Nuclear Naivete at Fox News

Fox News on the Web should be deeply embarrassed by Perry Chiaramonte and Alex Diaz’s August 8 article “Russia’s Nuclear Arsenal: All Bark and No Bite?”


“Amid fears of a new Cold War, an examination of Russia’s nuclear arsenal by Fox News shows that there may be no need to worry about a devastating nuclear attack,” Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz write chirpily.


Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz clearly know nothing about Russia’s nuclear capabilities or the fundamentals of nuclear strategy. Their article is blissfully uninformed by the findings of the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community’s Nuclear Posture Review.


They appear ignorant of copious years-long congressional testimony given by the nation’s foremost nuclear and Russia experts, and ignorant of numerous articles by same, explaining why the National Defense Authorization Act (signed by President Trump on Aug. 14) provides for desperately needed modernization of all U.S. nuclear forces — in order to deter an unprecedented nuclear threat from Moscow.


“Nuclear warfare experts say that Russia’s arsenal of nukes is strictly for defense,” write Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz. Then in the same sentence “while Moscow has a ‘first strike’ option, it isn’t likely to use it.”


Someone needs to tell Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz that Russia’s plans, capability and exercises practicing a nuclear first strike against European NATO and the United States means that Moscow’s nuclear arsenal is not “strictly for defense.”


Someone needs to tell Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz that the “likelihood” of a Russian nuclear first strike depends upon the survivability and strength of the U.S. nuclear deterrent — which is now aged to the point of near obsolescence.


The authors assert, according to their “nuclear warfare experts,” that greater U.S. reliance on nuclear naval forces (they mean submarines) gives the United States an advantage over Russia, and greater Russian reliance on land-based nuclear forces (they mean ICBMs) proves Russia has a more defensive posture.


In fact, Russia has always preferred land-based ICBMs — like their new Satan II ICBM that can carry 15 or more warheads — because they can be launched on a moment’s notice, can destroy many targets with one missile, and are therefore ideal for a surprise nuclear first strike.


In fact, the United States has always preferred submarines and bombers because they are less capable than ICBMs of a surprise nuclear first strike, and therefore more “stabilizing.”


Bombers are slow, so the Russians would see them coming, and bombers can be recalled.


Submarines are mostly in port, only about one-third at sea on a day-to-day basis, and would be seen by Russian satellites if all were mobilizing for full deployment to the Atlantic and Pacific from their two ports at King’s Bay, Georgia and Bangor, Washington.


Thus, in contrast to Russia, the United States has deliberately adopted a nuclear posture, a mixed Triad of bombers, submarines and ICBMs, non-optimal for an all-out surprise first-strike. The U.S. Triad is better suited for survivability and delivery of a retaliatory second-strike.


The United States has even reduced the number of warheads on its Minuteman III ICBM from three to one, so that one Minuteman cannot destroy multiple Russian targets — non-optimal for a surprise first-strike.

Unlike Russian strategy, that emphasizes nuclear war-fighting and war-wining, U.S. strategy emphasizes nuclear deterrence and war prevention.


Unfortunately, Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz failed to report any of the basic facts about the U.S. nuclear posture or Russian nuclear capabilities that have raised alarm:


• Since the Cold War, U.S. strategic bomber bases have declined from 45 to 3, making a Russian first strike much easier.

• Since the Cold War, U.S. ballistic missile submarines have declined from 30-40 to 14 today, scheduled to decline to 12 in the future, enough to sustain daily patrols by only 4-6 boats to deter surprise attack.

• Russia’s modern ICBMs have yield-accuracy combinations enabling them to make a surprise first-strike destroying all U.S. bombers, ICBMs and submarines at port (one-half to two-thirds of all submarines).

• Russia has advanced Third Generation nuclear weapons, such as Super-EMP warheads, that could paralyze U.S. nuclear forces, including strategic C3 necessary for any surviving U.S. submarines at sea to retaliate.

• Russia has at least a tenfold advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, and at least a twofold advantage in overall numbers of nuclear weapons.


Last, U.S. nuclear warheads are antiques, based on designs now 30-40 years old, and have been untested for 26 years. Some experts fear they may no longer be safe or reliably work.


Contrary to Mr. Chiaramonte and Mr. Diaz, it may be the U.S. nuclear arsenal that is “all bark and no bite.” How could they get it so wrong?


The Fox News authors relied on two so-called “nuclear warfare experts”— Omar Lamrani and Hans Kristensen.


Omar Lamrani, according to his Stratfor bio, has no expertise on nuclear weapons, U.S. or Russian nuclear strategy: Mr. Lamrani “holds a master’s degree his thesis centered on Chinese military doctrine and the balance of power in the Western Pacific. Mr. Lamrani previously worked as an intern with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.”


Hans Kristensen works for the Federation of American Scientists, an anti-nuclear group opposing modernization of U.S. nuclear forces.


Are all the Fox News editors on vacation?


• Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, was chief of staff of the congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, served on the House Armed Services Committee and in the CIA.

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