As U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Ages, Other Nations Have Modernized
By Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan
While the nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia cooled off after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, it has never ended. Indeed, the long-held hope for continual reductions in nuclear forces now seems unattainable, nuclear arms analysts say. For the first time in years, the U.S. and Russia each have increased the number of nuclear warheads deployed over the latest six-month monitoring period — the U.S. by 57 additional weapons and Russia by 131.
Russia is spending $560 billion on military modernization over the next six years with 25% allocated to aging nuclear forces, part of a program to replace all of its Soviet Union-era launchers. U.S. officials say it will take at least $355 billion over the coming decade to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal and keep up with the rearmament spree underway in the rest of the world.
“Our rival powers are investing billions of dollars to modernize and improve their nuclear systems,” said Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander, warning that if the U.S. is “to remain credible,” it must maintain nuclear preparedness as a priority.
But veterans of the Cold War also say tit-for-tat responses in nuclear confrontation carry grave risks, anchored to erroneous assumptions that a nuclear exchange would leave one side in better condition than the other.
“God help us if we ever need them,” said Philip Coyle, a former nuclear weapons scientist, director of nuclear testing, senior Pentagon official and national security advisor.
The U.S. and Russia both continue to field land-based missiles that could be launched in a few minutes, submarine-based missiles able to deliver a devastating counterpunch to any surprise attack, and bombers that could loiter in threatening holding patterns above the Arctic.
Read the article in the LA Times.