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The Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe Is Greater Today Than During the Cold War

On the verge of a new nuclear arms race, it is vitally important to remember that the terrible risks of drifting back to a Cold War are no longer necessary to be taken.

In his article for Huffington Post William J. Perry, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense discusses trends of contemporaneous nuclear conflict development.

During the infamous Cold War, it was acknowledged that the nuclear potential of the U.S. having at the disposal a so-called nuclear triad (intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers equipped with nuclear bombs and air- and submarine-launched missiles) was powerful enough to play a role of an ensured impediment against potential nuclear attacks of the Soviet Union. Even the conservative estimates of the U.S. nuclear forces demonstrated that the country’s might was more than enough to destroy the USSR many times over.

However, maintaining a deterring force of such level constitutes certain threats such as unforeseen eruption caused by miscalculation or by accident. Many have thought that those risks might be justified by threats posed by the Soviet Union. With great power comes great responsibility and when the Cold War was over, it was fair to suppose that the time of taking those terrible risks was over as well.

Perry continues: “When I was secretary of defense, I made it my highest priority to reduce the dangers posed by the Cold War nuclear arsenal, especially the "loose nukes" in former republics of the Soviet Union. During my term in office, we dismantled about 8,000 nuclear weapons in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union (including all of the "loose nukes"), signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and ratified START II. When I left office, I thought we were well on our way to dealing with the danger posed by the Cold War nuclear arsenal.”

Although tension was merely reduced by implementing the Moscow Treaty during Bush’s tenure and the New Start Treaty during Obama’s administration, the progress is yet far from ideal. The mental drift back to a Cold War still takes its course. Moreover, the risk of a nuclear catastrophe nowadays is closer than ever and the blissful ignorance of new dangers will have a harmful effect on our public.

“Russia is already well underway in its rebuilding program, and it has lost no opportunity to advertise what it is doing. It has also used this arsenal to threaten its European neighbors (with Iskander missiles) and the U.S. (proclaiming that "Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash"),” assumes Perry.

These threats may be by all means rhetorical, but nevertheless, it is in the nature to provide a similar response to a certain threat. But would giving up diplomacy and recreating the arsenal of the Cold War be an adequate answer? The great costs and even greater dangers of such outcome that affect the very survival of the civilization must be taken bindingly to say the least.

Diplomacy, says Perry, is capable of settling down the present U.S.-Russia confrontation; the risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism might very well be prevented by disputing and working together on the issues. Under present geopolitical circumstances, it is still important to sustain a powerful deterrent, but there is no real need in forces similar to those of the Cold War.

“In the last five or six decades, technology has changed enormously, as has geopolitics. I believe that it is not necessary to continue to maintain the triad that was established during the Cold War. I would support a recapitalization of the submarine force and the building of a new long-range stealth bomber, which, like the B-2, could be used for either nuclear or conventional forces. But I would let the ICBM force and the ALCM force phase out as they aged, rather than replace them. Dropping those two systems would be significantly less costly than rebuilding them, and our strategic bomber forces would still provide an unambiguously strong deterrent. Phasing out the Minuteman force has the additional benefit of reducing the possibility of an accidental nuclear war, by eliminating the need for a "launch-on-warning" policy,” concludes Perry.

Considering the huge risks and costs involved, the only way to prevent transcendental security collapse it is really important to arrange a serious national discussion, the outcome of which is vitally important for the U.S. and world security and financial condition.

 

Photo provided by CTBTO under Creative Common 4.0 license. No changes were made.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

What I find most incredible about this article is not the acknowledgement that a nuclear war is possible, it is indeed possible and the way things are going now, even likely. John Pilger, Michael Gorbachev, Stephen Cohen and Oliver Stone all said this openly. What I find most incredible is the denial of the writer of the responsibility of the Obama administration to the current crisis and the growing possibility of a nuclear war, all while presenting the US as a victim of Russian aggression and that the US must defend itself of the inevitable.

The writer explains that “the New START Treaty in the first term of the Obama administration… entailing modest reductions in our deployed nuclear forces. But since then, reductions have stopped.” It is true. The new START treaty was supposed to entail the reduction of nuclear warheads in Europe. What happened then? Well, the US withdrew from the Anti-ballistic missile treaty (ABM) which was held since 1972.  ABM was all about limiting anti-ballistic missiles used to defend areas from ballistic missiles that carry nuclear weapons since the two super powers found themselves in a never-ending competition and wanted to lower down the danger of a confrontation. However, the US decided to withdraw unilaterally from ABM in 2002, although Russia kept its obligations. Most recently, since around September 2015, the US placed B61 nuclear bombs in the Büchel army base in Germany. So which side is pushing for a nuclear war? William Perry is advocating building a new nuclear bomber while ignoring the fact that the US is the one pushing for a nuclear war and in fact taking part in creating disinformation and in presenting Russia as a danger while it wanted to maintain the ABM agreement and supported a reduction of tension.

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