Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

ON NUCLEAR DETERRENCE AND ASSURANCE

develop concepts for follow-on nuclear weapons systems better

suited to the nation’s needs.” 83

Finally, as mentioned above, the NPR concluded that the new

relationship with Russia permitted the United States to reduce

by approximately two-thirds its deployed strategic nuclear warheads

from the START I ceiling of 6,000 84 and that the requirements

for nuclear weapons might be reduced further still as US

nonnuclear and defensive capabilities advanced. 85 Senior Department

of Defense officials specified that the NPR’s sizing of

strategic nuclear warheads at 1,700–2,200 did not include Russia

as an immediate threat. 86 As Undersecretary of Defense

Douglas Feith said in open testimony, “We can reduce the number

of operationally deployed warheads to this level because . . .

we excluded from our calculation of nuclear requirements for

immediate contingencies the previous, longstanding requirements

centered on the Soviet Union and, more recently, Russia.

This is a dramatic departure from the Cold War approach

to nuclear force sizing.” 87 Force sizing instead was calculated to

support the immediate requirements for deterrence and to contribute

to the additional goals of assuring allies, dissuading

opponents, and providing a hedge against the possible emergence

of more severe future military threats or severe technical

problems in the nuclear arsenal. 88

The NPR intentionally moved beyond the balance-of-terror

formula that reduces US strategic nuclear force sizing to the

familiar deterrence calculation of US warheads and opponents’

targets. This was not unprecedented. Former secretary of defense

Schlesinger discussed his 1974 “essential equivalence”

metric for strategic forces as intended to contribute to allied

and enemy perceptions of overall US strength.

The NPR also walked away from the balance-of-terror tenet

that societal protection is useless, unnecessary, and “destabilizing.”

Instead, Secretary Rumsfeld tied ballistic missile defense

(BMD) deployment directly to denial deterrence and improved

crisis-management options, in addition to providing

possible relief against the failure of deterrence: “Active and

passive defenses will not be perfect. However, by denying or

reducing the effectiveness of limited attacks, defenses can discourage

attacks, grant new capabilities for managing crises,

and provide insurance against the failure of traditional deter-

105

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