A Wall St. Journal editorial makes important points:
The Obama Administration wants to replace the soon-to-expire 1991 START treaty with a new regime that would set a ceiling of 1,000 nuclear warheads apiece for the U.S. and Russia. That would dramatically cut the two countries’ existing number of operational weapons…It would also exceed the terms agreed by the Bush Administration in the 2002 Moscow Treaty [more here and here], which committed each side to reduce their arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 strategic warheads by 2012 [negotiations are to, er, start soon – MC] .
…Mr. Obama wants to kill specifically is the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which the Bush Administration supported over Congressional opposition, and which Mr. Obama now opposes despite the support of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the military. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told us this week that “we do need a new warhead.” When we asked about Mr. Obama’s views on the warhead, the Admiral said, “You would have to ask him.”
The RRW is not, in fact, a new weapon; it has been in development for several years and is based on the W89 design tested in the 1980s. It is said to be a remarkably safe and long-lasting warhead, a significant consideration given the gradual physical deterioration of the current U.S. arsenal, particularly the mainstay W76.
The irony is that Mr. Obama’s opposition is making substantial reductions in the total U.S. arsenal that much riskier. In the absence of actual testing, which hasn’t happened in the U.S. since 1992, the only real hedge against potentially defective weapons is a larger arsenal. Naturally, arms-control theologians are instead urging the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and ban the production of weapons grade uranium and plutonium…