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Global Zero Alert for Nuclear Forces
! ( 21 : .er pelow in the Beskmes Foreign Policy Studenogram
Harta site wwwh oftar, le is the the Global Zero Air to Nilear Forces (Brookmes. 1997). prom which thus article is doing
During the Cold War a massive array of opposing Soviet and U.S. nuclear forces stood ready for launch on a moment's notice. In accord with the perceived needs of deterrence, strategic and tactical nuclear weapons were scattered around the globe, carried by a host of ground, sea, and airborne delivery systems, and primed to inflict instant apocalyptic devastation in retaliation against any nuclear aggressor.
Today, the ideological tensions of the Cold War have dissolved, the urgency of the need for deterrence has diminished, and the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals are smaller. Yet thousands of warheads on both sides remain on hair-trigger alert. And, by a bitter irony, the geopolitical revolution that defused the Cold War confrontation has posed a chilling new nuclear danger- loss of control In an atmosphere of political turbulence and economic duress, Russia must now oversee the far-fung nuclear weaponry of the Soviet Union, much of it still ready for instant launch. The possibilities for nuclear anarchy are many-from unauthorized use of weapons by rebellious commanders in the field, to political breakdown in Moscow, to a spread of nuclear weaponry and matertat onto the global black market
But dangerous as these scenarios are, an effective and realistic solution exists: an international
agreement to take all nuclear weapons off hairtrigger alert, remove warheads or other Vital
components from the weapons delivery systems, and
institute monitoring arrangements to verify compliance. Such an agreement would drastically reduce the risk of a catastrophic failure of nuclear control. But it would also require nuclear planners to back away from their traditional focus on deterrence- and
to make a commitment to safety instead.
Safety Always Came Second The vast nuclear arsenals maintained by the superponers during the Cold War were a product, of course, of deep political and ideological antagonisnis. But they were also a product of the adversaries' commitment to deterrence, their faith that rational decisionmakers would refrain from striking first if they knew an opponent could retaliate with devastating effect. War was to be prevented by ensuring that cach of the opposing forces was capable of retaliation destructive enough and credible enough to override any potential gain from striking first. The two detense establishments deployed forces capable of retaliating against ten of thousands of enemy targets and to do so in the moments between enemy missile litt-ott and arriva
In all this, deterrence came first. Safety came second Not that safety's importance was lost on the rival strategic
organizations. After all, neither would likely have survived In key respects both the U.S. and Russian nuclear portthe political repercussions of a major failure in safety. folios are actually being enlarged. Russia, for example, has Much of their mundane activity revolved around safety dropped nuclcar “no-first-use" policy from its new miliduring peacetime. They strove to prevent the acudental. tary doctrine and expanded the role of nuclear forces to inadvertent, or unauthorized detonation of even a single compensate for the sharp decline in its conventional weapon. Nuclear weapons received continuous scrutiny. strength. The United States also appears reluctant to lower augmented on occasion by high-level special investiga- further its nuclear profile, despite the evaporation of the tions, to identity safety hazards and remedies. Both sides primary threat justifying nuclear vigilance during the Cold evolved sophisticated weapon design principles and oper- War: Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The United ational procedures to preserve effective control. On the States now projects conventional superiority over all essential point-nuclear detonation - the record was per- prospective adversaries and thus can rely more on conventect. On lesser but still critical points --- notably, nuclear tional and less on nuclear forces. Accordingly, further reaccidents resulting in the dispersal of toxic plutonium--it ciprocal nuclear reductions would be beneficial. Yet the was nearly perfect.
U.S. security establishment seems content with the nuniThat deterrence took precedence over safety is
bers allowed under START II and shows little interest in nonetheless demonstrable. If safety had been a governing another round of reductions. influence at the planning level, the strategic de- Prompting that reluctance are fears that Russia may re
ployments would not have been so vert to authoritarian rule and revive nuclear hostility tolarge, so dispersed, and so geared to ward the West. Despite the grim outlook for the rejuvenarapid use. At the design and daily tion of Russia's economy and the projected steep decline operational level, too, trade-ott's in its defense spending for the next decade or more, uncer
between safety and deterrence tainty about the Kremlin's attitudes toward the outside were regularly resolved in favor world has assumed critical importance in U.S. estimations
ot deterrence. For example, of the future nuclear threat and in planning U.S. nuclear locks to prevent low-level U.S. posture through at least 2005. The Pentagon strongly sup
weapons commanders from ports the traditional U.S. strategic mission as an insurance firing strategic forces were not policy. As Defense Secretary William Perry put it in the
installed on heavy bombers 1994 Defense Department annual report, “these Cold War until the early 1970s. on inter
tools of nuclear deterrence remain necessary to hedge continental ballistic missiles
against a resurgent Russian threat."
ing that they would not im- the Pentagon plans to use conventional weapons
marines because of fears that tory and deterrent role. The U.S. Air
out authorized launches. weapons of nass destruc-
dent and M-X mis- And the U.S.
