1. Getting rid of all our nuclear weapons is a dangerous idea. Bad actors will continue to use dangerous weapons to do evil. These evildoers will not be inspired by a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate to give up their WMD. While seeking to limit the proliferation of dangerous weapons may be reasonable, it is not reasonable to simply give up our own weapons. Bad actors rarely respond to positive exhortations and good intentions. Instead, we deter bad actors through strength and the ability to retaliate.
2. In a time of reducing defense budgets, our nuclear weapons and our ability to deter becomes even more important. Our national security strategy relies on convincing potential adversaries that picking a fight with the United States is a bad idea because it will be very, very painful for them. Our nuclear weapons are the ultimate big stick that we carry to deter those bad actors. Our nuclear deterrent becomes even more important at a time when budget cuts are reducing training for our pilots and soldiers and thereby reducing our military’s readiness.
3. Reducing our arsenal actually makes the size of our adversaries’ arsenals more relevant. Right now, only Russia has a nuclear arsenal that is roughly equivalent in size to the United States. Other potential competitors, such as China, have never tried to compete with the United States in numbers, but if we reduce our nuclear arsenal further, we are in effect encouraging countries like China to build more nuclear weapons to achieve parity with the United States.
4. Reducing our arsenal may lead to our allies developing their own weapons programs. Countries like South Korea and Japan do not have nuclear weapons today in part because they are under the nuclear deterrence umbrella of the United States. However, some of these countries are already expressing concern about our ability to provide this extended deterrence. Reducing our arsenal further will almost certainly lead countries in Asia or in the Middle East to pursue their own nuclear weapons. In short, reducing our nuclear arsenal may lead to more nuclear-armed countries around the world.
5. Reducing our arsenal doesn’t save much money. The weapons that the President wants to cut have already been bought and paid for, so cutting them won’t produce any direct savings. Less than 4 percent of the Pentagon’s budget is spent on the nuclear weapons infrastructure and developing future nuclear weapons. Additionally, the one-third cut in our nuclear arsenal proposed by President Obama will not result in a one-third cut in our future nuclear weapons budget, because much of the budget is dedicated to the infrastructure needed to maintain safe and secure nuclear weapons. Cutting the number of nuclear weapons simply won’t save much money.
6. President Obama is negotiating from a position of weakness. A smart negotiator never starts a negotiation by laying all his cards on the table. Unfortunately, President Obama did just that, telling the Russians that he really wants to reduce our nuclear weapons arsenal and asking for their support. If we have already put a third of our nuclear weapons on the table, what more will the Russians ask for? An end to our missile defense system? A promise not to meddle in Russia’s sphere of influence? In a single misguided speech, Obama gave the Russians a huge amount of political leverage. Even if reducing our nuclear arsenal was a good idea, this would be the worst possible way to go about it.
Doug Lamborn, a Republican, is the U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 5th congressional district.