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Tags: arms control | brilliant pebbles | nuclear weapons

The Unacceptably High Cost of Arms Control

The Unacceptably High Cost of Arms Control
(Konstantin Egudin/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Thursday, 11 July 2019 04:15 PM EDT

Arms control negotiations and treaties have cost the West a lot more than champagne and caviar for diplomats in Geneva.

The United States and allies have paid dearly for their arms control addiction in worsened international security. Arms control has constrained the U.S. unilaterally, and given Russia and other potential adversaries significant strategic advantages.

One example: Russia has an at least 3-to-1 superiority in operational nuclear weapons (tactical and strategic), thanks to arms control.

Perhaps even more dangerous is how the ideology of arms control has become second nature to U.S. policymakers, consistently misleading them to disadvantage the United States.

Arms control pretends to an objective “rational actor” model that assumes moral equivalence and makes no distinction between the worldviews, histories, and behaviors of the United States and its arms control “strategic partner.” Indeed, the focus is on controlling arms, especially nuclear arms, not on controlling nations, as if the weapons themselves are the most dangerous variable.

Such thinking, fixated on controlling inherently dangerous nuclear weapons, was a major factor driving the United States to deeply reduce tactical nuclear weapons under the Presidential Nuclear Initiative (PNI) and strategic nuclear weapons under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START and New START).

No one in Washington seemed to consider the possibility that U.S. and global security might not benefit from deep reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons — to levels where Russia could afford to sustain nuclear parity. Arms control, seeking to maintain the U.S.-Russia nuclear balance, instead forfeited to Moscow (and also possibly to Beijing) numerical and technological superiority they never enjoyed during the Cold War.

If the U.S. had not sacrificed its Cold War inventory of about 10,000 strategic and 15,000 tactical nuclear weapons, perhaps today Russia and China would be so far behind they would not even dream of nuclear arms racing.

Perhaps the costliest national security sacrifice on the altar of arms control is President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and the opportunity through space-based defenses to render nuclear missiles obsolete.

President Clinton would not withdraw from the ABM Treaty and the MAD relationship with Russia, that he deemed “the cornerstone of strategic stability” in order to deploy SDI’s Brilliant Pebbles space-based anti-missile system, then ready to go. Instead, President Clinton canceled both SDI and Brilliant Pebbles — thereby surrendering the only plausibly realistic pathway to achieving the dream of both President Reagan and President Obama for “a world without nuclear weapons.”

Historically, arms control was not even able to ban the crossbow. Technological innovation made the crossbow obsolete — and can “ban” The Bomb.

Arms control has also cost the United States and the world dearly by terminating or stunting peaceful uses of nuclear energy that had potential for revolutionary advancements in technology and science. For example:

— The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) stopped U.S. and Soviet projects to develop peaceful nuclear explosive devices, that produced little or no radioactive fallout, for a wide variety of purposes, including excavating underground storage facilities, canals, tunnels, making much easier and faster very large-scale construction projects.

— The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) moved the U.S. to de-emphasize the nuclear power industry and stunt development of innovative new technologies, like modular nuclear reactors, abandoning the realizable promise of a global revolution in cheap, clean, safe energy.

— The LTBT also killed a potential revolution in space travel. In the 1950s, programs like the U.S. Project Orion were successfully experimenting with the concept of nuclear-powered propulsion by shockwaves, that could possibly propel enormous spaceships, weighing hundreds of tons and capable of carrying hundreds of passengers, to the planets and beyond.

Arms control may yet cost humanity the ultimate price — extinction.

James Green in “Nuclear Weapons Might Save The World From An Asteroid Strike — But We Need To Change The Law First” argues for stopping NASA and Russian scientists planning to use Russia’s high-yield ICBMs to deflect monster meteor collisions, until international lawyers first negotiate arms control treaties regulating nuclear schemes to save planet Earth. Green acknowledges negotiations could take years.


Do not link U.S. modernization of its nuclear Triad and tactical nuclear weapons to arms control negotiations, if at all possible.

Before the U.S. engages in another failed adventure negotiating arms control treaties with Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran — the State Department and larger arms control community should agree to support rapid expansion and strengthening of U.S. strategic defenses.

Space-based missile defenses like Brilliant Pebbles, according to former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, Ambassador Henry Cooper, can be deployed in about 5 years (by 2025) at a cost of $20 billion.

Brilliant Pebbles would close the window of vulnerability to the growing nuclear missile threat from Russia and others much more rapidly than modernization of the U.S. nuclear Triad, mostly to be accomplished after 2030 at a cost of about $700 billion.

Passive strategic defenses, hardening U.S. critical infrastructures against electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber-threats, could be accomplished in an accelerated program in 3 years for $2-4 billion.

Strategic defenses could quickly compensate for the catastrophic failures of arms control.

This article is Part 3 of a series. Click Here to read Part 2. Click here to read Part 1.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Arms control negotiations and treaties have cost the West a lot more than champagne and caviar for diplomats in Geneva.
arms control, brilliant pebbles, nuclear weapons
Thursday, 11 July 2019 04:15 PM
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