For almost a half a century, the United States and the U.S.S.R. fought a nuclear arms war, the “Cold War.” The “Cold War” officially ended August 19, 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Ironically, the war ended without a battle or a shot fired. In fact, nuclear weapons have only been used once. In the Second World War, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs, one on Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki. So, what is the future of the Nuclear Weapons Policy, housed in the United States? For now, the future seems to lie in reduction and deterrence.In 1991, the United States and Russia signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). According to the treaty, the United States and Russia reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the two countries from 13,000 and 11,000, respectively, to around 8,000 each. The Second treaty (START II), signed in 1993 and ratified in 1996 by the United States says that each nation would further condense their number of deployed warheads to between 3,000 and 4,500, which brings the total to approximately 10,000 nuclear weapons for each side, by the projected 2003 date.
START III, which would reduce the level of warheads to 2,000-2,500, cannot be discussed until START II Russia ratifies START II. In addition, nuclear testing ended for both sides and the production of weapon-grade fissile material has stopped. The nuclear treaties leave enough nuclear capability, in both the United States and Russia, to damage an attacking nation. In fact, without Russia and the United States nuclear arsenal, there are a little over a thousand weapons divided among the rest of the world, as reported by the Center for Defense Information, as long as all the countries in the world approve Test Ban Treaty. In addition, defense experts believe it would require only a little over a thousand nuclear missiles to fen off an attack. Therefore, neither country needs to fear that they will not have the strength to retaliate. Actually, the United States and its NATO allies retain their Cold War “weapons of last resort’ doctrine that allows the first use of nuclear weapons if deemed necessary to cope with non-nuclear attacks, and Russia has announced that she will abandon the USSR’s no-first-use pledge for a position similar to NATO’s.
“The US and Russia have 5,000 to 6,000 nuclear missiles ready to launch on 15 minutes notice,’ says Joe Cirincione of the Henry L. Stimson Center. That hasn’t change since the beginning of the Cold War.'” (Landy, p.2)Reduction also saves the country money, keeping financial advisors for the countries welfare, pushing for arms reduction.
From 1940 to 1996, the Brooking Institution estimates that the U.S. government spent roughly five and a half trillion dollars in preparation for a nuclear war, in today’s terms (3.
5 actual). That would be the combination of all the Fortune 500 companies’ revenue. Then in 1995, they consumed another twenty-seven billion dollars to prevent a nuclear war. In fact, each of the B-2 bomber lifecycle cost falls above two and a half billion dollars, accounting for about fifty-five percent of the total spending on nuclear capabilities.During the cold War Era, nuclear power became the strategic deterrence against both a nuclear attack and a major conventional war, because a more effective plan had not happened and the adversarial relationship between the U.S.
and Soviet Union made it irresponsible to rely on good intentions to prevent a nuclear assault.The character of nuclear weapons and the diverse means for delivering meant that attempts to defend the United States or its allies against nuclear attacks on the population could be over come with much less effort than would have to be invested in the defensesHowever deterrence is likely to succeed only if there are credible plans for what to do if it fails, but constructing such a plan is exceedingly difficult, and attempts to make the threat of nuclear retaliation credible can be seen as aggressive advantage seeking by the other sideadditional countries to assert the same need and right, leading to further nuclear proliferation. (Academy of Science, p.3)Proof of the power of the fear of nuclear retribution as a prevention comes from comments of senior Iraqi officials, “the United States successfully prevented Iraqi use of weapons of mass destruction during the Gulf War through the threat of nuclear retaliation which Saddam Hussein found convincing.” (Center for Security Policy, p.3)The majority of citizens consider nuclear weapons a deterrence to counter attack. However, opponents of the plan to downsize and ban nuclear testing believe that downsize in Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban Treaty will hinder the deterrence effect, opening the United States to nuclear attack from rebel nations (N.
Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya). Secretary Weinberger expressed the view that as long as any nation has even one nuclear weapon, the United States will require a deterrent of its own.” (Center for Security Policy, p.2) Several former and present government officials, diplomats, journalists and public policy analysts observed that radical reductions schemes, reflect traditional arms control principles of the Cold War Era, that seem more unrealistic then that of the post-Cold War.
“Russia is no longer the sole nuclear threat to the United States.” (Center for Security Policy, p.4) The former and present officials commented that, “weapons that were designed for service life of 20 years remain in the active inventory long beyond that point, changes in the chemical and other properties of the component parts occur that can impinge dramatically, even catastrophicallyIn the absence of periodic testing, there is no certitude that such changes will be detected, let alone properly correctedin order to prepare for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the United States would need to conduct ten nuclear tests per year for ten years.” (Center for Security Policy, p.5-7)I am as unsure about nuclear weapons policy as the next person. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has its flaws, and from a scientific stand point, I would have to agree that testing is required for assurance of components working properly and the material remaining stable (enough).
The media’s stand point, political and social propaganda clouds our judgment of the matter. All I know is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed a multitude of lives. The Atom Bombs exploded killing a couple hundred thousand people on impact, maiming many more. However, the later effect opened the United States’ policy to scrutiny. Radiation poisoning killed hundreds of thousands of people for the next ten years, after the initial explosion.
In third grade I read, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, as did many children around the world, informing the world of the consequence of the decision. War takes millions of lives, like in “Saving Private Ryan”. D-Day was all about numbers, out of a hundred, maybe twenty would make it to the enemy to fight. Nuclear weapons changed that, a long-range missile could fight the war and maybe only a few hundred thousand will perish, instead of a million. However, the future seems to pull toward reduction and deterrence.
Works CitedLandy, Jonathan S. US Downsizes its Nuclear-Weapons Ambitions (December 24, 1997). The Christian Science Monitor.
14 November 1999. <http://www.csmonitor.
com/durable/1997/12/24/us/us.1.html>.Nuclear Facts n’ Figures. Center for Defense Information.
14 November 1999. <http://www.cdi.org/issues/nukef&f/facts&figures.html>.Summary of the Center for the Security Policy’s High Level Round Table Discussion on the Future of the U.S.
Nuclear Deterrence, 15 July 1997, the Ana Hotel, Washington D.C. The Center for Security Policy. 13 November 1999. <http://www.security-policy.org/papers/1997/97-P117at.
html>. The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: Executive Summary.
Academy of Sciences. 12 November 1999. <http://www.
nap.edu/readingroom/books/fun/summary.html>.Newman, Richard J. A U.S. Victory, at a Cost of $5.
5 Trillion: The Nuclear-Arms Race Gets a Price Tag (7/13/98). U.S. News & World Report. 1999 Nov 18.