Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Defence and security / / Articles
Nuclear dominance can turn the head of the hawks in the Pentagon
Material posted: -Publication date: 26-04-2006

In one of the rooms of Foreign Affairs magazine March/April 2006 was published the very interesting article "the Birth of nuclear dominance of the United States" (The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy), the authors Keir Leber and Daryl Press (Keir A. Lieber, Daryl G. Press). The main idea of the article is that, according to the authors, today, for the first time in the last forty years, the U.S. have a real opportunity to become a leader in the nuclear race, which opens up entirely new horizons for American foreign policy.

The authors emphasize that the last forty years of nuclear deterrence led to nuclear power became the basis of international stability for many years: the fear of launch under attack made it impossible for any of the parties of the potential conflict to dominate the situation. But times are changing...

Today, the article notes, the U.S. armed forces closer than ever to the conquest of domination in the nuclear race: the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States suggests that the existing nuclear capabilities of Russia and China, so long constrained the aspirations of the hawks in the Pentagon may be destroyed even before the moment of its application. Even in the case of urgent modernisation and capacity expansion of the pace of rearmament neither Russia nor China in the near future will not be able to get out of the situation. Their findings the authors base the following analysis.

While the strategic nuclear forces of the United States today are more powerful than in the Cold war years, reaching the level of a qualitatively new generation of nuclear weapons, nuclear potential of Russia is rapidly losing its status. By estimations of authors of article, today Russia has 39 percent fewer strategic bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs and 80 percent fewer submarines than the Soviet Union in the years of confrontation with the United States.

Against this background, the authors emphasize that the true rate of decay of the Russian nuclear Arsenal is much larger than these figures. The authors argue that the balance of strategic forces of Russia already not ready for operational use. So, Russian strategic bombers today are based on only two airfields, which makes them very vulnerable to a sudden shock. The crews rarely carry out training flights and missile launches, and nuclear warheads to cruise missiles stockpiled in the arsenals away from the places of basing of aviation, which precludes their operational use.

More than 80 percent of Russian ICBMs are silo-based today greatly exceeded the warranty period, and plans for replacing them with new missiles have been suspended by a succession of failed trials and the inability of the remaining industrial base of the former military-industrial complex to develop their production. Mobile systems today rarely patrol in the positional areas and although, according to the Russian military, they can launch missiles while in the hangars, the authors tend to pessimistically evaluate the possibility of their operational use in case of a sudden attack.

The marine component of Russian strategic nuclear forces to date have been the most weakened in all the triad. Since 2000, Russian submarines do not more than two or three trips a year, against 60 trips in the 90-ies (American patrol boat today to an average of 40 times per year). Most of the time, Russian submarines are in bases where they are good targets for American cruise missiles. In addition, modern submarines require highly qualified team: coordination of APRC with torpedo boats and surface ships to counter the enemy require a permanent increase or at least maintain skills, which today are seriously missing Russian submarine. On the combat capability of the Russian submarine fleet and has a series of failures with new missiles that befell the Russian sailors in 2004-2005.

Complementing the described problems of the Russian nuclear forces, the authors note that the early warning system for missile attack, existed in the USSR, today plunged into chaos. The authors emphasize that neither the Soviet nor the Russian satellites have never been able to reliable detection of missiles launched from American submarines. Instead, the Russian military has always relied on ground-based radar systems. But today, the radar network has a gaping hole in the East. If the American submarine fired the missile launches from the waters of the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know about a missile attack. The coverage of early warning radars of several areas in the North Atlantic are also significantly fragmented, providing only a few minutes from the moment of detection of the missiles before they are approaching to targets on the territory of Russia.

Moscow could hastily take steps to reduce its vulnerability, especially through the improvement of mobile missiles, and submarines. But this will provide only a short respite. And the opportunity to do so Russia is already there: Russia has repeatedly extended the life of its aging ICBMs, and to put new systems in adequate quantities it is not able. The plans of Russian military leaders regarding the creation of a new class of nuclear submarines once again postponed. According to the authors of the article, no new submarine will not be operational before 2008.

In conditions of a sharp weakening of the nuclear potential of Russia and the USA have greatly increased their ability to track submarines and mobile missiles and further destroying the faith of the Russian military-political leadership in the possibility of retaliation from underwater and mobile media. In addition, Moscow has announced plans to further reduce the number of ICBMs further 35 per cent by 2010. However, according to experts, the actual reduction potential will be 50 — 75 percent of the current state, leaving only 150 ICBMs by the end of the decade from the level of 1,300 missiles in 1990. The authors rightly notice that the more reduced Russian Arsenal, the more vulnerable he becomes to the United States in the event of sudden impact.

It is interesting that in the article the authors refer to the fact that to calculate the reduction of the significance of the current Russian nuclear capabilities to its potential during the Cold war, it was carried out computer modeling of a possible sudden impact of the USA on territory of Russia. When modeling U.S. nuclear warheads were aimed at Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: precision weapons aimed at hardened targets the most and the most rapid-fire weapons at the Russian forces that could be quickly used. Since Russia is extremely blind to underwater attack from the Pacific ocean and has serious problems detecting approaching low-flying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, the model used was the distribution of at least one warhead cruise missiles and missiles on submarines one carrier of nuclear weapons in Russia. The simulation results showed that the attack in this scenario would not give Russian leaders virtually no warning.

Naturally, this plan, according to the authors, it is much easier real strategic plans to use nuclear weapons the Pentagon.

According to the chosen model, such a simplified surprise attack would have a good chance at destroying all of the basing airfields of strategic aviation, of all the submarine and ICBMs, depriving Russia of the opportunity of retaliation. This result was achieved also in the case of the assumption that American weapons will be 20 percent less accurate than actually is, or that it is only 70 percent reliable, and the Russians bins stronger by 50 percent.

The most important conclusion of the presented modeling, the authors consider that now Russian leaders can no longer count on the ability to save any significant potential for retaliation — the entire nuclear potential of Russia is destroyed bude sudden disarming first strike.

As for China, then, according to the authors, China's nuclear Arsenal is even more vulnerable to a surprise attack. The strike by the U.S. would be successful and in the event of sudden and even if armed forces of China will be brought to combat readiness. Today, China has a limited strategic nuclear Arsenal. People's Liberation Army currently possesses no modern submarines and long-range bombers. According to U.S. estimates, detailed China's nuclear Arsenal consists of 18 stationary monoblock ICBM. They are not ready for operational launch: the warheads stored separately from missiles, and the missiles not fueled. By estimations of authors of the article, China ICBMs use liquid fuel, which is corrosive to the rocket after 24 hours alert in fuelled condition. Filling them takes about two hours, which together with significant deficiencies of the existing system of early warning leads to serious vulnerabilities Chinese ICBMs. The authors believe that China will not be able to identify missile launches from U.S. submarines, regardless of the directions they were carried out, especially it concerns a massive missile attack with hundreds of cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

Many sources claim that China today is trying to reduce the vulnerability of its ICBMs by deploying large-scale construction of false objects. However, this is clearly not enough. According to several estimates, you need about a thousand such objects to make for the US strike on China as difficult as in Russia.

Despite many conversations about the military modernization of China, the odds that Beijing will acquire are able to survive after the sudden impact of nuclear weapons in the next decade is very small. Today's modernization efforts, the PLA focused on conventional forces and funds for modernization of the nuclear Arsenal. Since the mid-1980s, China tried to create a new missile for its submarine perspective for mobile systems to replace its existing ICBMs. American analysts expect that China may deploy no more than 31 new rocket in several years, however, this optimistic forecast and the actual timing of the deployment may be much larger. However, even the deployment of new missiles will enable China to have a "potential for retribution" so how many more decades the US will have dominant superiority over Chinese nuclear capabilities in both the number and the quality of detection and destruction.

Thus, all the talk about "friendship and cooperation" remain just talk, and the desire to dominate the world still overpowers common sense. Although American policymakers in recent years and do not hide their ambitions, as illustrated by a new version of the national security strategy of the USA, published on 16 March this year.

Characteristically, a similar article appeared in one of the most prominent American analytical studies in the period of the serious complications of the situation in the world.


Tags: Iran , USA , threat

RELATED MATERIALS: Defence and security