OREPA Coordinator Ralph Hutchison sent this letter to the Washington Post in response to an OpEd piece by two former National Security Advisers who offered a frail defense of the policy of deterrence and US/NATO nuclear weapons in Europe.
Editor, The Washington Post:
Scowcroft and Hadley, et al, in their August 17 Washington Post opinion piece about US nuclear weapons in Europe, describe the arguments of those who want to withdraw dangerous nukes from NATO as “shopworn, familiar—and wrong.”
So says the pot to the kettle.
Nuclear weapons, they say, are political weapons. It is not clear when they say this whether they are introducing of a new field of historical reinvention—the Hiroshima-denier—or just an oversight of convenience.
Scowcroft and Hadley wag their fingers at other nations for modernizing their nuclear weapons programs. To pretend the United States is not also aggressively modernizing its nuclear forces through Life Extension Programs that cost tens of billions of dollars (right now upgrading the W-76, with the B-61 scheduled to follow), modifying warheads to introduce new military capabilities, is disingenuous if not duplicitous. The Government Accountability Office projects US spending on nuclear weapons modernization will reach a trillion dollars over the next thirty years. This includes a brand new multi-billion dollar bomb plant the United States is building in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Spending for US nuclear weapons has increased every year since 2009—if this is restraint, one wonders what unfettered modernization would look like.
In the end, Scowcroft and Hadley rely on the most shopworn and familiar argument of all: nuclear weapons in Europe are an effective deterrent. This argument ignores the profound risk those weapons present and refuses to acknowledge an obvious truth: our reliance on nuclear weapons compels other nations to pursue their own nuclear capabilities.
The presence of NATO nuclear weapons did not deter Russia from annexing Crimea. The policy of deterrence relies on a relative balance of power and a rational commitment to self-preservation from those being deterred. The US projection of massive nuclear force establishes an asymmetric power dynamic. Add to that a self-abnegating, goal-oriented adversary willing to strap explosives to his or her chest, and, well, someone needs to tell Scowcroft and Hadley their policy has no clothes.
Those who advocate a different model—and want nuclear weapons out of Europe—are recognizing we no longer live in a Superpower Stand-off world. We seek a policy and practice that is responsive to today’s challenges and positions the US and the world to move forward toward the greater security promised by Obama’s Prague speech.
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