Rumsfeld: U.S. Will Continue to Provide Allies with Nuclear Umbrella
(Says nuclear level should keep nations from "sprint to parity") (1210)
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent
Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the reduced number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads that the United States will retain in 2012 is still sufficient to provide "a nuclear umbrella" for friends and allies while discouraging other countries from trying to develop a nuclear capability.
Testifying July 25 before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the national security implications of the new U.S.-Russian Moscow Treaty, Rumsfeld said the planned strategic reduction to a range of 1,700 to 2,200 warheads for each side still leaves "a substantial number of nuclear weapons" that are sufficient to reassure U.S. "friends and allies that we have and will have the kind of capability necessary to provide a nuclear umbrella over them," thereby, "dissuading them from thinking they need nuclear weapons."
The new levels are also designed "to leave no doubt in other countries' minds," he said, "that it would not be in their interest to think they could sprint to parity or superiority," because U.S. levels will still be sufficiently high that countering them "would require a substantial investment" over a long period of time.
Rumsfeld said the U.S. decision to seek deep reductions is predicated on the notion that Russia is a country "embarked on turning West." U.S. officials are working toward a future, he said, when "no arms control treaties" will be needed between the two nations.
The secretary said the U.S. decision also "is premised on decisions to invest in a number of other critical areas" outlined in the administration's 2003 budget request. These investments and others, he said, "should allow the U.S., over time, to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons and enact the deep nuclear reductions contained in the Moscow Treaty."
Some of the investments Rumsfeld described included improvements in U.S. intelligence collection, analysis, processing and dissemination; revitalized missile defense research and testing; improved capability to detect and respond to biological attack; conversion of four Trident submarines into stealthy cruise missile-equipped platforms, populated with Special Operations forces, if needed for deployment into restricted areas; better protected information networks; and increased survivability for U.S. space systems.
During the question-and-answer session, Rumsfeld was asked if the Russians define "operationally-deployed" strategic nuclear warheads in the same way in the Treaty as does the United States. He said they use "something roughly approximating" the U.S. method. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, who testified alongside Rumsfeld, said that, for treaty purposes, the U.S. military "will derive the total number of warheads from the number of warheads on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) deployed in their launchers, the number on Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles in their launch tubes onboard submarines, and nuclear weapons loaded on heavy bombers or stored in weapons storage areas at heavy bomber bases."
Both officials were asked about their level of concern about Russian ICBMs that can be placed on multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs), since the U.S. had been very concerned about the Russian SS-18 missile in the past. Rumsfeld said the subject today is "much less important" than it was when the two superpowers were adversaries. Even if Russia were to MIRV a portion of its missile force in the future, he said, that action would not destabilize the existing U.S.-Russian relationship. Myers concurred saying this topic is "a lot less interesting" to the Joint Chiefs of Staff than it was during the height of the Cold War "when we were enemies."
Asked about the status of U.S. MX Peacekeeper ICBM missiles and silos, Myers said the Peacekeepers will be eliminated and the warheads will be put on Minuteman missiles. His testimony indicated that warheads nominally associated with the deactivated Peacekeepers are not being counted in the Moscow Treaty as operational deployed. He said no decision has been made as yet on the silos.
Rumsfeld was also asked if the absence of specific timetables for reductions under the Moscow Treaty might cause an advantage or disadvantage for one side or the other. He pointed out that each government made its decision to reduce weapons unilaterally, and then those decisions were brought together and codified in a legally-binding document. Each side is now free to do whatever is in its interest during the draw down period, the secretary said, adding that he expects the withdrawal to be "uneven."
Rumsfeld was also asked repeatedly about the issue of tactical or theater nuclear weapons. He said the security of Russian theater nuclear weapons "is a very serious issue," adding that he has raised the subject in every meeting he has been in with the Russians.
U.S. analysts do not have a solid estimate on the numbers of tactical nuclear weapons that the Russians possess, Rumsfeld said, but they have "many multiples more than we do." He said he expects substantive discussions to occur on this topic, as well as on the subjects of transparency, predictability, and verification, during a meeting now scheduled for the U.S.-Russian foreign and defense ministers in September. "We think that some degree of transparency would be helpful as to what they are doing by way of production,...destruction,...[and] storage," the secretary added.
The secretary was also asked about reports that India wants to create its own missile defense system using technology derived from the joint U.S.-Israeli Arrow ballistic missile program. Rumsfeld said the administration has not yet developed a position regarding the Arrow for India.
Rumsfeld was also non-committal about a suggestion made by Senator John Warner (Republican, Virginia) that NATO play a role in stemming the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Making a pitch to Rumsfeld, who was President Reagan's special envoy to the region from 1983 to 1984, the ranking Republican committee member said NATO nations could help bring stability to the region by carrying out a peacekeeping role similar to what was done in the Balkans. NATO is the only organization with sufficient credibility in the world, Warner said, and "is ready to roll."
The Europeans have tended to sympathize with the Palestinians and the Americans with the Israelis, Warner said, but "NATO bounds us as one unit." NATO intervention could not occur, he said, without consensus in the alliance, an invitation from both sides of the conflict, and an expression by both the Palestinians and the Israelis that they are ready to cooperate.
Asked about U.S. support for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in Russia, Rumsfeld said some $4,000 million to $5,000 million has already been spent by American taxpayers on the destruction, management, and security of Russian nuclear weapons and material. It is important for all the countries of the world to realize, he said, "that it is not just the United States that has the obligation to destroy Russian nuclear weapons. Russia has an obligation, and they have to make priorities and choices." The Russians "have people who are potentially every bit as vulnerable as anyone in the United States to the mismanagement or mishandling or lack of security of their weapons," he said, but the Western European countries also "have an obligation and an interest" in contributing to threat reduction.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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