ago to go forward with the much-needed modernization of America’s nuclear deterrent,” he said.
The “alternative and unilateral policies,” he explained, “if adopted by the new leadership in the House, would certainly fracture whatever consensus exists today to modernize America’s strategic nuclear deterrent – and at a time when both Russia and China are charging ahead militarily, and Iran and North Korea are racing toward a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.”
Even the existence of such a discussion, he warned, could “undermine” among allies “the sense that the United States could continue to provide the protection of a credible extended nuclear ‘umbrella’ to its allies.”
He said Russia has explicitly threatened a first-strike use, and China’s promise not to do it is hardly trustworthy.
He explained: “In the real world, it is important to remember what President John F. Kennedy said about America’s newly built Minuteman missiles: that they were his ‘ace in the hole’ and prevented the Cuban missile crisis from ending in Armageddon.”
If the U.S. would eliminate land-based missiles, the only change would be that enemies would be able to focus their targeting on other sites.
“As the former Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF, General Larry O. Spencer told this author, ‘Why would we make it easy for an adversary to attack us?'” he wrote.
He concluded: “There is no reason whatever to discontinue implementing the traditional three-part nuclear deterrent posture (land, sea and air) endorsed not only by the 2018 nuclear posture review (NPR) but also by the past three nuclear posture reviews (1994, 2001 and 2010): a robust Triad of nuclear forces that keeps the land-based ICBMs, a built-in nuclear-readiness hedge against an uncertain future that requires a number of warheads that balance Russia’s forces, and a forward-looking, realistic and tightly verifiable arms control framework, that would refuse destabilizing strategies such as de-alerting.”