According to press reports, an undisclosed State Department report on the new strategic arms control treaty with Russia, called New START, reveals that the Obama Administration is not concerned about the implications of Russian cheating under the treaty. Specifically, the State Department report supposedly states that “any Russian cheating under the treaty would have little effect, if any, on the assured second-strike capabilities of U.S. strategic forces.”
New START is now being examined by a variety of Senate committees in advance of a possible future vote in the Senate on consenting to the ratification of the treaty. Up until now, Senate examination has made it appear that the Obama Administration was willing to use New START as a means for accepting a parity relationship with Russia in terms strategic nuclear forces. This development represented a huge concession to Russia because the treaty will force the U.S. to limit its strategic nuclear force in accordance with Russia’s lesser near-term capacity to field such forces.
The State Department’s report makes it clear that the Obama Administration’s real concession to Russia will be far larger. This is because it effectively concedes that the Administration really favors a “minimum deterrence” strategic nuclear force, where a large disparity in the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads in favor of Russia is determined to be insignificant. Under the minimum deterrence policy, the U.S. will give to Russia a many-fold advantage in the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear delivery systems and warheads. This comes at a time where Russia already has such an advantage in the number of non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The outlines of a minimum deterrence posture are described in an April 2009 report issued by the Federation of American Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to this report, the numbers of weapons in the U.S. arsenal can safely be reduced to roughly 1,000 by 2020, and later to 500 because the U.S. should radically and unilaterally change its nuclear deterrence doctrine. This recommendation comes despite the fact that New START’s ceiling is 1,550 accountable warheads and Russia plans to maintain in excess of 2,000 real warheads. Apparently, the Obama Administration’s assertions about the kind of strategic nuclear force the U.S. would retain under New START in its Nuclear Posture Review is little more than subterfuge.