Perilous Modernization, by Tom Mayer

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on June 17, 2016 at 9:49 am

When Barack Obama became president of the United States he advocated nuclear disarmament and working towards a world without nuclear weapons. This commitment has vanished without a trace. The Obama administration is currently implementing a trillion dollar nuclear weapons “modernization” program stretching over the next three decades. The program includes new long range bombers, new nuclear submarines, upgraded intercontinental missiles (land based and submarine launched), offensive and defensive cruise missiles, state-of-the-art weapons laboratories, and huge nuclear weapons production plants. It will saddle our planet with genocidal nuclear weapons systems that could be around for another six decades at least.

Not only does Obama’s weapons “modernization” program extend the nuclear incubus threatening humanity, it is also profoundly destabilizing. The program includes ballistic missile defense systems and precision guided conventional munitions that threaten the nuclear deterrence capacities of both Russia and China. To maintain effective deterrence, both countries have initiated their own weapons modernization programs. Russia and China will probably resist any further nuclear weapons reductions and increasingly conceal the nature of their nuclear arsenal. Our world is embarking upon another extremely hazardous nuclear arms race for which each participant blames the others.

Obama’s alibi for his “modernization” program is Russian aggression in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. The Russian government, on the other hand, considers the expansion of NATO to its own borders, U.S. connivance in the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, American efforts to reshape the Middle East eliminating all Russian influence, plus our nuclear weapons modernization program as provocative imperial initiatives that require a firm response. China, for its part, is the only nuclear weapons power committed to an unconditional no-first-use policy. But Chinese leaders feel threatened by the presence of American war ships equipped with ballistic missile systems in the near Pacific. A U.S. preemptive strike might destroy China’s relatively small nuclear arsenal.

Many realistic advocates of nuclear disarmament do not oppose modernization of nuclear weapons to make them more safe and reliable. They insist, however, that any such modernization be combined with (a) genuine reduction in the number and destructiveness of the remaining modernized nuclear weapons, (b) strict avoidance of destabilizing (deterrence compromising) weapons systems, and (c) a viable program to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The Obama “modernization” program does none of these things. In the name of countering aggression and short term security, the program bolsters the long term nuclear peril facing our human species.


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