Leading national security expert and Heritage Foundation Vice President Dr. James Carafano tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama's proposal to reduce nuclear weapons would actually make nuclear war more likely rather than less.
He also criticizes Obama's "incredibly failed policy" in Afghanistan and says negotiations with the Taliban will get us "nowhere."
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And he asserts that Obama has been "risk adverse" when it comes to dealing with the conflict in Syria.
Dr. Carafano is the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. He is a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His books include "Private Sector, Public Wars: Contractors in Combat - Afghanistan, Iraq, and Future Conflicts."
President Obama on Wednesday gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and renewed his calls for nuclear arms cuts, proposing a one-third reduction in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Carafano was asked if we can ensure American security while also limiting nuclear weapons.
"Short answer is no," he says.
"This has been a strategy that the president has been supporting since he came into office and it's that the United States can reduce the threat of nuclear war by reducing our arsenal and in a sense setting a good example for others.
"The problem with that is it's done almost in absence of any strategic assessment of what threats are and what requirements are. As the United States reduces its arsenal, perversely what it's doing is just making everybody else's arsenal more powerful and more important.
"The United States is a global power with global interest so in order to deter potential enemies, we have to look in every direction and we have to have a sufficient number of nuclear weapons to deter in every direction. So imagine the day in the possible near future where Iran has a robust nuclear arsenal, North Korea has a nuclear arsenal, and they start to threaten the United States simultaneously and the United States winds up looking in two directions at the same time. So the subtext and the irony of his speech is he's actually making the potential for nuclear war, nuclear escalation more likely, not less."
Addressing reports that Obama might move forward with arms reduction by executive action and without Congressional authorization, Carafano says: "The president, in terms of defining nuclear requirements, pretty much has a free hand. He is the commander in chief and the Pentagon will always rubber stamp whatever the president says.
"Now Congress doesn't have to go along with that. If for example if the president wants to do it through a treaty that's negotiated with Russia, the Senate would have to affirm that treaty. If the president just wanted to unilaterally reduce the arsenal, Congress could write laws prohibiting him from doing that, prohibiting him from spending money doing that.
"So Congress does have a role and the president doesn't have absolute power but he has an awful lot of authority, which is why people really ought to think about these kinds of issues when they decide who to vote for for president."
Obama says he wants America and Russia to move beyond the Cold War nuclear postures, but tensions between the two nations remains high.
Carafano observes: "First of all, this notion that we have to move beyond the Cold War is idiotic and stupid and any politician that says that has just told you that they are vacuous and completely lacking in new ideas. The Cold War has been over a really long time. The reality is that America has moved on from the Cold War decades ago. So has Russia, China and the rest of the world.
"In terms of the U.S. relationship with Russia, it's in horrible condition. Relations aren't good but they aren't good for the right reason. We're different countries that want different things. Russia is drifting toward totalitarianism. Russia is trying to monopolize and control the countries on its border. Russia is supporting really bad people. The United States is none of those things.
"If we were actually swinging hand in hand with Russia, I'd be really concerned. When President Obama says we should be getting along and we should be shoulder-to-shoulder with the Russians, that makes me nervous for what kind of country he thinks the United States really is."
Carafano is critical of Obama's decision to put off the last phase of missile defense in Eastern Europe: "He's cut the budget for missile defense by well over a third. Even as we escalated the concern over North Korea earlier this year and the president said he would put additional missile interceptors in Alaska and California, he continued to cut the budget.
"I suppose you can make an argument that if the president was trading away missile defenses and making us more vulnerable to attack, maybe he actually got something concrete for it, but he's gotten absolutely nothing for it, and it's not like he's saving us a lot of money. Missile defense is a fraction of the Defense Department's budget.
"But missile defense is the only defense against the most catastrophic thing that could end the world as we know it. It's the ultimate insurance policy against the ultimate disaster. The fact that the president doesn't see it that way, again that really concerns me whether he really does have a clear concept of how to protect and defend the United States."
Turning to the ongoing civil war in Syria, Carafano tells Newsmax: "The Syrian conflict is multifaceted. There is a block of Hezbollah militias, which is bad, awful, terrible, horrible people. There is a rebel group made up of an alliance of Islamists extremists, including al-Qaida, which are just as bad. And then there are groups which I would categorize as legitimate freedom fighters. I would hate to see those people be crushed and pushed out of the country.
"I'm not for a deep U.S. involvement in the war. What the president should be doing is working with countries that could potentially stem the destabilization, could set the conditions for a situation where you could potentially have at some point in the future a viable Syria. So we should be working the Israelis, the Turks, the Jordanians, the Gulf Coast states, and Iraq.
"We should be demonstrating real leadership instead of what the president's doing. He has been kind of absent and risk averse. So he's doing the minimum to get by that allows him to escape criticism without getting deeply engaged and being responsible for anything."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is rejecting peace talks with the Taliban and suspending talks with the United States. President Obama described these talks as an important first step. Asked if the United States should be negotiating with terrorists, Carafano responds: "Negotiating with the Taliban's going to get you nowhere.
"The Taliban think we're leaving. Their idea of peace negotiations would be something like the Vietnamese idea of peace negotiations in the Paris Peace Talks, which is as soon you leave we're going to overrun the country anyway.
"So the president saying that these peace talks are important is really a fig leaf for an incredibly failed policy, where he has, as he did in Iraq in many ways, grasped defeat from the jaws of victory. It's pretty pathetic. And honestly, the Taliban are sitting there and they're laughing at him."
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