The liberal mainstream media is all aghast that President-elect Donald Trump is calling for "expanding and modernizing" the U.S. nuclear deterrent; and if necessary winning a new nuclear arms race with Russia.
Even the usually fair and balanced Fox News has for three days (and counting) reported uncritically the view of the Arms Control Association (ACA) that Trump is "irresponsible" and "reckless" — as if the ACA is an objective source of information about the nuclear deterrent.
Fox fails to report that the Arms Control Association is a left-wing lobby dedicated to unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States.
The public might get the false impression from Fox reporting that the Arms Control Association is part of the U.S. Government and a source of official information. In fact, the ACA is no more to be trusted on matters of national security than Greenpeace or Ploughshares, all of whom want to achieve President Obama’s "world without nuclear weapons" — starting with the United States.
One example of the ACA disinformation reported as fact by Fox is that the nuclear balance between the U.S. and Russia is about equal and comprises many thousands of warheads — 7,100 U.S. versus 7,300 Russian nuclear weapons.
The ACA, Greenpeace, and Ploughshares argue that 7,100 U.S. nuclear weapons is "overkill" so the U.S. can afford to take the lead in making deeper cuts.
But the Arms Control Association’s alleged 7,100 U.S. nuclear weapons is counting weapons in the U.S. stockpile —which includes nuclear weapons retired, warehoused, and awaiting dismantlement. These weapons are not deployed in the operational force, would require months or years to refurbish and make deliverable, and are really no more part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent than obsolete bombers rusting away in the desert.
In fact, the real U.S. nuclear deterrent — comprising weapons that are deployed and operational, meaning they can be promptly used — is 1,367 strategic weapons (fewer than allowed under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and 200 tactical weapons.
So the U.S. nuclear deterrent comprises altogether 1,567 weapons.
Russia has at least 4,750 nuclear weapons, and probably a lot more.
Russia has 1,796 strategic nuclear weapons — 296 more than permitted by New START, and they continue building. Russia also has at least 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons. Estimates of Russian tactical nuclear weapons range from 3,000-20,000.
Thus, Russia has a dangerous advantage in overall numbers of nuclear weapons — a margin of superiority it never had during the Cold War.
Russia also has a huge advantage in nuclear weapons modernity.
Russia’s nuclear weapons are mostly brand new. Indeed, Moscow has fielded third generation nuclear weapons, that have no counterpart in the U.S. deterrent. Russian third generation nuclear weapons are less for deterrence and more for war fighting, designed for specialized effects like electromagnetic pulse (EMP) for destroying electronics, clean warheads that make no radioactive fallout, neutron warheads for anti-armor and air defense, X-ray warheads for anti-satellite and missile defense.
U.S. nuclear weapons are decades old, designed and built long ago for a very different threat environment, when massive collateral damage from blast and radioactive fallout was considered acceptable, to make nuclear war unthinkable.
Today, these characteristics only make U.S. nuclear weapons unuseable, and therefore close to useless, even for deterring North Korea. Moreover, the U.S. nuclear deterrent is so aged that its safety and reliability is questionable.
Reports by the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the Defense Department’s Task Force On Nuclear Weapons Management, and numerous other studies largely ignored by the press, warn U.S. nuclear weapons are becoming obsolete. We have literally been patching and repairing the nuclear deterrent; relying on computer models and the judgment of technicians (who have never actually built a nuclear weapon) to annually certify the safety and reliability of U.S. warheads.
Our best nuclear weapons experts, including Dr. John Foster and Dr. Lowell Wood — who designed the nuclear weapons in our current inventory — have challenged the efficacy of so-called "science-based stockpile stewardship" that began during the Clinton administration.
Indeed, during the Clinton years, the House Armed Services Committee warned that this policy was a ploy for eventual unilateral nuclear disarmament in the report "Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship: Erosion By Design."
That is why President-elect Trump is not reckless or irresponsible to call for expanding and modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Expansion and modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent is necessary to restore parity to the nuclear balance with Russia, to deter Moscow from thinking it can use its numerical and technological nuclear advantage for blackmail or aggression.
Even those who want a world without nuclear weapons should support expansion and modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Historically, nuclear arms control has worked only when the U.S. has had something to trade. Russia, China, and North Korea will not trade something for nothing.
Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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