New START: what happens after the self-congratulations and McLovin’ are over?

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
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Takeaways from the Council on Foreign Relations interview After New START, Old Tensions.

Russia wants their own missile defense (it’s better than a doomsday device) which they publicly speak of having by 2020.

Why won’t it happen?  The Russian government lacks the time and money to make it happen.   

They also want to modernize their existing strategic and tactical nuclear forces which will take massive (for Russia) investments. 

High oil prices worldwide will be needed to pay this bill: Russian nuclear weaponry and delivery systems are way higher priorities than missile defense.

Russia is also worried about their conventional inferiority versus NATO.  This conventional inferiority complex is leading to a sort of Russian New Look which features nuclear weapons and delivery systems as having foundational importance.  Russia is so freaked out by their conventional inferiority that they haven’t been participating in the CFE Treaty (since December 2007).

Russian conventional forces are so weak that they want a form of mutual vulnerability: they want the United States pull the remaining 250 nuclear weapons we have in five NATO countries.

Russia is not concerned about American plans for national missile defense but they are worried about parts of the European missile defense scheme the administration unveiled in September 2009. 

Russia is particularly worried about is the later part of the program, the 2018 and 2020 systems which they worry could neuter their second-strike capabilities.  That is, if we launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike and caught Russia with their pants down, they wouldn’t have a post-strike deterrent capability if the U.S. provided European missile defense could take out the few surviving Russian post-apocalypse missiles.  That’s a r-e-a-l-l-y thin scenario from a U.S. point of view.  

Medvedev has proposed a NATO-Russian shared missile defense system.  This would be a so-called “two-button system” with the idea that Russia and NATO would each share missile warning but would then have their own ‘button’ to launch interceptors that would be used to protect their own territory.  Good luck selling that, Medvedev.

Tactical nuclear weapons: Russia has perhaps an order of magnitude advantage.  But it isn’t just the numbers, there’s also a lack of knowledge of where they’re deployed, how operationally capable they are, and more fundamentally, ‘why so many?’

The answer is China.  For the Russian tactical systems to go away, China has to play.  But China has little interest in doing so.


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