Nuclear Arms Race 3.0

A multi-billion dollar ‘modernization’ of US nuclear weapons delivered an unsurprising ‘next gen’ nuclear arms race. Strategic Demands called this a “Cold War 2.0”. Now, with threats and an announced ‘suspension’ of the New START treaty, the final remaining nuclear weapons agreement is foreclosed.

A “Nuclear Arms Race 3.0” has commenced


Via The Guardian


A Threatening Speech by the Russian President

President Putin concludes by suspending the ‘last remaining nuclear arms control pact between the U.S. and Russia’


(CNBC – Feb 22) Officials in Moscow appeared bullish today about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision announced yesterday suspending Russia’s participation in the New Start nuclear arms treaty — the last remaining nuclear arms control pact between the U.S. and Russia that sought to limit the nuclear arsenals of both countries.



Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that the decision to suspend the treaty was “overdue” and that Russia’s move would have “a huge resonance in the world in general and in the United States in particular.”

Medvedev repeated a Russian claim that the U.S. “wants the defeat of Russia” and that the world is on the brink of a new global conflict. “If the United States wants to defeat Russia, then we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapon, including nuclear,” Medvedev said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was reported in Russian media Wednesday as saying that Moscow would still be able to “fairly reliably assess” the U.S.′ nuclear potential from outside of the agreement.

“There are national technical means that make it possible to fairly reliably assess what is happening. We, in addition, have accumulated experience in tracking what is happening in the United States, and not only in the United States, in this area, using other possibilities. Yes, this is not the same as information exchange within the framework of the agreement. But the situation has changed radically, so we will proceed from what is available,” Ryabkov told reporters, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.



A deal is made in 2010

Negotiations between the Senate and the White House led to billions of dollars over a 10-year period for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)

Strategic Demands: President Obama’s negotiations to obtain US Senate Republican support to get the New START nuclear weapons reduction agreement through Congress, led to increased funding for nuclear weapons modernization programs. This “set the stage for a package deal resulting in two memoranda of understanding which traded funding for modernization in return for Republican votes.”


Brookings Institute looks back at New START

Experts discuss the politics of New START and strategic nuclear modernization


Academic experts opinions at this Brookings meeting stated that the Obama administration “had already committed to a substantial increase in the NNSA weapons budget before New START was signed.”



This statement at the Brookings meeting should be more closely considered. Let’s do this in context of Brookings itself. The Brooking Institute president from 2002 to 2017 was Strobe Talbott who, as Deputy Secretary of State in the 1990s, was instrumental in negotiations with Russia during his years as President Clinton’s advisor on Russian affairs. Strobe Talbott’s  relationship with Russia and Clinton goes back to college in the UK, when they were roommates and traveled in Russia.


Strobe Talbott’s acquisition and translation of the book, Khrushchev Remembers

In the 1990s, during the last days of the Soviet Union, the ‘fall of the Berlin Wall, and beginnings of the Russian Federation, as US negotiations with new Russian Federation leaders set groundwork in place for new relationship, a story untold here in this Brookings meeting is key to understanding New START and today’s security concerns.

The US, NATO, EU statements and commitments made to Russia as the so-called Iron Curtain is lifted and ‘the West’ re-engaged with ‘the East’ needs to be recalled, but somehow the Brookings Institute and especially a key player, Ambassador Talbott as a president of Brookings is absent. This background is essential. It is critical to understanding the current claims made by President Putin who, during the 90s, was working in East Germany as a Soviet intelligence officer in association with the Stasi. He watched up close as the Soviet Union collapsed and Putin later explained the loss of “historical Russia”. New challenges loomed as the Soviet Union reformed. New opportunities presented themselves, forward thinking or reactive ‘old ways’.

Strategic Demands’ editor can recall, during work with the presidential campaign of Governor Jerry Brown in 1992, how we drafted a foreign policy speaking of new potential, a “peace dividend” as the Cold War drew to a close. For both the US and former Soviet states, much was becoming possible.

A historic opportunity to move away from the nuclear weapons era and a move toward reinvestment and cooperation was possible, a generational moment. The taking up of the peace dividend and ‘taking a new road’ was not to be as history shows. The Clinton administration with Strobe Talbott have their perspective of this history and I can say, as a policy person in the campaign that drew close to winning the White House, that a Jerry Brown presidency would have taken a different course. Defense conversion, reinvestment in America, larger security definitions and policies.


The Clinton and Talbott Russian Policy – vs a Brown ‘Peace Divided’ Policy

Now we, at Strategic Demands and our associate GreenPolicy360, refer to as a “New Definitions of National Security”. The policy is, in effect, a “Platform-in-Progress”.

In the 1990s the national and global/foreign policy of the Governor Brown campaign were not meant to become reality at this crucial opportunity in time. The statements/commitments and promises made in the 1990s by the Clinton administration, by Strobe Talbot and US State Department to Russian leaders, were meant to be…

Today we continue to hear the current Russian leader making a case that promises made by the US in the 1990s were broken and commitments made that NATO would not expand with nuclear weapons ‘at the doorstep’ of Russia. The Cuban Missile Crisis is recalled, for example, how the US and Soviet Union negotiated themselves out of a near nuclear conflagration and cataclysmic world war.



Yet, unexplored in the Brookings nuclear weapons story, beyond the promises made in the 1990s is a recall of the quid pro quo demanded by Senate Republican leaders during extended New START nuclear reduction negotiations… In demand for their vote to enable approval of the New START arms agreement, nuclear weapons reductions promised widely in the Obama administration speeches, Republican support would only be forthcoming with increases in nuclear weapons capabilities.

The nuclear weapons modernization came to include next generation ‘smart’ nuclear weapons, more ‘usable’, ‘dial up’ tactical nuclear weapons, and an array of modernized precision, non-interceptible nuclear weapon systems, including development of nuclear-launch platforms such as the F-35 strike forces. The F-35, when enabled to carry nuclear cruise missiles, was seen as game changing, and it was.

The results, as could be predicted by experts and non-experts alike, led to a ratcheting up of Russian — and Chinese nuclear weapons programs. The race to react to US modernization was swift and consequential.

Nuclear weapons ‘experts’ opinions, here expressed at the Brookings meeting, have again been proven to provide specious reasoning and evasion of the consequential results — a profound reduction of security and proliferating nuclear risks to the extreme.


Brookings ‘experts’

… Obama administration officials publicly recognized the important link between modernizing the NNSA complex and maintaining an arms control regime with Russia. Additionally, Creedon argued that the increased NNSA funding for modernization was in large part an effort to downsize the total number of warheads in the U.S. stockpile, produced as a hedge caused by infrastructure uncertainty.


‘A hedge caused by infrastructure uncertainty’?

The consequences of a quid pro quo nuclear weapons expansive modernization are here in front of us… modernization in the form of new, more lethal, more usable, ‘modernized’ nuclear weapons and delivery systems has produced a resulting multi-lateral nuclear arms race that has no signs of slowing… We should have known but we didn’t know and we didn’t act upon what we should’ve known and acted upon.


A New Nuclear Weapons Race / Cold War 2.0


What we are looking at now is nuclear weapons proliferation, a US nuclear weapons complex with historic spending increases, the national labs and military-industrial complex racing to produce next generation nuclear weapons systems, from pits (weapon triggers) to ‘fin kits and guidance systems’ (upgraded warheads with precision striking capabilities, e.g., “bunker busting” strikes against underground sites, tactical, battlefield ‘utility’). Russians and Chinese, and other nations, are attempting to compete with their nuclear capabilities.

A deeper, more thorough investigation of the US role in ramping up nuclear weapons is demanded as we rethink security policy. It is time for key learnings to be on the agenda — why and how in the 21st century was a nuclear weapons race accelerated? What do we, as democracies facing authoritarian threats, need to do as we go forward? What do we need to do to guide future successful nuclear weapons negotiations, control protocols, verification and implementation agreements?

We need to aim for mutual security, we absolutely need to recognize that a ‘changing world’ demands new definitions of national security.






U.S.-Russian Relations Can Still Get Worse

By Hanna Notte

Hanna Notte, Ph.D. is a senior research associate with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, where she focuses on arms control and security issues involving Russia, the Middle East, their intersection, and implications for U.S. and European policy. She holds a doctorate and M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford University and a B.A. in social and political sciences from Cambridge University. Her contributions have appeared in The Nonproliferation Review, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and Carnegie, among others.

Dossiers, Compartmentalization, NATO-Russia, Germany-Russia, ‘Unmanaged nuclear competition’, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russia-UN Security Council

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Project: Promoting Dialogue on Arms Control and Disarmament / April 2021