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Obama to reduce nuclear deterrence by a third.

This is a discussion on Obama to reduce nuclear deterrence by a third. within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; A press release from the White House states the President plans to further reduce strategic weapons through a bilateral agreement ...


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Old February 11th, 2013   #1
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Obama to reduce nuclear deterrence by a third.

A press release from the White House states the President plans to further reduce strategic weapons through a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation but it is not a new START treaty. First off Russia and America are not the only nuclear powers on earth so is there a point where further reductions require cooperation and transparency with other nuclear powers? China has been modernizing its delivery systems while the numbers of strategic weapons China has has come into doubt.
Also I believe the size of our arsenal was to ensure that should there be a first strike the redundant warheads ENSURE retaliation. I ask you, the experts, is this doable? I'd also remind you the administration is currently reviewing its contingency plans regarding China in such a war and how and where to hit them given there massive tunnel networks.
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Old February 11th, 2013   #2
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A press release from the White House states the President plans to further reduce strategic weapons through a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation but it is not a new START treaty. First off Russia and America are not the only nuclear powers on earth so is there a point where further reductions require cooperation and transparency with other nuclear powers? China has been modernizing its delivery systems while the numbers of strategic weapons China has has come into doubt.
Also I believe the size of our arsenal was to ensure that should there be a first strike the redundant warheads ENSURE retaliation. I ask you, the experts, is this doable? I'd also remind you the administration is currently reviewing its contingency plans regarding China in such a war and how and where to hit them given there massive tunnel networks.

Both sides have massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons, well in excess of what would be required to destroy the population and industry of the other - and both need to make cost savings. It's in both sides interest to reduce their nuclear arsenal. China's nuclear stockpiles are in comparison, much lower and I'm sure that the US will end up retaining enough firepower to effectively destroy either or both countries at will.

Unless there's something pretty stunning planned in these talks, this looks like a prudent measure to slim down a fairly large stockpile to mutual advantage.
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Old February 11th, 2013   #3
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I see. It appeared to me that we could face a situation to respond against cities or military targets but not both. I was also thinking of nations where the U.S. guarantee's their security and in exchange they don't develop an indigenous nuclear arsenal. Regarding China however I recently read a report (don't have link, sorry) that suggested U.S. intelligence is far off the mark in regards to the PRC's stockpiles perhaps by over a thousand warheads. With that said should further reductions be made with China, Russia, and the U.S. as it could also allay concerns on China's lack of transparency regarding it's capabilities and intentions?
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Old February 12th, 2013   #4
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I see. It appeared to me that we could face a situation to respond against cities or military targets but not both. I was also thinking of nations where the U.S. guarantee's their security and in exchange they don't develop an indigenous nuclear arsenal. Regarding China however I recently read a report (don't have link, sorry) that suggested U.S. intelligence is far off the mark in regards to the PRC's stockpiles perhaps by over a thousand warheads. With that said should further reductions be made with China, Russia, and the U.S. as it could also allay concerns on China's lack of transparency regarding it's capabilities and intentions?
Some of the information suggested above seems suspect. Per the Arms Control Association site, China has ~240 nuclear warheads, while Russia has ~1,500 deployed and ~1,000 non-deployed strategic nuclear warheads and ~2,000 tactical nuclear warheads. Meanwhile the US ~5,000 nuclear warheads, which are a mixed of strategic and tactical, and deployed and non-deployed.

For the estimate of China's nuclear arsenal to be off by 1,000+ warheads, the arsenal would need to be ~5x larger than current estimates.

At present, the US and Russian arsenals are sufficiently large to devastate vast swaths of the world population. Given progress made in both targeting, and detection, there is less of a need for massive arsenals to ensure MAD. An ICBM launch in many cases would take some where between 10 - 40 minutes before reaching the programmed target. In most cases, an ICBM counterstrike could be launched for the inbound first strike reached their targets. Add in the difficulty in destroying deployed SLBM forces before they could launch, it becomes even harder to prevent a nuclear counterstrike. And MAD is really was is required/desired.

