Allies of the United States have been left with no choice but to re-examine their nuclear weapons programs as the administration of President Barack Obama minimizes its own deterrents.
Obama announced soon after he became president that it is the policy of the United States to focus on preventing nuclear proliferation and terrorism with minimal resources following the end of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.
“I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” he said in a 2009 speech in Prague.
Shortly after his Prague speech, Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia that required the U.S. to cut its arsenal while allowing Russia to further develop its own. China is currently the only other state with nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S. homeland. It has as many as 3,000 stored in a vast complex of underground tunnels.
“That makes some of our allies very, very nervous,” Michaela Dodge, research associate for strategic issues at the Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax. “Would you rather be protected against a country that is maximally deterred, or one that is minimally deterred?”
The result is that allies that have long lived under the U.S. nuclear umbrella such as Japan and South Korea are left with few options other than to develop their own nuclear program in the face of North Korean aggression and uncertainty about China’s ambitions.
“Key allies, including some NATO allies — South Korea and Japan — stress again and again the importance they attach to a credible U.S. nuclear umbrella,” according to Keith B. Payne. Payne is the head of the Graduate Department of Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
“The president's approach is mistaken,” U.S. Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Nothing demonstrates the hollowness of the disarmament dream as clearly as the international community's inability to keep regimes such as North Korea — and soon Iran — from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
The extent of Iran’s program remains largely unknown, but it is publicly committed to developing a nuclear infrastructure. Countries in the region with no nuclear weapons programs such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are reconsidering their nuclear future as a result of Tehran’s ambitions
India and Pakistan, also nearby, have long established their own nuclear weapons programs.
“If the U.S. is drawing down its nuclear deterrent, they’re going to say, ‘What about us?’” Phillip Karber, president of The Potomac Foundation, tells Newsmax. “There is a point when you draw down your forces to where you are no longer a deterrent.”
Karber supports the administration’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons, but believes that it is premature for the U.S. to abandon its nuclear munitions with so much lacking in monitoring and non-proliferation programs.
“What I do fault is this simplistic approach to pick this number out of the air and pursue it as an ideological goal and not discuss the serious issues that are involved,” he said of the 1,550 deployed warheads allowed to the United States and Russia under New Start.
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany have passed sanctions and incentives for Iran and North Korea to discontinue their nuclear ambitions, but they have so far been ineffective.
Karber says that the United States is entering a new era following the build-up of nuclear weapons stockpiles between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union and the drawdown of them. The new era invites other nations to compete with the two main nuclear powers.
If Obama has his way, he says, the United States “will have a minimum deterrent in a multi-polar world. All it does is deter an attack on our cities and not much else.”
The Defense Department has been faithfully following the president’s goals set forth in his Prague speech as outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Report. Obama has also been following through by reducing funding for the U.S. nuclear modernization program in support of non-proliferation objectives outlined in the NPR.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, is a member of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. His spokesman tells Newsmax that the United States minimizing its deterrents does nothing to reach non-proliferation objectives
“If you get rid of your nuclear weapons, you don’t know where non-proliferation will occur because many of these countries never had nuclear weapons before,” he said.
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