The Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona. A nonworking Titan II ICBM loaded into a silo. (Dreamstime)
By Dr. Peter Vincent Pry
Talks extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in 2021, apparently failed — Thank God!
U.S. negotiators tried to persuade Moscow to improve New START verification provisions, expand the treaty to include tactical nuclear weapons, and possibly make the treaty trilateral by including China.
But Moscow and Beijing rejected U.S. conditions for continuing New START.
Why Washington gambles national security on arms control with Russia and China, who consistently cheat, defies common sense.
Arms control is a long record of failure, constraining only U.S. capabilities, while adversaries cheat, gaining strategic advantages:
- In 2020, the State Department finally acknowledged Russia and China have been violating the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), clandestinely conducting low-yield tests for advanced nuclear weapons for 25 years. The U.S. has faithfully observed the unratified CTBT unilaterally, conducting no nuclear tests since 1992.
- Russia cheated on the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiative, wherein Moscow and Washington agreed to abolish tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. dismantled its Cold War inventory of 15,000 tactical nuclear weapons, reducing to 180 operational weapons today, while Russia retains at least 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons — an advantage of at least 10-to-1.
- Russia cheated on the 1988 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Obama Administration covered-up Russian testing and deployment of prohibited intermediate-range nuclear missiles, compelling President Trump to withdraw from the INF Treaty in 2019.
- North Korea cheated on President Bill Clinton’s 1994 Agreed Framework, that gave Pyongyang economic support in exchange for supposedly abandoning development of nuclear weapons. Today North Korea has the H-bomb and nuclear missiles capable of striking any city in the United States.
- Iran is cheating on President Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) that gave Tehran billions of dollars, a pass for being the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, and even a legitimate pathway toward the “Islamic Bomb.” Yet Iran probably already has nuclear missiles (see “Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats From North Korea And Iran” National Review February 12, 2016).
Although the State Department assesses Russia is in compliance with New START (which limits both sides to 700 long-range strategic bombers and missiles and 1,550 nuclear weapons), the verification provisions are grossly inadequate to ensure Russia is not cheating. Experts like Dr. Mark Schneider and Dr. Stephen Blank warn that Russia is cheating on New START (see Schneider “Does Russia Have 2-to-1 Advantage In Deployed Strategic Nuclear Weapons?” RealClearDefense January 12, 2019).
Given Moscow’s long record of cheating on arms control agreements, it is highly unlikely Russia is in compliance with New START.
The U.S. keeps getting suckered, and national security increasingly imperiled, because Washington is addicted to arms control.
Arms control is a great vulnerability in Western strategic culture. Democratic polities have blind faith that all differences can be negotiated, all negotiations can become “win-win” outcomes, and national security guaranteed by treaties (see “The Case Against Arms Control” RealClearDefense January 12, 2019).
Unlike Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, in the United States the ideology of arms control is deeply embedded in our foreign policy and defense establishments.
Universities teach that “strategic studies” and “arms control” are virtually synonymous. State Department arms control negotiations are their bread and butter, and ratification of another treaty the acme of a successful career. Presidents and the press mistakenly equate maintenance of past and conclusion of new arms control agreements with betterment of national security and the ultimate test of statesmanship.
America as a free and open society is unilaterally vulnerable to disinformation operations designed to persuade U.S. policymakers and the public to swallow “poison pill” arms control proposals that are increasingly outrageous and dangerous.
For example, Communist China’s “analyst” Tong Zhao recently published an article for an American audience “Managing the Sino-American Dispute Over Missile Defense” and an English-language book on the same theme “Narrowing the U.S.-China Gap on Missile Defense: How To Help Forestall A Nuclear Arms Race” published by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Very well written propaganda, crafted to appeal to the “logic” of the U.S. arms control community.
Zhao’s modest proposal is that the U.S. Space Force should never deploy space-based missile defenses, which U.S. “threat” is supposedly driving China and Russia to greatly build-up their offensive nuclear missiles.
Beijing has also proposed that, if China joins New START, the U.S. should reduce its nuclear deterrent from 1,550 weapons to 300 weapons, supposedly the size of China’s strategic nuclear arsenal (according to the U.S. arms control community.)
However, only Beijing knows how many nuclear weapons China really has — some estimate not 300, but 3,000.
Another recent article, “Democrats and Republicans Agree: Phase Out Land-Based Nuclear Missiles” Forbes (August 12, 2020), describes a poll by the University of Maryland designed to persuade 80,000 Americans that U.S. ICBMs are unnecessary.
Russia and China would love elimination of U.S. ICBMs. They can destroy all U.S. bombers and two-thirds of missile submarines with just five warheads, but destroying all U.S. ICBMs requires at least 400.
Let’s hope New START negotiations are dead, since Washington’s arms control establishment is dumb enough to trust the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of “Blackout Wars,” and also of “The Power and the Light,” available on Amazon.com.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of “EMP Manhattan Project: Organizing For Survival Against An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe.”