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Old March 19th, 2013   #5
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Some of the information suggested above seems suspect. Per the Arms Control Association site, China has ~240 nuclear warheads, while Russia has ~1,500 deployed and ~1,000 non-deployed strategic nuclear warheads and ~2,000 tactical nuclear warheads. Meanwhile the US ~5,000 nuclear warheads, which are a mixed of strategic and tactical, and deployed and non-deployed.

For the estimate of China's nuclear arsenal to be off by 1,000+ warheads, the arsenal would need to be ~5x larger than current estimates.

At present, the US and Russian arsenals are sufficiently large to devastate vast swaths of the world population. Given progress made in both targeting, and detection, there is less of a need for massive arsenals to ensure MAD. An ICBM launch in many cases would take some where between 10 - 40 minutes before reaching the programmed target. In most cases, an ICBM counterstrike could be launched for the inbound first strike reached their targets. Add in the difficulty in destroying deployed SLBM forces before they could launch, it becomes even harder to prevent a nuclear counterstrike. And MAD is really was is required/desired.

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Personally i believe that both US and Russia have way to much warheads anyway.
With the tech available today 1 current ICBM is just as much bang as 100 older types, and much much more effective and accurate.
In the past years missile tech and delivery systems as well as guidance and targeting systems have become so mature and sophisticated that there would be no need anymore for a barrage of inaccurate warheads.

I am not sure but i did read somewhere that the older ICBM missiles where far from accurate hence the idea that a huge stockpile was preferred to ensure that if one missile could not hit the target then 10 would.

So the nuke capable nations could easy dismantle a portion of their stockpile (Specially the NOT updated/upgraded ones) and still retain their potential.

Personally what i believe that i would be just as worried about nations having 10k warheads as they would have only a 100.
For the plain and simple reason that the ICBM in general has become so much more powerful that in theory one could say: In the old days there where lets say 1000 nukes needed to level Russia but in todays terms only a 100 would do the same job.

So question is: Are these stockpiles actually getting smaller, or are they just trowing away the ones they did not need anyway?
So one could say that the stockpiles do get smaller but twice as potent, thus bigger.

Ask yourself the question, what is better 1000 small ones or 100 big ones who do a 100 times more damage then the previous 1000 old ones.

Or do you really believe that the US or Russia or any other nation for that matter is going to dismantle their premium missiles first? lol
(sarcastic)

And in regard of China i did see a television docu about the rumor that China would build under ground tunnels where they would (Rumor) mass produce high yield warheads and delivery systems. Obviously i do not know if this is true, but it does lead me to believe that neither the US or Russia or any other nuclear power has reported all their little eggs.

Non the less nuclear deterrent provides a mutual security to both friend and foe.
For the plain simple reason that if nation X would launch a first strike then it can be assured that they will meet the same faith as the targeted nation.
Not to mention the effect that WMD's have on the worlds political stage.
Keep in mind that the US did enjoy a significant bonus and sway on the worlds political stage due those ICBM's.
Some could say if you do not have a nuke then you are not playing on the same level as the "big" boys. And as history shows thanks to those nukes the US and Russia as well as China and other nuclear powers did enjoy some serious benefits, as if those nukes would not be present then those events would have gone seriously wrong or at least did not have such positive outcome for the host nations.
Because lets be honest here, having nukes is one very solid foundation to base your world politics upon.

During the Second world war the US where the first to successfully develop a few and they where the first to use them. Now reason or no reason fact is that the enormous power and shock did make friend and foe realize that unless the US where to stop producing/researching them there was no other alternative then to acquire them as a deterrent against the US. As non of the involved parties did realize that it might be better to put a stop to this on a global level.
So one could say that the US started the arms race...based upon the fear of the so called red danger from the former USSR.

My point is today everyone is trying to reduce stocks and avoid non WMD states to acquire them, but if the world leaders would have been a bit smarter then they would have put a stop to this 50 years ago.
As today a world without nukes is virtually impossible, and stopping other nations from getting them is also virtually impossible.
And even if this is possible then there will be always a few nations who can dig a few "forgotten" ones up out of the old bunkers, and use them if there is a need for it.

