Recently, Daryl Kimball and Tom Collina, both of the Arms Control Association, criticized the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) for taking hostage the implementations of the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) in order to provide necessary funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration. The article misrepresents facts.
New START mandates U.S. unilateral reductions and does not serve U.S. interests. Both authors assert that if the National Defense Authorization Act passes in its entirety—that is, including provisions tying the treaty’s implementation funding with funding for the nuclear weapons complex—Russia would be allowed to rebuild “its nuclear forces above the treaty ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S.” This is just not so.
The State Department’s own data exchanges indicate that Russia was under New START’s limits when the treaty entered into force and built above its limits while the U.S. keeps unilaterally reducing its nuclear arsenal. Russia intends to build up to New START’s limits regardless how much the U.S. spends on modernization of its nuclear weapons complex. The treaty’s degraded verification regime does not provide for the strategic insight that the U.S. needs, given that Moscow launched the most robust nuclear modernization program since the end of the Cold War after the treaty entered into force.
Kimball and Collina complain about levels of spending for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. In fact, this complex has been under-funded for years. Even the Obama Administration acknowledged the importance of this funding. It committed to request funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, the very facility Kimball and Collina criticize as too expensive and of little value. Indeed, the Administration’s enduring commitment has not endured for a year since the treaty entered into force.
Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. nuclear weapons have contributed to global stability and prevented attacks on the U.S. homeland, forward-deployed troops, and U.S. allies. It is essential that the U.S. provides funding for its nuclear weapons complex and avoids “disarmament by atrophy.” As the numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons go down, other countries will be incentivized to develop their own capabilities or build up nuclear weapons to achieve “parity” with the U.S.
Instead of unilaterally disarming, the U.S. should move toward a “protect and defend” strategy combining offensive, defensive, conventional, and nuclear weapons. This is the best way the U.S. could respond to the challenges of today’s environment.