As the recently released 2001 US Nuclear Posture Review has as one of its principle tenets for the Bush Administration's vast politically motivated reductions of the US strategic nuclear arsenal that Russia and its huge nuclear arsenal are no longer a threat and that the US nuclear arsenal need no longer match or deter Russia's strategic nuclear forces, it is important to take a closer look at the validity of that assumption. In examining the potential threat of nuclear attack from Russia, one must look first to capabilities and then to intentions. The 1995 US Nuclear Posture Review warned of the possibility of a quick shift in the intentions of the top Russian leadership stating, "A significant shift in the Russian government into the hands of arch-conservatives could restore the strategic nuclear threat to the United States literally overnight." President Vladimir Putin (right), a former director of the renamed KGB widely considered by Russia experts to be a Russian hard-liner, became Acting President in December 1999 and subsequently President of the Russian Federation an event that may well have "restored" the Russian strategic nuclear threat to the United States.
Even if Putin's intentions were favorable to the United States as is now widely perceived, the Russian capability to stage a successful nuclear first strike against the United States which would destroy the bulk of our strategic nuclear deterrent and gravely weaken our capability to retaliate remains unchanged. Bush has declared his intention to rely not upon nuclear weapons to deter war and keep the nuclear peace as past US Presidents have done for nearly 60 years. Instead, Bush has stated that henceforth he will rely upon the good graces of the President of the Russian Federation to keep his promise to disarm to a similarly low level of deployed strategic nuclear weapons. Bush's trust in Russia to keep its promises flies in the face of a study done by the first Bush Administration in 1992 that concluded that Russia has violated every arms control treaty it has ever entered into including the START I Treaty. How soon the Bush Administration has forgotten President Reagan's time-honored slogan of "peace through strength!"
Many well-meaning Americans believe that the US can afford to rid itself of several thousand "excess" nukes since the Cold War is over and Russia is now our "ally" in the war against terrorism. How well-balanced are the US and Russian nuclear arsenals today? Former Senator Sam Nunn and former Senate Majority Leader, Howard Baker, have written several articles citing estimates that Russia possesses a nuclear arsenal totaling approximately 40,000 warheads. In contrast, the US arsenal consists of no more than 10,000 to 11,000 total warheads, down from 30,000 in 1991. Equally disturbing is that according to sworn testimony by former Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, James Schlesinger to Congress in fall 1997, Russia continues to produce "thousands" of miniaturized nuclear warheads a year despite the fact that the US closed its nuclear production plants almost a decade ago.
According to the Center for Security Policy and other think-tanks, US intelligence has never been able to ascertain the true size of the Russian strategic nuclear force and has issued estimates, which have consistently underestimated the size of the Russian nuclear force. US intelligence assumes as a matter of course that Russia will not deploy MIRV'd warheads on its strategic missiles in excess of the START nuclear arms control treaties signed by the US and Russia in the early 1990s even though it has the technical capacity to deploy many times as many warheads on its missiles as are permitted by treaty and as are counted by US intelligence which always assumes Russian treaty compliance. In view of these facts, it seems dangerously naïve to stop using the threat posed by the large Russian nuclear arsenal to determine the size of the US strategic nuclear deterrent and trust the Russians into believing that they have downloaded these additional warheads from their missiles when they have such a vast abundance of nuclear warheads in reserve.
A recent CIA study released last December, entitled "Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat through 2015" reiterated the conclusion of past CIA reports in citing the Russian and Communist Chinese nuclear arsenals as the two greatest threats to this country. A much downsized US strategic nuclear arsenal would be more vulnerable than ever to a disabling Russian nuclear first strike and would leave us even more likely to Russian nuclear blackmail. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has repeatedly stated that the missile defense system they envision for the United States would be woefully insufficient to deter or defend against a Russian nuclear attack is not intended to defend the US against the Russian or Chinese nuclear threat,