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The Military

A Case For Unilateral US Nuclear Warhead Reductions 211

Lasrick writes "Interesting read of the geopolitics between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to reducing nuclear warheads. Pavel Podvig is a physicist trained at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology who works on the Russian nuclear arsenal, US-Russian relations, and nonproliferation. His take here is essential to understanding what is happening between Washington and Moscow on nuclear weapons cuts." Reader auric_dude also sent in a link to a few other views on the issue.
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A Case For Unilateral US Nuclear Warhead Reductions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 01, 2013 @08:32PM (#44160851)

    Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is really pricy. They're full of dangerous things. They require LOTS of upkeep. You have to guard them. (They have the power to destroy the world after all) The infrastructure to maintain your active arsenal is massive and costs piles of money, which seems silly for something you hope to never use.

    Some say the nuclear arms race was as much as way to drain money out of the USSR until it collapsed as much as anything else. We're done with that, and I'm sure both sides are sick of throwing money in to a pit. You really only need to blow the world up once, if you're going to do it at all.

    I also hear that most nuclear material for peacetime power reactors comes from decommissioned nuclear warheads.

  • Re:wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @08:57PM (#44160993)

    I think like 16 or something would destroy the entire world's weather for decades so yeah, completely pointless.

    No way. Just how big do you think these warheads are? In total megatons, America's nuclear arsenal peaked in the 1960s, and has been declining for half a century as accuracy as dramatically improved. You don't need a lot of yield if you can put it through a particular window in the Kremlin. Most ICBMs and SLBMs have warheads of only a few hundred kilotons. Cruise missile warheads are around 10-20KT. That is a Nagasaki, not a Castle Bravo.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @09:22PM (#44161119)

    "If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce."

    -- Winston S. Churchill

  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @10:18PM (#44161411) Homepage

    "Which is why it makes sense to leave them where they are. Decommissioning is even more pricey"

    Not really. A one-time cost to decommission, defrayed by salvage, versus a large recurring expense.

    "Most of the cost is military. Personally, I think guarding holes in the desert is a much finer jobs program than bombing people in the Middle East."

    Cant say that I disagree on that. But nukes are extremely expensive toys and the maintanence cost is huge, and NOT mostly on personel. Just maintaining the nuclear arsenal accounts for around $18million a year currently and it's rising every year.

    These are very delicate, precision machines, and each and every one of them is a minimum of 20 years old, many much older than that. As time goes on they require more maintanence, and it becomes more expensive.

    I'm no naive hippy and I am ok with paying for deterrence. But it's clear we could cut our stock in half tomorrow with no reduction in deterrence. An arsenal that is capable of destroying the entire planet is in no way inferior to one that would be capable of destroying the planet a dozen times. It just costs less.

    What the US administration has been trying to do, however, is get the Russians to make some concessions in return for us reducing our stock. This just wasnt a great approach to take. It probably actually spooked the Russians, who wonder why we are so concerned about their arsenal, hmmm? And they have other reasons to resist. They have indicated they are not interested in bilateral agreements that were reasonable back in the cold war days. It's a multipolar world, there are many nuclear nations, not just two and their respective pack members. The Russians want negotiations that include all the other nuclear powers as well. And the US administration would probably find that very reasonable if it werent for Israel...

    At any rate we should cut stock for a number of reasons. It would soothe the Russian fears and might well lead to them reducing their own stock in response, but that's not the reason to do it, that's just some possible gravy.

    "If we were sick of throwing money into a pit, we wouldn't have approved TARP, TARP2, and we would have had some campaign promises kept, like closing Gitmo, and getting us out of our two major wars, instead of getting us into two new ones as well. That'd save a bunch of money right there."

    True that.

  • Re:My Argument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:29PM (#44161825)

    Russians will never give up nukes. It's their only defense against China.

  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Tuesday July 02, 2013 @02:22AM (#44162635) Homepage

    There are according to a quick ask google a total of 2851 Cities with Population of 150,000 + on earth. That appears to be accurate to me if you have a better source feel free to present it. Assuming that is correct, 2149 could be allocated two, which is easily "most" of 2851. 161 of those would be in the US btw.

    Of course the definition of city is somewhat arbitrary and this is a ballpark figure but I think it makes the point. There are huge urban areas that are counted as several cities but can still be taken out with one of the larger warheads. There are more spread out areas where you might have to use 2 or 3 smaller warheads. But in essence it's clearly more than enough weaponry to firebomb every densely populated area on earth simultaneously. Actually using a significant fraction of it would cause a disaster that affects not just the targets but comes back and kills us too.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie