FAS keeps a running public tally of the world's nuclear arsenals. All told, nine nations now have a combined total of more than 22,000 nuclear weapons.
Recently, President Obama hosted more than 45 foreign leaders at a nuclear security summit in
Kristensen spoke about the new nuclear status quo and what's being done to change it. Excerpts:
What should we make of the administration's new nuclear weapon strategy document, the so-called Nuclear Posture Review, which was issued this week?
It's a mixed bag; modest and cautious. This is the first time an
Does the new strategy reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our defense?
I don't think it does, but it's unclear. There are hints of a change at the beginning of the document. It says that the "fundamental purpose" of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter solely a nuclear attack. In the past two administrations, the strategy has been to use nukes to deter chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. The new
What does all this mean, say, for a commander of a nuclear submarine or missile silo?
Nothing. We essentially continue our current nuclear posture. There are no restrictions about what we can plan for in terms of nuclear weapons use--though there are fewer deliverable weapons as a result of the new treaty with
At the end of the Cold War, when we abandoned chemical and biological weapons, we just relied on a greater range of uses for nuclear weapons instead, say, against regional enemies. After 9-11, we just included nuclear weapons into conventional war planning. That kind of thinking is what the Obama administration is ending, but that's not Cold War thinking, it's post-Cold War thinking. The latest treaty, while it reduces the number of weapons, preserves the strategy and nuclear force structure. That means we still have ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles], nuclear-capable submarines, and bomber-delivered gravity bombs. And the Russians have this too. The core strategy continues the Cold War thinking.
How many nuclear weapons does President Obama have at his command?
What would happen if
The weapons would have to be secure: scattered around the prairies, buried in the mountains, that sort of thing. It would be a much more defensive strategy, and one that reduces the tensions on all sides. When you have an arsenal capable of massive offensive action, it makes your enemies much more nervous to a level that is counterproductive. Of course, all this would depend on
Will there be any immediate impacts of a retooling for the nuclear weapons industry?
In some places in the Midwest, it will mean an announcement in a few months that 50 missile silos will be closed and that will mean lost jobs. The nuclear weapons labs, on the other hand, are in a very sweet spot. It's been apparent for a long time that there is a grand bargain with the labs in terms of arms reduction. The labs are very, very well connected in
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