Published on Time’s Battleland blog on February 15, 2013.
Article summary below; read the full text here.
U.S. nuclear weapons strategy remains largely based on a confrontation with the Soviet Union that no longer exists.
There is an emerging bipartisan and military consensus that it is time for an updated strategy and that a smaller stockpile would meet our security needs. Moreover, in this era of budget worries, further reductions could create significant cost savings that would free funding for higher priority security programs.
As President Obama begins his second term, early indications are that he plans to make the pursuit of a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction agenda a top priority. In his State of the Union address, the commander in chief indicated that as part of this agenda, the United States “will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals.”
A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that there appears to be consensus within the Administration and the military that the United States can reduce the size of its arsenal of deployed strategic warheads to between 1,000 and 1,100. (The New START treaty, which entered into force in February 2011, limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed warheads apiece.)
Nevertheless, many congressional Republicans and conservative organizations are worried about the prospect of further nuclear reductions. Enter Robert Zarate, policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative. In a February 12 opinion piece published on Battleland, Zarate warns that the President could be contemplating unilateral cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal (i.e. without Russian reciprocity), a policy choice he characterizes as “a fringe concept.”
The evidence Zarate marshals to support these claims, however, is far from persuasive.