Spring intern Andrew Szarejko and I have a new piece on the Center homepage on the Ukraine crisis and the role of strategic forces. Here’s how we begin:
Like a bad penny that always seems to find its way back into your pocket, critics of the Obama administration are using a crisis abroad to recite their favorite talking points about the importance of nuclear weapons and missile defense to U.S. security.
Further Russian aggression toward Ukraine could be avoided, they suggest, if only President Obama would revive a Bush-era missile defense plan for Europe or at least accelerate the current plan, the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). If only Obama would consider deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe and provide additional billions (on top of the hundreds of billions already planned) to accelerate the modernization of the American nuclear arsenal, Putin would never show his bare chest again and return Crimea to Ukraine.
Some of these and other proposals can be found in the recent legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) titled “The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014”. The legislation calls for accelerating implementation of the EPAA, halting nuclear weapons reductions under New START and any further reductions until Russia is in compliance with its arms control obligations and is no longer threatening Ukraine, and prohibiting overflights of U.S. territory by Russian aircraft under the Open Skies Treaty using new digital surveillance devices.
These actions may satisfy a political desire to poke Russia in the eye and make the Obama administration look weak, but they are wrong-headed and don’t respond to the threat. U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defenses are largely irrelevant to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. While augmenting nuclear and missile defense capabilities and ditching existing arms control mechanisms will not dissuade Russia from engaging in more mischief in Ukraine, they could amount to pouring gasoline on an already large fire.
You can read the whole thing here.