Fears of a New Arms Race
I think so, and so does former Defense Secretary William Perry who says “We now are at a precipice of a new nuclear arms race.”
Perry was commenting on the Pentagon’s plan to blow $1 trillion or more on smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons.
President Obama agrees with the Pentagon.
Over the past year, the US has called out what it sees as “irresponsible” Russian comments about using nuclear weapons. Ashton Carter, Defence secretary, complained of “Moscow’s nuclear sabre-rattling” while General Philip Breedlove, Nato commander, has called the statements “destabilising”.
Yet the Obama administration — which is hosting a big summit this week on nuclear security — is facing its own criticism at home over plans to modernise the US nuclear arsenal, a project that could cost as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades.
“We now are at a precipice of a new nuclear arms race,” William Perry, former secretary of defence and a one-time mentor to Mr Carter, said this year.
Yet supporters of the nuclear upgrade reject all suggestions that the weapons will encourage thoughts of a limited nuclear war. “It is a complete fallacy that any American leader would say, ‘this is a low-yield weapon, so I am going to use it’,” says Franklin Miller, former senior White House official in charge of arms control.
When President Barack Obama signed the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons, he reached a separate side agreement with the US Senate: the treaty would only be ratified if the administration modernised the nuclear arsenal.
As a result, the Pentagon is putting in place ambitious plans to upgrade each section of the nuclear triad, including adding a long-range bomber, submarines and missiles.
Mr Perry has become the most prominent critic of the nuclear cruise missile. He says such missiles increase the risk of miscalculation because they can be launched without warning and because adversaries would not know if they contained a nuclear or a conventional warhead. He argues that the US can easily maintain deterrence with submarines and bomber aircraft, and no longer needs intercontinental ballistic missiles as well.
Tactically-speaking, these weapons are more “use friendly”. But don’t worry, we won’t use them.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock