Russia Goes Ballistic

September 2, 2008 Topic: Security Tags: Nuclear WeaponsNuclear PowerHeads Of State

Russia Goes Ballistic

Mini Teaser: Russia will surpass U.S. nuclear capabilities within two decades if trends continue. America’s strategic force is a cold-war relic, and while Washington’s weapons break down, Moscow is making bombers and missiles that are newer and deadlier.

by Author(s): Bradley A. ThayerThomas M. Skypek

In the post-cold-war world, though, the United States will continue to depend on its strategic nuclear forces to accomplish its grand-strategic goals. That will become increasingly difficult if the United States does not act now to redress the key vulnerabilities in its arsenal. While these vulnerabilities may not receive significant attention in the U.S. press, they are noticed by the allies and foes of the United States.

Some members of Congress, such as Representative David Hobson (R-OH), have called for a "time-out" on new nuclear initiatives. However, the reality is that there are no "time-outs" in international politics. The United States does not get to stop the clock in the realm of competition in strategic nuclear arms. All other nuclear countries are modernizing while the United States is not. If the United States ignores its lead in strategic systems, the lead will go away, and then recapturing it will be significantly more difficult due to the loss of infrastructure and knowledge.

The key vulnerabilities discussed must be addressed with urgency by the new administration and Congress. The first step toward solving these problems is to recognize the important role strategic forces continue to occupy for U.S. grand strategy, and the need to act to end the nuclear holiday.


Bradley A. Thayer is an associate professor of defense and strategic studies at Missouri State University. Thomas M. Skypek is a Washington-based defense analyst with Booz Allen Hamilton. The views expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of Defense or any other organization.

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