US will not be without a nuclear umbrella, and neither will Russia, China, France, UK, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea and eventually other nations will acquire them as well or at least develop the tech to be able to produce them at any given time.

Reason? The whole power balance and the way international politics is being done is formed and build around the idea that nukes are a invisible diplomat. You can life with them and you certainly cannot live without them.
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Old March 19th, 2013   #6
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The thread title is badly phrased. Reducing nuclear weapons by a third =/ reducing nuclear deterrence by a third. It might reduce it more, or (more likely) reduce it by a lot less, or even nothing at all.

The level of deterrence can not be measured by counting warheads. It's a lot more complicated than that.
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Old April 18th, 2013   #7
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Obama's decision to cut our strategic nuclear forces by a third is a mistake.Russia is developing new icbms and we're doing nothing shows what kind of fools that are in DC.
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Old April 18th, 2013   #8
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Obama's decision to cut our strategic nuclear forces by a third is a mistake.Russia is developing new icbms and we're doing nothing shows what kind of fools that are in DC.
Russia is developing new ICBM's to replace old ones which are being phased out, and their strategic arsenal has been reduced from its Cold War era heights. The US arsenal is also somewhat reduced but the current munitions IIRC are more accurate.

Given that US the strategic nuclear arsenal is sufficient to destroy vast population centres several times over, just how large do you feel is required for a MAD deterrence?
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Old April 18th, 2013   #9
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Obama's decision to cut our strategic nuclear forces by a third is a mistake.Russia is developing new icbms and we're doing nothing shows what kind of fools that are in DC.
I suspect you lack perspective. I suggest you look up the term "overkill" and work from there.

The arsenal that both sides worked up to during the cold war was massively overspecified to actually work for ultimate deterrence. What the US arsenal was designed around was nuclear war fighting - and in the way that all spending is allocated whoever gets more missiles or warheads, gets more money.

The USAF in particular, via SAC, were loaded to not only take out every soviet facility, they invariably had multiple weapons allocated per target. As one observer commented, it was no longer enough to turn the target into gravel, it was now deemed to be necessary to "bounce the gravel".

I'm pretty sure the UK deterrent force could destroy the USSR or China if the warheads were distributed more widely. The US has another couple of thousand warheads on tap.


What I'm trying to say is that there is scope for some solid cuts and yet still leave a solid deterrent force...
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Old April 20th, 2013   #10
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If our goal is to avoid increasing tensions with China and the Russia, then surely gestures of good faith like this are more productive than any number of nuclear deterrents? The Cold War is over. The US reduces its nuclear stockpile, China does the same, isn't that a win-win? You would prefer us to use the Cold War model and enforce global peace at a knife point rather than on a basis of mutual trust?

It's in nobody's interest to actually use these weapons and their maintenance is costing money. Money that can be used in other areas of military spending such as the F35 or any other number of military development projects that seem to fall short of expectations (Crusader, etc.)

While both the PRC and Russia are still potential adversaries, it is quite short-sighted to view them as the inevitable enemy. One may end up forgetting that other enemies exist. It may even end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, resulting in a conflict no one actually wanted. World War One, anybody? Though, I admit, they did really want to have a war in 1914.

