CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
- Apr 21, 2009
- Reaction score
Much to the disarmers’ chagrin, however, studies in and out of government showed that the U.S. and Soviet leadership rarely, if ever, developed and deployed a nuclear weapon system only because the other side had it. Instead, leaders weighed a number of factors such as domestic political support, budget commitments, arms control priorities, allied support, development time, deterrent effect and more.
The dynamic was perfectly summarized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown’s famous quip about the Soviets: When we build, they build. When we cut, they build.
This reality has only come into starker contrast within the last month as the newly published U.S. Nuclear Posture Review revealed “Russia is modernizing an active stockpile of up to 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons” including short-range ballistic missiles, depth charges, anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes. The United States got rid of all such systems before or at the end of the Cold War, including the anti-submarine torpedoes, which U.S. submariners joked had a kill probability of two — the target and them.
While the Russians are apparently modernizing these battlefield nuclear weapons, nobody in the U.S. is scrambling to put an atomic warhead on everything, striking another blow to the action-reaction model.
Faced with a nonexistent quantitative arms race, disarmament activists and even former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who incidentally helped develop the technological superiority that the United States enjoys today, now warn of a qualitative arms race.
If the U.S. makes better nuclear weapons or more effective missile defenses, so the thinking goes, the Russians will just make better penetrating missiles in response.