Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Trump Quietly Promises Billions in New Nuke Contracts

This could trigger a new arms race with Russia and China.

“Baker Shot”, part of Operation Crossroads, a nuclear test by the United States at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Credit: U.S. Department of Defense/Public Domain.

“…America’s collective nuclear amnesia has led to the lessons of the past having been largely forgotten… 
The Trump administration has just announced that it is moving ahead with an Obama-era plan to modernize America’s nuclear arsenal, sprucing up the nuclear Triad with a new fleet of land-based missiles, missile-carrying submarines, and air-delivered nuclear weapons that will cost the American taxpayer well over $1 trillion in the coming years. 
The ostensible purpose behind this modernization effort is to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence capability for decades to come. 
The harsh reality, however, is that through this nuclear upgrade, America is simply repeating the mistakes of the past, building weapons whose precision and speed will trigger a new arms race with Russia and China as they seek to match this new American capability with weapons designed to sustain their version of nuclear deterrence.  
Mutually assured destruction (MAD), once relegated to the trash bin of history, has had new life breathed into it. 
This time there is no foundation of arms control in place to limit the insanity—the ABM treaty is a thing of the past, and America today hides behind the false promise of a missile-defense shield that has questionable utility against a North Korean madman armed with a handful of missiles, let alone a Russian or Chinese military armed with hundreds. Disarmament talks with Russia—once a hallmark of the Trump foreign-policy vision—are stillborn...  
American tanks patrol the Polish frontier opposite their Russian counterparts, while U.S. and Russian warplanes share the skies over Syria, and play cat and mouse over the Baltics. 
Into this volatile mix, President Trump now wants to deploy a new generation of nuclear weapons that any enemy possessing a modicum of strategic insight would have no choice but to view as possessing genuine first-strike capability. 
Given the enhanced performance of these weapons, there will be no “fail safe” mechanism to limit the scope and scale of inadvertent use. There won’t be time for military officers to call home with a furtive warning of impending doom… 
Today Americans are unable or perhaps unwilling to hold their elected leaders responsible as they play nuclear Russian roulette—a game as avoidable as it is insane.
Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.  He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War (Clarity Press, 2017).

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