Nov 08 2017

DEFENSE NEWS: Rising Nuclear Threats Require a Modern Deterrent

By U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

America’s attention is focused intently on North Korea’s nuclear program, and each day seems to bring more information on the Kim regime’s continued pursuit of nuclear warheads and new missiles to carry them to our shores. The threat of nuclear attack – something long pushed to the margins of our national security conversation – is once again front page news.

Our defense against this growing threat relies first and foremost on the capability of our own nuclear deterrent. As the bipartisan leadership of the Senate subcommittee that oversees our nuclear arsenal, our top priority is to ensure our nuclear forces have the resources they need to continue protecting our country. Doing so helps persuade rogue leaders like Kim Jong-Un that the costs of doing us harm would far, far outweigh any imaginable gain.

Truth be told, however, our nuclear deterrent is aging and in need of modernization. A changing security environment means we must take stock of our nuclear posture and ensure our forces are properly configured. In fact, such a review is now underway and expected to be completed by the end of the year.

We anticipate this review will share many of the conclusions of the last review in 2010, including the importance of all three legs of the nuclear triad—the land-, air-, and sea-based systems that carry nuclear weapons—and the urgent need to modernize our aging systems and infrastructure. It must also take into account how the security landscape has evolved over that period.

Unfortunately, changes in global nuclear threats are not confined to the Korean Peninsula. Russia’s nuclear policies are also particularly worrisome. The Russians have embarked on an ambitious modernization program of their nuclear forces. Moscow also has combined the development and deployment of new nuclear weapons with aggressive policy statements—including the first-use of nuclear weapons and threats of nuclear attack against NATO allies and neutral states that have stood up to its aggression. Most concerning, Russia has deployed a new ground-launched nuclear cruise missile, in clear violation of its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty. China has also embarked on a significant nuclear modernization effort that includes the development of more advanced capabilities and the expansion of its nuclear forces.

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