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  • Bombe Surprise
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 10:41 AM on Mar 30, 2010

    The New START Treaty agreed on by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev - to be signed in Prague next month - leaves the door open to an increase in nuclear weapon numbers, arms control veteran Keith Payne noted on Monday at a forum hosted by the Brookings Institution.

    Noting that long-range bombers are counted as a single weapon in the treaty - equivalent to a single missile warhead - National Institute for Public Policy President Payne asked: "Who has announced a requirement for a strategic bomber? Who is working on a long-range cruise missile?"

    The answer in both cases is Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed a military requirement for a PAK-DA bomber weeks ago, and the Kh-101/102 cruise missile, bigger than the earlier Kh-55 and with a greater range, has been tested on the Tu-95MS16. Each side is permitted a total of 800 missile launchers and bombers, so aggressive deployment of bombers could increase the total of long-range nuclear weapons to 3,000-3500 - well over the limit of 1550 "warheads".

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    The same point's being made over at the Federation of American Scientists blog by Ivan Oelrich:  "If we define corn as a type of tree, then suddenly Iowa would be covered in forests.  If we define a bomber with 20 bombs as a single bomb, then suddenly we get a substantial reduction in the nuclear of weapons."

    Payne and fellow panelist Tom Donnelly from the American Enterprise Institute were both skeptical about the effect of the administration's "nuclear zero" doctrine and rhetoric on arms negotiations. Donnelly argues that nuclear posture should be a subset of US strategic goals and that nuclear weapons "have been recognized as a useful tool of statecraft."

    Even Brookings' own Michael O'Hanlon argues that "a very low state of readiness" is a more realistic goal than "zero" - as a hedge against cheating, as a deterrent against conventional force build-ups, and as a deterrent against non-nuclear weapons such a pathogens.

    Payne goes further, saying that many nuclear powers see Global Zero "as a trick" designed to render them vulnerable to US conventional superiority, "and if that seems improper and unfair, it's because US officials have said just that."

    Tags: ar99, arms-control, russia

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