- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

President Bush's vision of a new grand strategy is in two parts. Part 1 is to deploy global defenses against ballistic missiles. Part 2 is to sharply reduce nuclear weapons and the missiles that carry them. The administration's determination to move beyond the ABM Treaty and deploy defenses is now clear to all, though Moscow and Beijing are still in denial.
What is yet to be decided is how low Mr. Bush will reduce U.S. nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States now has some 7,200 strategic nuclear warheads on missiles and bombers, and Russia has about 5,800. All year, Moscow has been pressing Washington to agree to cut to 1,500, but the nuclear posture review is still under way and the number to which the United States can reduce has not yet been decided.
The 1993 START II agreement calls for cuts to 3,000-3,500 warheads, but START II is effectively a dead letter since Russia's Duma added provisions requiring continued adherence to the ABM treaty, which the United States will not accept. The START limits are meaningless anyway, since Russia's nuclear arsenal is aging and most of it will be retired in the next decade. Moscow wants to go down to 1,500 warheads because its economy cannot sustain a larger force.
Mr. Bush sees an opportunity to draw down the huge nuclear arsenals on both sides. It is ridiculous to be maintaining more than 7,000 nuclear warheads, each of which could destroy a city, 10 years after the end of the Cold War. Richard Perle, a major hawk in the Reagan administration, now suggests that fewer than 1,000 is possible. The Joint Chiefs have been reluctant to go lower than 2,000-2,500, in the belief that nuclear weapons are needed to deter adversaries from threatening the use of weapons of mass destruction as a way of preventing the United States from taking actions that are in its national interest.
But the Cold War arsenal of thousands of city busters may not deter post-Cold War threats. What is needed now is not weapons of mutual assured destruction, but new ones with lower yields, greater accuracy and deep penetration capability the kind that can target Saddam Hussein's bunker or an underground nuclear weapons plant. New types of both conventional and nuclear weapons are needed for the new deterrence.
The United States and Russia continue to manufacture small numbers of strategic ballistic missiles. The United States produces 12 D-5 submarine-launched missiles and Russia 10 SS-27 mobile ICBMs each year (although last year Moscow only had enough money to make six). The most useful and survivable ballistic missiles are those that can be moved around. Russia and China are producing mobile ICBMs. The United States has no mobile land-based missiles, since the Air Force chose instead to build big, 10-warhead MX missiles and deploy them in fixed silos.
Mr. Bush now proposes to retire all 50 MX missiles. Next to go should be the aging Minuteman missiles and then the even older B-52 bombers.
The mobile U.S. missile is the D-5, 24 of which are carried on each Trident submarine. Each D-5 can carry one to eight nuclear warheads, though plans call for four in the future. The present 18 Tridents will be reduced to 14, retiring two and converting two to cruise missile carriers. That will leave 14 submarines as the backbone of the U.S. strategic deterrent. With two being overhauled at any given time, 12 will be deployable with 1,152 nuclear warheads. Quiet and invisible under the sea, these nuclear weapons carriers, together with the 21 stealthy B-2 bombers, would leave the United States with more than enough nuclear power to deter any adversary.
To allow the safe reduction of the huge arsenal of old nuclear weapons, two things are needed. One is to design a few new low-yield nuclear weapons using the most advanced technologies to make them smaller, simpler, more accurate, able to penetrate deep underground, and safer. This probably will require a few underground nuclear tests to assure they work as intended, which shows the wisdom of Congress in refusing Bill Clinton's pressure to accept the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Also needed is a commitment to extend the life of the 14 Trident submarines and the D-5 missiles they carry from 30 to 44 years, as the Navy has proposed. That will require new nuclear reactors for the subs and at least 50 more D-5 missiles so flight tests can continue over the life span of the weapon system. The D-5 has been a spectacular missile, achieving 94 straight successful launches.
As the administration plans deep cuts in the nuclear deterrent, it should take the steps needed to modernize what will be left. Funds should be requested in the next defense budget to develop a new nuclear warhead and to extend the life of the Trident submarines and their D-5 missiles.


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