Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ) asserts in a recently published opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that the “U.S. government has no higher moral obligation than to protect the American people from nuclear attack.”
Senator Kyl begins by revisiting the President’s unguarded comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea. To elucidate these whispers to Medvedev, Senator Kyl points to President Obama’s larger aspiration of a “world without nuclear weapons.” This is cause for concern. Obama’s apparent readiness to compromise U.S. missile defense capabilities for Russian cooperation in the realm of nuclear-arms reductions is a flawed approach to increasing global security.
For starters, all Russian demands regarding missile defense have a common denominator: They seek to limit the U.S. capability to defend from ballistic missile attack. For example, on numerous occasions, the Russians have insisted on the U.S. sharing the range and speed of missile defense interceptors, particularly the SM-3 block IIB. This interceptor would be capable of intercepting Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles and is, therefore, essential for protecting the American homeland.
While President Obama is pursuing nuclear arms reduction, the Russians are modernizing two of the three legs of their nuclear triad, increasing dependence on nuclear weapons and maintaining a robust nuclear warhead production capability. These actions demonstrate that the Russians have no intention of shrinking their nuclear warhead arsenal. President Obama’s inclination to compromise only increases America’s vulnerability to ballistic missile attack.
The President’s plans of lowering the number of deployed nuclear weapons could actually stimulate instability. Kyl points out that lower numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons could “encourage China and other nations to seek equivalence” and cause our allies to be “less certain about American nuclear guarantees” and, thus, develop their own nuclear capabilities. This is in alignment with The Heritage Foundation’s series of nuclear gaming exercises in late 2009, which concluded that “pursuing a policy of nuclear disarmament in a proliferated setting actually leads to instability. When confronted with a crisis, countries relied on nuclear weapons more, not less.”
The flawed approach of pursuing a “nuclear zero” policy in today’s proliferated environment is dangerous and puts the American people and its allies at grave risk. As Senator Kyl states, “Supporting a robust nuclear deterrent and an effective missile defense is a moral obligation for all those who are entrusted with ensuring our nation’s security.”
Bryan Kimbell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/internships-young-leaders/the-heritage-foundation-internship-program