June 24, 2013
By Peter Brookes
There’s a lot more to President Obama’s proposal Wednesday in Berlin to cut U.S. nuclear warheads by one-third (beyond the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) if Russian President Vladimir Putin agrees to do the same.
Sure, the president believes that taking the world down the road to “nuclear zero” is possible. While a pipe-dream, a lot of people oddly believe it’s feasible, too.
So far Putin has given the idea of further nixing nukes the cold shoulder, no doubt in response to long-standing disagreements over U.S. missile defenses and more recently over efforts to oust Bashar Assad from Syria.
Then again, why would Russia agree to further cuts in its nuclear arsenal since it’s involved in a major modernization program that’s allowing it to grow — yes, grow — its nuclear forces to U.S. levels under New START?
Pretty good deal for Moscow if you think of it: The Amerikanskies cut their nukes while the Russkies get to plus-up their stockpiles to levels equal with those of Washington.
Plus, for both countries, the nuclear threat to their security is hardly getting better. Cutting warheads could be a big mistake — which brings us to the other reasons for the president’s plutonium-packed proposition.
The performance of his non-proliferation plans have been — shall we say — less than perfect. While it’s hard to believe the White House thought the Kremlin would bite, the proposal wasn’t just meant for Russia.
Obama may very well believe that if the United States shows some good will on denuclearization, others will follow our lead down the non-proliferation primrose path.
For instance, at the moment the North Koreans and Chinese are strategizing in Beijing about Pyongyang’s return to multilateral meetings on the North’s nuclear program.
Obama hopes his new no-nukes notion will kick-start talks with North Korea by indicating the United States is willing to reduce its nuclear holdings. The North should, naturally, be willing to do the same.
It also applies to Iran, where there’s been no progress over the last five years to bridle Tehran’s runaway nuclear program. Iran isn’t only continuing to enrich uranium, it’s modernizing facilities with upgraded centrifuges.
Of course, considering the lack of headway negotiating Iran’s nuclear program, with a new Iranian president recently elected, what better time than now to make a non-proliferation push in hopes of getting some movement?
Then, of course, there’s China. Beijing is immersed in a significant strategic modernization. Beyond mobile ICBMs, it’s also sending nukes to sea on subs and may be building out bombers for nuclear missions.
All of this is in the absence of China’s participation in arms control initiatives. While Beijing won’t eagerly join any effort to restrain its nuclear buildup, Obama may hope to open a conversation by showing some good intentions.
Unfortunately for the president, none of those he needs to reach with his no-nukes message are listening.
-Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
First appeared in the Boston Herald
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973