Polarizing nations into factions results in deadlock and mistrust. As you refer to the "fools in DC," I would have thought that the current state of politics in Washington DC would have been an excellent example why one cannot drive two factions into their corners. Instead, you seem to be condemning the model on a domestic level yet proposing it on a national level.
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Old June 26th, 2013   #11
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Well we all saw the President in Berlin talk about those one third reductions I previously mentioned. The Russians have stated further reductions must be multilateral AND must address the American inventory of precision guided munitions. Moscow claims it nuclear weapons give parity to since they lack the PGM stockpiles available to NATO forces. Even members of Congress are pushing back , mainly from the GOP, but nevertheless pressure is there to not reduce any further.
Senators have also said Russia isn't even obligated to reductions from the 2010 start and that the United States has more or less been unilaterally disarming. The question many of you and others ask is how many is enough. I nelieve a force capable of "flexible" response after sustaining a 50% reduction in counter strike capability to be adequate. If the strategy is MAD, is it still assured following a first strike or is it probable mutually assured destruction. Today our arsensal is capable, but 15-20 years from now that may no longer be the case. Our bombers are increasingly vulnerable, the silos don't move which means potentially some could be negated, and that leaves the boomers as I believe the most effective (also aging) platform available to the nuclear triade, principally because their black holes in the water.
Now I don't think anyone has anything to gain from such a conflict but to pretend it will never happen seems like wishful thinking and naïveté. Russia and China are authoritarian regimes that have proven over seven decades to be anything but friends to the United States. With Snowden, territorial disputes in Asia, Syria, Iran, can someone tell where this brinksmanship isn't becoming more apparent? I don't want to put them into "factions" but appearing weak to the Chinese and the Russians, could lead to a miscalculation somewhere down the line.
And to answer another poster yes we did scrape our most advanced ICBM, the MX during the 80's. I'm talking about a deterrent that can still be effective following a-unlikely-first strike. I realistically don't see strategic weapons going away. In fact I predict the 21st century will find new demand especially has tensions between nation states sround the globe rise, and remember while Europe and America are more or less disarming themselves, most of the rest of the world is rearming. But sticking ones head in the sand could always work too.
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Old June 29th, 2013   #12
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As mentioned upthread, the US has more than enough nuclear firepower to return any three nations on earth to the stone age and will continue to do so after any politically feasible degree of reduction.

What more do you want? Governments to cease all spending on anything other than preparing for war in any insane and unlikely form?
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Old June 29th, 2013   #13
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As mentioned upthread, the US has more than enough nuclear firepower to return any three nations on earth to the stone age and will continue to do so after any politically feasible degree of reduction.

What more do you want? Governments to cease all spending on anything other than preparing for war in any insane and unlikely form?

Well first off I'll ask the question, how to you determine what IS adequate? There never has been an exchange so how it will play out is unknown. So forming a strategy based on unknown variables but claiming its sufficient sounds strange.
What I want to answer your question would be to address the aging nuclear arsensal, as mentioned up thread. Other nations are developing ABM's and more advanced air defenses to shoot down bombers. I believe I addressed this but hey who doesn't love beating a dead horse? My proposal would be a reduced arsenal but a more capable, survivable arsenal. Replacing the minuteman 3's with something similar to the MX makes sense. You can have a smaller arsenal and still ensure its survival. Can you dispute U.S. platforms are just plain old? I'm not talking size entirely, I'm talking about long term effectiveness of aging platforms. I'm not some war junkie and note the title of the post, I view strategic arms as detrrence. My worry is not everyone will agree with that so being prepared, can offer pause to any would be aggressor.
Also, does anyone know if the SSB(X) offers a capability boost over the Ohio class? Are the quiter or deeper diving. Our triade is being neglected.
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Old June 30th, 2013   #14
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Well first off I'll ask the question, how to you determine what IS adequate? There never has been an exchange so how it will play out is unknown. So forming a strategy based on unknown variables but claiming its sufficient sounds strange.
What I want to answer your question would be to address the aging nuclear arsensal, as mentioned up thread. Other nations are developing ABM's and more advanced air defenses to shoot down bombers. I believe I addressed this but hey who doesn't love beating a dead horse? My proposal would be a reduced arsenal but a more capable, survivable arsenal. Replacing the minuteman 3's with something similar to the MX makes sense. You can have a smaller arsenal and still ensure its survival. Can you dispute U.S. platforms are just plain old? I'm not talking size entirely, I'm talking about long term effectiveness of aging platforms. I'm not some war junkie and note the title of the post, I view strategic arms as detrrence. My worry is not everyone will agree with that so being prepared, can offer pause to any would be aggressor.
Also, does anyone know if the SSB(X) offers a capability boost over the Ohio class? Are the quiter or deeper diving. Our triade is being neglected.
The Cold War era nuclear arsenal was built around, and based off MAD. The rough estimates IIRC were that the US arsenal alone could devastate the Soviet/WarPact nations ~20 times over. It was that large for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that some of the aresenal was in tactical nuclear devices in the ~20 kt range. These were to be delivered to 'battlefield' targets and hard/strongpoints, bridgeheads, enemy troop concentrations, via SRBM, rockets, tube artillery and other methods.

