February 10, 2019 – 01:00 PM EST
By Peter Pry, opinion contributor 79
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
“Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking … until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history,” Winston Churchill wrote in 1935.
Far more important than last week’s State of the Union address, any TV report or newspaper headline is a little-noticed report by Dr. Mark Schneider: “Does Russia have a 2-1 advantage in deployed strategic nuclear weapons?”
Schneider, a former Defense Department official and top-notch nuclear strategist, convincingly shows that Russia has “over 3,300” strategic nuclear weapons, exceeding a 2-to-1 advantage over 1,550 U.S. weapons allowed by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
Does it matter that Russia finally has achieved its Cold War ambition — overwhelming superiority in the longest-range, most destructive weapons that could annihilate America in 30 minutes?
For those who think not, a history lesson.
Prior to World War II, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan cheated on arms limitation treaties, assisted by “useful idiots” in Western democracies who helped to cover up or make excuses for Axis cheating. Only Winston Churchill during his wilderness years, some Tory backbenchers, and dissident military experts foresaw the gathering storm that would become World War II.
When the storm broke in 1939-1941, even Churchill was astonished by the magnitude of Axis military superiority that conquered Western Europe and the Asian Pacific with lightning speed.
For decades, the United States repeated these mistakes with nuclear arms control treaties. Russian cheating has been covered up, regarded as less important than “the arms control process” and as militarily inconsequential.
Washington elites still are largely asleep to the fact of Russian nuclear superiority and its terrible implications.
For years, Russia violated the U.S. Presidential Nuclear Initiative on tactical nuclear weapons, not reciprocating U.S. dismantlement of short-range battlefield warheads. Now Moscow has an at least 10-to-1 advantage in those.
Moreover, since Moscow would strike first against the few hundred obsolete U.S. tactical nuclear bombs bunkered in Germany and Turkey, these U.S. weapons are not survivable.
For years, Russia violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, their cheating covered up by an Obama administration eager to sign New START.
Since the INF Treaty was first and foundational to the arms control process of nuclear weapon reductions, Moscow’s violations should have shaken Washington’s faith in all treaties with Russia — including New START.
Wisely, President Trump is withdrawing from the INF Treaty. Unwisely, Washington’s unshakeable faith in arms control continues.
Arms controllers should read former ambassador Henry Cooper’s expose, “New Arms Control Sheriff!” The State Department won’t let you read about Russian cheating in “A Quarter Century Of Soviet Compliance Practices Under Arms Control Commitments: 1958-1983.” All but a summary is still classified.
So Russia cheated to gain superiority in short-range tactical weapons and cheated to gain monopoly in intermediate-range weapons for nuclear war in Europe and Asia.
Now, evidently, Russian cheating has gained superiority in the most important category — long-range strategic weapons for nuclear war against the United States.
The anti-nuclear crowd doesn’t think the nuclear balance matters. Yet, Russia obviously does think so. That is why it has cheated to gain superiority in tactical, intermediate and strategic nuclear weapons.
For years, Moscow has convinced itself, and told us, that nuclear superiority matters and it can win a nuclear war. That’s why Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, last March 1 on world television, threatened the U.S. with his new nuclear super-weapons: “Listen to us now.”
We have helped Russia to gain nuclear superiority, and not only by ignoring its cheating.
One big fallacy of arms control pretends that equal numbers of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons constitute “parity” or equality of destructive capability. In fact, “parity” has always disadvantaged the United States. Huge disparity exists between U.S. and Russian counterforce targets. U.S. nuclear bases, missile silos and “C3I” (command, control, communications and intelligence) targets number fewer than 500; Russian nuclear targets are at least several thousand, including hundreds of deep-underground command posts for 300,000 political-military elites that cannot be destroyed by any existing U.S. weapon.
While Russia can easily destroy all U.S. targets, the United States cannot even cover the entire Russian target-set, even if striking first with an undegraded force.
Huge disparity also exists between U.S. and Russian countervalue targets because U.S. population and industry are more concentrated. “Assured destruction” of 25 percent of Russia’s population and 75 percent of its industry requires 400 equivalent megatons (EMTs), whereas Russia needs only 100 EMTs for assured destruction against the United States.
After a Russian first strike, the United States would lack enough survivable weapons to inflict assured destruction, but, to quote Churchill again, Russia has enough weapons to “make the (U.S.) rubble bounce.”
Russia cheated on the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, deploying nationwide defenses against U.S. retaliatory strikes, while the United States has no equivalent anti-missile capability.
With 3,300 strategic weapons, Russia can make a disarming first strike against not only the United States — hitting every target 2-to-1 — but also Britain, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, China, North Korea and still strike the world’s other 189 nations with nine nuclear weapons each.
Washington still sleeps. But someday, perhaps soon, this nuclear arithmetic may decide the fate of the world.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of a new book, “EMP Manhattan Project: Organizing For Survival Against An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe.”