Nuclear Weapons a Bad Investment

On the radar: The excesses of nuclear spending; More defenses, more missiles; Markey on cutting nuclear budgets; Putin/Medvedev switcheroo; Libya’s uranium; North Korea’s inflated nuclear threats; and Sen. Garn on CTBT.

September 26, 2011 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Mary Kaszynski

Nuclear budget not a priority - ”While nuclear weapons play a much smaller role in U.S. national security strategy today than they ever have, the U.S. continues to retain far more nuclear weapons than it needs to maintain its security,” note Laicie Olson and Kingston Reif in World Politics Review. “In the current economic environment, it will be counterproductive to make unsustainable, open-ended commitments to hugely expensive programs” like modernizing the nuclear triad.

--”We need to invest in a strategy now that focuses on the threats of today and the threats of the future, not the Cold War threats of the past. America can guarantee its security and that of its allies in a more fiscally sustainable manner by spending less on nuclear weapons programs.”

The proliferation costs of missile defenses - “Security experts have been providing more reminders lately that in attempting to treat the effects of ballistic missile proliferation, missile defense programs are also having a counterproductive effect on the causes of ballistic missile proliferation,” writes Greg Thielmann at Arms Control Now.

--Thielmann cites recent analyses that argue U.S. missile defense efforts are stimulating ballistic missile proliferation, while missile defense cooperation is undermining the Missile Technology Control Regime.

”Freeze the Nukes, Fund the Future” - The US nuclear arsenal is an "outdated radioactive relic," writes Rep. Ed Markey in a letter to the Super Committee. Markey estimates that savings of $20 billion per year could be found in the nuclear weapons budget. The Project on Government Oversight unpacks his proposal.

--The latest report on defense spending from the Center for American Progress recommends cutting back to 311 deployed strategic nuclear weapons for savings of $43 billion by 2016.

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Putin and Medvedev swap seats - Surprising nearly nobody, Vladimir Putin announced he intends to return to the Russian presidency. Dmitry Medvedev is to become Prime Minister.

--”Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that while the reset could not have proceeded without Putin's blessing, his stridently nationalistic tone -- compared to Medvedev's technocratic approach -- would bring new uncertainty to the relationship.” Matt Spetalnick of Rueters reports.

Yellowcake in Libya - “We can confirm that there is yellowcake [uranium] stored in drums at a site near Sabha in central Libya," said IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor. “The IAEA has tentatively scheduled safeguard activities at this location once the situation in the country stabilises.” For now, a handful of rebels will secure the sites, The Telegraph reports.

North Korea’s limited nuclear capabilities - “North Korea’s KCNA news often threatens to launch ‘unprecedented nuclear strikes’...At this stage, North Korea’s outrageous nuclear threats against targets outside its borders are not backed up by actual capabilities,” write Peter Hayes and Scott Bruce of the Nautilus Institute.

--Contrary to recent proposals for developing new U.S. nuclear capabilities to deter North Korea, Hayes and Bruce argue, ”Countering the North’s rhetorical threat with more nuclear extended deterrence raises tensions instead of addressing the underlying problem of nuclear insecurity. Ultimately, the only way forward is to re-engage the North, and identify pathways that create confidence and reduce the mutual perception of the threat of massive destruction, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.”

Close the door on nuclear testing - “Now is the responsible time for the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,” writes former Utah Sen. Jake Garn.

--”Explosive nuclear weapons testing jeopardizes our nation's security instead of ensuring it. Banning nuclear weapons testing will make it tougher for nuclear-armed states to develop more advanced warhead designs.”