Enough nukes to make the rubble bounce

The United States' Peacekeeper missile was a M...

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Presidents Obama and Medvedev have agreed to slash both the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds. Even with stockpiles cut to 1,500 warheads on each side, that’s still leaves more than enough nuclear firepower to – in Churchill’s immortal words – “make the rubble bounce.”

U.S.-SovietRussian arms control hasn’t been a major issue in years. I wonder if the new agreement is spurred by economics as much as detente. America’s atomic arsenal is an aging Cold War relic that’s going to require expensive modernization (the sort of work you don’t want done by the lowest bidder). As for the state of Russian nuclear forces, the less said, the better.

Nuclear weapons work by splitting the atoms of elements that decay naturally over time. The problem is that the radioactive materials in the warheads may decay so much over time that they can’t trigger an atomic explosion. At the same time, once-stringent U.S. nuclear procedures have decayed to the point where nuclear cruise missile warheads were accidentally loaded on a B-52 in 2007 – and the crew thought they were dummy warheads.

Even with nuclear reductions, neither the U.S. or especially Russia is going to give up the big stick that makes them big boys in the international arena. Britain is willing to reduce its sub-launched Trident missile force. But I can’t imagine a nation that has developed nuclear weapons ever giving them up. Unfortunately, the nuclear nightmare is here to stay.

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