U.S. Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Getting it Right



The United States should commit itself to the above principles as it negotiates any agreement that may follow the impending expiration of START and, in due course, that of the SORT Treaty.  It is only through understanding our own, abiding need for a reliable, credible and effective nuclear deterrent capability that we have any hope of achieving an agreement with Russia that is actually compatible with our desire to strengthen our security and preserve global stability.

The alternative – an accord that either appears to, or in fact does, leave the United States without an offensive and defensive strategic force posture sufficiently robust to deter attacks on us, our interests and those of our allies, and to discourage proliferation – will contribute to an international environment characterized by: more nuclear weapons in more hands (many of them unfriendly); greater instability; and a far less secure America.


1. There is a great deal of confusion in the popular media over these two treaties, but the principle putative value of the START treaty lies in its verification regime, while the Moscow Treaty contains ceilings for deployed US and Russian warheads of 2200, which are very considerably below the numbers allowed by START.

2.  Reducing the Cost of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex, 2009: Hearing before the Subcomm. On Energy and water Development of the House Appropriations Committee 111thCong. (March 17, 2009) (Statement of Thomas P. D’Agostino, Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Department of Energy) https://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2296.htm (accessed 14 April 2009)

3. See the New Deterrent Working Group, “Towards a New Deterrent”, 26 January 2009, https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/p17857.xml?genre_id=3 (accessed 22 May, 2009)

4. Ibid.

5. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence  in the 21st Century, Address at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (October 28, 2008)  https://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/1028_transcrip_gates_checked.pdf , p. 7. (accessed 22 May 2009)

6.  Ibid., p. 5

7. U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Defense “National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century,” September 2008 p. 8 https://www.defenselink.mil/news/nuclearweaponspolicy.pdf (accessed 7 May 2009)

8.  See Dr. Phillip Saunders, “China’s Strategic Force Modernization” (presented at National Defense University Chinese Military Seminar, 13 January 2005 https://www.ndu.edu/inss/Repository/INSS_Proceedings/Chinese_military_seminar_Jan05/China_Force_Mod_Saunders_012005.pdf (accessed 29 May 2009)

9. Gates, Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence  in the 21st Century, op. cit., p.4

10.  Ibid. p. 7

11. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, “America’s Strategic Posture”, (final report) May 2009, p.98 https://media.usip.org/reports/strat_posture_report.pdf (accessed 6 May 2009)

12. See The New Deterrent Working Group, Towards a New Deterrent, op. cit.

13. See Ibid.

14.  United States Strategic Command, 2008: Hearing Before the Strategic Forces Subcomm. of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 110th Cong. 8 (12 March 2008) (statement of General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander, United States Strategic Command) https://armed-services.senate.gov/statemnt/2008/March/Chilton%2003-12-08.pdf, (accessed 22 May 2009)

15. Gates, Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st  Century, op. cit., p. 7

16.  The Stockpile Stewardship Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2008: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Energy and Water Development of the Senate Appropriations Committee, 110th Cong. 7 (16 April 2008) (statement of Michael R. Anastasio, Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory). https://appropriations.senate.gov/Hearings/2008_04_16_-Energy-_Testimony_of_Michael_R_Anastasio_at_the_April_16_Energy_and_Water_Subcommittee_Hearing.pdf?CFID=10996337&CFTOKEN=88558282, (accessed 22 May 2009)

17.  Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations,  Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, 110th Cong. 3 (April 16, 2008) (Statement of  Thomas P. D’Agostino, Administrator; Accompanied by Gen. Robert L. Smolen, USAF (Ret.), Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs & Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, Deputy Administrator for Naval Reactors, National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Department of Energy).  https://appropriations.senate.gov/Hearings/2008_04_16_-Energy-_Testimony_of_Thomas_P_DAgostino_at_the_April_16_Energy_and_Water_Subcommittee_Hearing.pdf?CFID=10865396&CFTOKEN=54729074 , (accessed 22 May 2009)

18.  Ibid.

19. Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States,  America’s Strategic Posture (final report), op. cit.,  p.48

20.  Ibid. p. 54-55

Center for Security Policy

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