siles, as well as the conventional
Strategic explosives used
Command has in Trident war
assumed major reheads, are relatively
sponsibility for plansusceptible to acciden
ning both nuclear and nontal detonation, safety re
nuclear strikes against these targets, quirements were waived for the
whose numbers could easily reach many sake of wartime performance.
hundreds and might approach a thousand
China will also figure more prominently in the global Changing Perspectives
strategic balance as it modemizes its ballistic missile forces Despite history's abrupt change of course with the end of Any significant increase in the nuclear threat China prothe Cold War, the established practi of deterrence, with jects at the United States may well prompt review of all its inherent danger, remains unchanged. Despite the U.S. nuclear planning, particularly the decision in the carly rollback of the nuclear arsenals set in motion by the Strate- 1980s to remove China from the U.S. strategic war plan. gic Arms Reduction treaties, nuclear policy and force de- Like the United States and Russia, other charter nuclear ployment on both sides are still directed toward deterring states are also disposed to invoke deterrence to justify agdeliberate attack. The nuclear confrontation is thus being gressive alert operations. Britain and France seem commitsustained by a dubious rationale that sustains hair-trigger ted to maintain a large portion of their nuclear forces on postures that undercut safety.
active alert, while China's extensive program of strategic modernization could bring its ballistic missile forces to a home bases. The retrieval and uploading of the payloads comparable level of combat readiness. Other states such as would require elaborate, time-consuming, and observable India, Pakistan, and Israel appear heading down the same procedures. Similarly, warheads (or other vital compopach. In spite of strenuous international efforts to deny nents such as guidance sets) would be removed from landmembership in the nuclear club, de facto and aspiring based missiles and put in storage -a standard Soviet pracmembers not only have nuclear weapons programs but tice for all land-based strategic forces until the late 1960s. also surely have plans if not current capabilities for Although warheads could also be removed from ballistic "weaponization"-mating nuclear warheads with dis- missile submarines (SSBNs), an attractive alternative is to persed delivery vehicles capable of rapid use. Intentions cake guidance sets off the sea-based missiles and place them and technical progress are difficult to gauge, but the gen- in storage on board attack submarines (SSNs) deployed at eral picture is clear enough and does not bode well. sca. Under routine practices, the components would re
The proliferation of advanced aircraft and ballistic mis- main separated at all times and invulnerable to attack. If siles with increasing range and accuracy certainly expands necessary during a nuclear crisis, the SSBNs and SSNs delivery options. In the name of deterrence, emerging nu- could rendezvous and quickly transfer the guidance sets. clear states can be expected to equip, or prepare to equip The SSBNs could then install the components on all misquickly. these delivery systems with nuclear weapons from siles in about 24 hours. their stockpile. And the decision by the United States, Rus- We should strive to further lengthen the fuse on all sia, Great Britain, and France to preserve rapid reaction pos- nuclear forces, extending the time needed to bring tures sets an international standard that encourages emula- them to launch-ready status to weeks, months, tion. Moreover, if the history of the nuclear superpowers is and ultimately years. a reliable guide, and the classical dilemmas of nuclear secu- Taking all nuclear weapons off nity come to bear strongly on regional dynamics, regional n- alert-adopting a stance of universal vals will be induced to shorten the fuses on their arsenals. "zero alert" in which no weapons Absent effective international constraints, the standards were poised for immediate for daily combat readiness seem destined to rise. launch-would not only cre
ate a strict international Safety First!
standard of safety for daily There can no longer be any justification for alert, but also ease nuclear
putting operational safety second. Not tensions by removing the
more demanding. The the major nuclear
former Soviet Union and
powers is the dangers
already imemerging From the
plausible. attendant turmoil make
But because loss of control the central
all of then exproblem of nuclear security. In
cept China can deed, the specter of nuclear anarchy
mount a strike with in the former Soviet Union animates U.S.
ease, their strategic nuclear policy toward Russia and drives U.S. support for the forces, particularly those of the United States and Russia, Yeltsin government and Russia's fledgling democratic in- maintain a daily posture of rapid reaction to deter it. A stitutions. Nor are weaknesses in nuclear control confined remote, hypothetical scenario thus induces alert operato the former Soviet Union. Lacking sophisticated systems tions that feed on themselves. Although designed only to for safely managing their arsenals, the aspiring nuclear deter, the operations confer the ability either to strike weapon states also face problems of control. And while back in retaliation or to initiate a sudden attack. The opdeliberate nuclear aggression growing out of regional ten- posing forces create and perpetuate the very threat they sions in areas like South Asia, the Korean peninsula, the seck to thwart. Middle East, and other potential hot spots is conceivable, In fact, an internationally monitored agreement to rethe specter of a catastrophic failure of nuclear command move all nuclear weapons from active alert status could and control looms even larger.
serve much the same purpose as traditional deterrence If safety is to become the paramount goal of nuclear se- Any initial preparations to restore alert status prior to atcurity policy, the operational stance of the world's nuclear tack would be detected and disclosed by monitors, allowforces in particular, their high combat readiness — will ing for counterbalancing responses, thereby denying a dehave to change. The major defense establishments must cisive preemptive advantage to any side contemplating lower their alert levels and coax the rest of the world to redeployment and sneak attack follow suit.
