Reducing the Deficit: A Nuclear Benefit

Posted on 16 October 2011 by Jerry

While unilateral reduction of nuclear weapons is certain to further negotiations with Russia, one of the side benefits of U.S. efforts to reduce budget deficits is the overture to NATO to remove tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.  This has been discussed for a number of years following the end of the cold war.  This proposed disarmament has recently been at the center of controversy surrounding President Obama’s negotiations with Russia.  The Russians have long maintained the U.S. must remove its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe before serious discussion can begin on reduction of similar weapons by Russia.  Apparently however, it has taken a serious budget deficit to give the U.S. the final incentive to move on the proposal.

It is reported that the U.S. government presently spends about $54 billion each year on nuclear weapons related programs.  President Obama has pledged to increase these amounts by $2 billion a year for bomb factories with an additional $12 billion more per year in the next 10 years to develop a new generation of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines and bombers.  Another way of portraying these expenditures is the development of a new fleet of 12 nuclear armed submarines at a cost of $110 billion, $55 billion for 100 new bombers, and a new missile to replace 450 Minutemen II ballistic missiles.  In addition the Department of Energy is planning to spend over $85 billion over the next decade to add new capabilities to nuclear warheads in the present stockpile.

Recent discussions between former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov, the former Russian Foreign Minister, have raised suggestions that both sides should consider cutting the size of their respective arsenals to 1,000 warheads or less from the level of 1,550 recently specified in the signed New START disarmament treaty.  In 2006 Steve Kosiak, now at the Office of Management and Budget, estimated a reduction of this magnitude would cut the arsenals by one third and save two-thirds of the annual cost.

It is not clear whether these massive expenditures are justified.  They may be designed to give us an enhanced negotiating position with the Russians or we may actually be planning to spend the dollars as allocated.  I am certain both positions are held as valid by people on both sides of the issue.  Whatever the case, the need to reduce the budget deficit, the pressures on the international economies or the simple fact that arsenals of this scale are no longer necessary should provide sufficient incentive for policy makers to seize the opportunity to initiate a much more aggressive reduction of nuclear weapons.

July 29, 2011, San Francisco, Protect Life – Nuclear Weapons

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 12, Protect Life – Nuclear Weapons there is a recommendation that nuclear weapons have outlived their usefulness and need to be managed by a neutral international third party which ultimately would be given the mandate to supervise and attest to their destruction.

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