The reality is that such weapons are political weapons far more than battlefield, which means that the decision on when and where to employ them would not realistically be left to a general or colonel who would know where to use it. Also, given the short ranges involved, some of the effects so such weapons would be occuring on or over friendly troops/territory. Hence the decision to dropp significant portions of the nuclear arsenal, simply because it makes a terrific threat, but would be of little practical use.

The second reason is that the strategic response has less and less of a role for manned bomber. This is also because of the nature and limitions of manned aircraft in place of ICBM's. If Russia were to hypothetically initiate a nuclear exchange using ICBM's launching from the Russian mainland, the timeframe from launch to impact/detonation is =<20 minutes. The US would likely detect the start of the nuclear exchange within 5 - 10 minutes of initial launch. That is believed to provide sufficient time for a counter launch, before the first detonations over the US. However, even if the US strategic bomber fleet was kept on a constant hotpad status (launch within 5 minutes), it is quite likely that many or most of the strategic bombers would either be destroyed on the ground before take off, of lost in flight via EMP or other damage caused by detonating warheads. If the bombers actually make it out of US airspace and successfully navigate to their targets in Russia (which might already be destroyed by US land and sea-based nuclear warheads) then the US bombers would need to contend with the remnants of the Russian air defences (again, depending on what has already been nuked).

In short, other technology has made one portion of the US nuclear triad basically obsolete. An ICBM like a Trident II can deliver a dozen 475 kt warheads on target within ~20 minutes, while a manned bomber would take in the neighborhood of 12 hours to arrive on target. Given that a Trident II can deliver it's MIRV's with a CEP of 120 m or less (likely less) and how the missile on it's way before an enemy first strike would have the opportunity to take it out... It does IMO seem rather a waste to keep a large stockpile of nuclear gravity bombers for strategic bombers which would be largely destroyed before they could ever use them. And those which could get a chance to use them would likely find their targets already hit by our ICBM warheads.

The US at this point needs to maintain a nuclear arsenal large enough and modern enough to launch a counter strike against another nation which will be on it's way before their inbound first strike would take our ability to strike away. The US strike would also need to be potent enough so that rational nations/leaders are concerned about MAD.

I think it fair to say that the current US arsenal meets those requirements, and will for some time to come.

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Old July 2nd, 2013   #15
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The US at this point needs to maintain a nuclear arsenal large enough and modern enough to launch a counter strike against another nation which will be on it's way before their inbound first strike would take our ability to strike away. The US strike would also need to be potent enough so that rational nations/leaders are concerned about MAD.

I think it fair to say that the current US arsenal meets those requirements, and will for some time to come.

-Cheers[/QUOTE]


Yes nuclear weapons are political weapons, but war is a continuation of state politics, by other means, so I wouldn't discount them based on their limited battlefield utility. I think the paragraph of yours that I quoted hit the point I've been trying to make. So do you agree the U.S. triad needs modernization or will it still be effective 20 years from now? Bear in mind Russia and China are both developing ABM systems and while they may not stop a massive attack, considering that the minuteman no longer has a MIRV capability couldn't the future effectiveness of those missiles become degraded? Could they be upgraded to fly an evasive course? I think the size of the force can be reduced, but a smaller arsenal should also be more survivable. The Ohio class subs are hard targets but they are getting old, the B-52's have been extensively updated for this mission but again their ability to operate in a contested environment has come into question. Also their is talk of taking a significant amount of ICBM's retained in the new force off launch on warning alert. To me, that's like having a gun for home protection but keeping it locked away and hard to get at. Chances are if you'll ever need it, you'll need it quickly and won't have time to prepare. So by the time those missiles can be brought back up to speed, it could already be over and they'll just be sitting in the ground.
Bear in mind many countries are very secretive about their respective stockpiles and not everyone is as transparent as the U.S. about nukes and not every nation has a no first use policy. Seems more like foreign policy based on the world we want, not the world as it is.
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