Dear President Obama:
Since you recently returned from a NATO meeting in Warsaw, and agreed to deploy 4,000 NATO troops to the Baltic states and Poland to serve as a "tripwire" to deter Russian aggression — now is not the time for your White House to adopt a policy of "no first use" of nuclear weapons!
Mr. President, 4,000 NATO troops are inadequate to defend against Russian aggression.
Russian exercises mobilized 150,000 troops against Poland and the Baltics in a few days. Analysis by RAND and your own Defense Department warns the Russian Army can overrun this part of NATO in 60 hours.
The 4,000 NATO troops cannot stop the Russian Army. They are merely symbolic. That is why they are called a "tripwire" — meaning that Russian aggression against them could trigger nuclear retaliation by NATO.
Mr. President, if you now declare the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons to stop aggression by conventional forces, you will dangerously undermine NATO's credibility.
You will also cancel the credibility of other U.S. "tripwires" in South Korea, Japan, and the Western Pacific, intended to deter aggression by North Korea and China.
Indeed, a U.S. nuclear "no first use" pledge will embolden Russia, China, and North Korea to continue the expansion of their nuclear arsenals. These hostiles may reasonably conclude a U.S. "no first use" pledge is prompted by fear of their recent nuclear threats and growing capabilities — and could trigger aggression.
Even more dangerous is talk coming from your White House about breaking your promise to Congress to modernize the aged U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Mr. President, the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent is antique, perhaps obsolete, compared to the modern brand new strategic missiles being deployed by Russia and China.
Russia and China also enjoy a virtual monopoly in tactical nuclear weapons, because the U.S. dismantled its tactical nuclear weapons unilaterally.
During the Cold War, allowing Russia or China to gain an advantage in strategic or tactical nuclear weapons would have been called ceding "escalation dominance" — meaning in a crisis or conflict the U.S. would have to surrender, or risk defeat in a limited nuclear war that could escalate to utter annihilation.
Mr. President, your failure to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and to strengthen National Missile Defense is forcing your Defense Department to adopt plans for preventive warfare that are far riskier and more dangerous than the U.S. nuclear posture that has deterred World War III for over 70 years.
Bill Gertz in "Pentagon Developing Pre-Launch Cyber Attacks On Missiles" (Washington Examiner, April 14) reports: "Defense officials familiar with the research said the new, non-kinetic missile defenses include the planned use of cyber attacks and other electronic warfare means, such as electromagnetic pulse attacks, against foreign command and control systems.
"An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is the force emitted from a nuclear blast that can disrupt all electronics over wide areas."
The Pentagon's categorization of EMP as a non-kinetic weapon like cyberattack follows the lead of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, in whose military doctrines nuclear EMP attack is considered part of all-out cyber warfare.
If U.S. "tripwires" and the United States itself are to be defended by striking first with cyber and EMP weapons — then potential adversaries will inevitably "lower the nuclear threshold" and launch their missiles at the first sign of a cyber or EMP threat.
Mr. President, instead of declaring a nuclear "no first use" pledge that will look like weakness and be dangerous for world peace, let your legacy be really constructive.
The U.S. power grid can be attacked by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran or terrorists in a cyber and EMP first strike, killing millions. Since global instability is worsening — it is urgent that the U.S. immediately harden its grid against cyber and EMP attack.
Mr. President, modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent is necessary for world peace and for incentivizing Russia, China, and North Korea to engage in negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons.
One of President Ronald Reagan's great legacies was the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons and the first reductions of strategic nuclear weapons — achieved by modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent, giving Reagan credible forces to trade in arms control treaties.
Finally, there is a better way of defending North America and NATO than by striking first with cyber and EMP weapons. President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, foolishly derided by the press as "Star Wars," invented a revolutionary new missile defense system called "Brilliant Pebbles" that would have worked, had SDI not been canceled by President Bill Clinton.
SDI technology has been proven, in peaceful applications, by NASA in Moon exploration and in the private sector space program.
SDI could make unnecessary the dangerous revolution in military technology now underway developing offensive cyber and EMP weapons for striking first.
SDI could replace these destabilizing offensive technologies with stabilizing defensive technologies, and make the world a much safer place.
Mr. President, reviving the Strategic Defense Initiative is the only realistic way of making nuclear missiles obsolete and achieving the vision you share with President Reagan of a world without nuclear weapons.
Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, 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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