Other arms control think tanks are also promoting the change on economic terms. Reducing the arsenal to 1,000 strategic weapons could save more than $113 billion over 10 years, according to the National Security Network.
Republicans are pre-emptively balking at any consideration of reductions, dismissing the savings that could be achieved through nuclear weapons cuts as negligible and cautioning against unilateral action. Republicans also say that reductions to the numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons would only embolden North Korea, Iran and other nations to pursue new nuclear weapons.
“It is even more disturbing to learn that while North Korea is expanding its weapons programs, the president is contemplating unilateral disarmament,” said Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who last year led the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. “This is the wrong time to say to the North Koreans: 'we'll lay down our weapons, while you raise yours.' It is no coincidence that this test has occurred hours before the president's State of the Union Address.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) leads Republicans on the corresponding panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says that while the U.S. could continue to reduce the arsenal to a figure of about 1,500 nuclear weapons, reductions beyond that would be “outside the mainstream.” Sessions warned Obama against using illustrations outlined by Global Zero, which included reductions down to 800 nuclear weapons, including ending the intercontinental ballistic missile leg of the nuclear triad.
“Congress will need to be engaged to see exactly what his plans are, and we need to be sure that they're not destabilizing,” Sessions says. “The president needs to be careful about what he says.”
When Obama made his 2009 speech in Prague, he laid out three themes: using an agreement with Russia to set an arms control example, countering the threat of proliferation from North Korea and Iran, and policing loose nuclear materials, says a Republican aide on the Senate Armed Services Committee. If Obama keeps stressing the first goal at the expense of the other two, he will squander valuable time and will not be able to work on other aspects of his nuclear agenda, the aide says.
Republicans will also be closely watching the administration's support for nuclear modernization promises that were made to secure passage of the New Start treaty with Russia. If they sense the administration is backing off from those commitments, Obama will face strong GOP opposition. “We can do a lot to gum up the works,” the aide says.
New Start Treaty Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms
|Category of Data||U.S.||Russia|
|Deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers||806||491|
|Warheads on deployed ICBMs, on deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers||1,722||1,499|
|Deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, deployed and non-deployed launchers of SLBMs, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers||1,034||884|
|ICBMs and ICBM Launchers||Minuteman III||Peacekeeper||Total|
|Deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs||506||51||557|
|Deployed launchers of ICBMs||449||0||449|
|Non-deployed launchers of ICBMs||57||51||108|
|Source: U.S. State Department|