President Obama announced yesterday during a speech in Berlin that “peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be.” However, it is the “dream,” not the distance, that is the issue.
The case for nuclear reduction sounds good in theory, as a “world without nuclear weapons” invokes utopian visions of world peace and cooperation. Nevertheless, further nuclear arms reductions would further exacerbate Russia’s current nuclear weapons advantage. Moscow is currently engaged in a major strategic arms buildup, which includes a recently tested intercontinental ballistic missile specifically designed to defeat U.S. missile defense systems.
Last year, during a visit to South Korea, President Obama claimed that the U.S. has “more weapons than we need,” a comment prefacing his intention to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The Administration is now prepared to reduce the U.S. stockpile to as low as 1,000 warheads. This is well below Heritage’s recommendation of 2,700 to 3,000 operationally deployed warheads on fully modernized short-range and long-range delivery systems.
Fully modernizing and maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal is paramount for fulfilling the U.S. “protect and defend” strategy for itself and its allies. This strategy comprises of a mix of active and passive defensive measures, including a layered comprehensive missile defense system and a modernized nuclear weapons arsenal. Currently, the U.S. is the only nuclear power without a substantive nuclear weapons modernization program.
At home, Obama’s commitment to unilateral nuclear arms reduction has not gone over well with senior Members of Congress, among them Representative Mike Turner (R–OH), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. Turner contends in a recent press release that “the President seems only concerned with winning the approval of nations like Russia.… Why else would he abandon his missile defense strategy and oppose the creation of an East Coast site?”
Further, the House of Representatives recently took important steps to mitigate some of the Administration’s flawed nuclear weapons and missile defense policies in its National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014.
Rather than engaging in dangerous wishful thinking, the U.S. should maintain and modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect its national interests.
Joshua Holdenried is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.