Zero alert would thus commate the techimcal pretext To de-alert the bomber forces, bomber payloads would for sustaining tense nuclear vigils in the post-Cold War be moved to storage facilities far away from the bombers' cra. Besides improving safety, it would relax the nuclear
stances, bringing them into harmony with improved po- Taken to its logical conclusion, this policy thrust would litical relations.
lead the Pentagon to make bold operational changes, in
cluding some form of zero alert, to ensure the safety of nuOvercoming Inertia
clear weapons in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Lutt to themselves, the nuclear establishments will never Yet the Pentagon's overriding commitment remains deteradopt a zero alert posture. The bureaucracies that created ring Russian nuclear aggression. the standard practices of deterrence cannot be expected to The review of the U.S. nuclear posture completed last put safety before deterrence.
September exemplifies the Pentagon's parochial perspecTypical arms negotiations, for example, have little scope tive. The review advocates aggressive hedging against a for reining in aggressive alert practices. Even with the low turn for the worse in U.S.-Russian relations. It ignores the ceilmgs on strategic nuclear arsenals imposed by START II safety hazards that persist or grow as a result of aggressive at the turn of the century, the nuclear superpowers could hedging. It advances a U.S. nuclear force structure and op
still keep thousands of warheads poised for immediate erational posture that will reinforce Russia's reliance on
operations are still generally peripheral to Russia's nuclear posture is more dangerous today than it
but their reaction time would not The Pentagon has so internalized deterrence as the
senal would still be cocked on different conceptions of nuclear threat—the risk of delib-
eráte attack and the danger of loss of control-into clear
lishment is aware of the clear planners could argue, with some justification, that
of the Russian political not only addresses the danger of nuclear anarchy but would
and Russian military establishments. It has
From the standpoint of operational safety, also conducted exercises to practice U.S. responses
Russia's nuclear posture is more dangerous tó nuclear anarchy in Russia, including scenarios that fea
today than it was during the Cold War. ture illicit strategic strikes by Russian commanders. Furthermore, U.S. strategic war planners are devising options that allow selective nuclear strikes against breakaway units of the Russian nuclear forces as a last resort to neutralize such units. The Pentagon is also spearheading an effort to assist Russia in dismantling its nuclear arms, an endeavor it portrays as an urgent priority of U.S. national security.
Mr. EHRLICH. Curt, I will get back to the Surikov —
Mr. EHRLICH [continuing). Document when I have my turn. At this point, I would like to recognize my fellow freshman from Arizona, John Shadegg.
Mr. SHADEGG. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Weldon, I want to start out by complimenting you and telling you that the Nation owes you, in my opinion, a great debt of gratitude.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you.
Mr. SHADEGG. You are obviously extremely knowledgeable in this area and carrying the fight very, very well.
I have got to tell you, I simply cannot understand and am mystified by the arguments of the other side. I listened to Mr. Spratt. He seems extremely knowledgeable in this area but the logic which supports his argument absolutely escapes me.
The notion that because, for example, it will be phenomenally costly to build an impermeable net over the entire Nation preventing the single a single launch from getting through, if there were a massive launch, is therefore some reason to delay in developing a system which could—and not just developing, in deploying immediately, as soon as we could get it deployed, a system which would intercept one rogue missile, much less four or five, which I understand is what we could do in the range of $2 to $5 billion, it is lost on me. When I talk to people in my district,
Mr. SPRATT. If the gentleman will yield?
That's because you didn't understand the argument. We don't have time to get into that, but I mean I'm not saying you didn't understand it. I obviously didn't make it clear, but that's not what I argued, but go ahead.
Mr. SHADEGG. Well, that's what I heard you argue and that's what I seem to hear on this issue, that because it's going to be very, very costly to do the whole net, we shouldn't be deploying anything
Mr. WELDON. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. WELDON. That is what the President said last year in vetoing the bill. That's exactly what he said, and he was totally, completely, 1,000 percent wrong.
Mr. SHADEGG. When I talk with the people in my district about this issue, they are, A, flabbergasted at the notion that we couldn't stop a single missile. And they don't say to me, well, yeah, but I'm not too worried about one. What about 500? That's not exactly their approach.
Let me ask you a couple of questions that are a little more specific. Mr. Spratt indicated that the bill we voted—we were to have voted on last week, which I believe we should have passed and I believe we are placing the Nation at risk by not passing, would have violated the ABM Treaty because it authorized potentially the deployment of either a sea-based or space-based system. You obviously disagree with that. I appreciate it if you would reply.
Mr. WELDON. I disagree with that because the bill specifically allows, I believe, a timeframe of 1 year to discuss with the Russians the ABM Treaty and the necessary modifications. And without put