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Winning the New Arms Race With Strategic Defense

The West never faced a more dangerous “window of vulnerability” to nuclear blackmail — and nuclear attack — than now.

An aged and obsolete U.S. nuclear deterrent, designed for a bygone era to fight an enemy who no longer exists, does not even provide credible offensive nuclear options for disarming an increasingly aggressive North Korea.

China’s contempt for the geriatric U.S. nuclear deterrent is manifest in supporting mad dog ally North Korea developing nuclear missiles to strike North America, in China’s own greatly expanding offensive nuclear capabilities, and in illegally annexing vital trade routes through the South China Sea.

China’s foot is now on the trade artery to U.S. allies in the Pacific, North and South America, in open defiance of international law.

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, in his March 1 speech broadcast to the world, declares Russia has nuclear superiority over the United States.

Unfortunately, Putin is right.

Russia is far ahead in modernizing its strategic missiles, bombers, and submarines. Russia enjoys a virtual monopoly in tactical nuclear weapons numbering in the thousands, that gives Moscow a vast preponderance, at least 3-to-1, in the overall balance of nuclear warheads.

Russia has deployed a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons, including warheads specialized for EMP, neutron and x-ray kill, and clean battlefield weapons that produce no fallout.

The U.S. nuclear deterrent comprises antique delivery systems and warheads built over 30 years ago, long past original design life, requiring continual patching and repair.

No wonder dictator Putin in his March 1 speech to the world, accurately summarized by Russian journalist Pavel Felgengauer: “called on the West to admit defeat…and negotiate a new world order.”

No wonder Putin on March 2 again called for restoration of the USSR.

We as a civilization are in big trouble because our political divisions are now so deep and wide that it is probably impossible to rebuild a Republican-Democrat consensus on catching-up with the Russians in offensive nuclear forces. The bipartisan consensus that sustained U.S. nuclear arms racing and modernization, and that ultimately contributed to U.S. victory in the Cold War, is now “gone with the wind.”

Anti-nuclear everything is now a core value of the Democrat Party base that has moved far to the Left. Despite Democrat obsession with Russia meddling in U.S. politics, Democrat political leaders and their allies in the press appear unconcerned by the growing Russian nuclear threat.

Indeed, Democrats are highly critical of President Trump’s nuclear modernization plans — despite crystal clear necessity.

Even if President Trump wins re-election, so his administration lasts until 2024, that will not be long enough to ensure the modernization of U.S. strategic offensive nuclear forces:

— A new U.S. ICBM will not be initially deployed until the late-2020s, probably 2030.

— The new B-21 stealth bomber will not start appearing until 2025.

— The new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine might see 3 boats deployed by 2024, but most (9 boats) of the new submarine fleet are not scheduled until after 2024.

A future Democrat presidential administration or Congress, if their present hostility to U.S. nuclear deterrent modernization is any clue to future conduct, is very likely to stall or kill these programs.

What is to be done?

If at all possible, President Trump should accelerate all the above programs so it will become politically harder for Democrats to stall or kill programs that are much nearer completion.

President Trump should order immediate steps to upgrade the U.S. nuclear deterrent on an emergency basis, steps that can be accomplished before the end of his first or second term. For example:

— Return nuclear-armed cruise missiles to submarines, and add them to surface ships, to greatly increase deterrent survivability, flexibility, response-time, and strike options.

— Crash program on new nuclear low-yield weapons for tactical and strategic systems.

— Crash program on Super-EMP nuclear weapons to deter or preemptively defeat this existential threat.

Most importantly, President Trump should order a new Manhattan Project focused on strategic defenses that may become the basis for a new Republican-Democrat consensus that is politically sustainable.

For example, EMP hardening the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures is urgent — and far more likely to attract sustained bipartisan support than any nuclear weapons program.

For example, space-based defenses could render obsolete the growing offensive nuclear threats from all potential adversaries. Though Democrats have long derided “Star Wars” they may now find space-based defense more palatable than building 100-megaton bombs to deter Russia’s “doomsday drone.”

Americans have always regarded nuclear weapons, which they equate with Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), as repugnant. Strategic defenses to protect against nuclear weapon effects — and to kill nuclear weapons instead of killing people — has always made more sense to the man-in-the-street than MAD.

Americans, even Democrats, would rather be defended than avenged.

Even Putin, in his March 1 speech, unwittingly advised us to build “Star Wars” when he justified his array of new super-weapons to counter alleged U.S. development of “a global missile defense system.” Unfortunately, the U.S. hasn’t developed “a global missile defense system” but we should.

Because “Star Wars” is what our enemies fear most.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars."