BMDS Elements Made Progress, but It Was Less Than Expected and It Cost More than Planned
Actual costs cannot be reconciled with original goals because the goals have been changed, work travels to and from other blocks, and individual program elements do not account for costs consistently. In addition, although element program offices achieved most of their 2006 test objectives, the performance of the BMDS cannot yet be fully assessed because there have been too few flight tests conducted to anchor the models and simulations that predict overall system performance. Several elements continue to experience technical problems which pose questions about the performance of the fielded system and could delay the enhancement of future blocks.
Ein zweiter Punkt, der schon fast zum 'common sense' geworden ist, betrifft die These, daß sich die Raketenabwehr nur gegen Terroristen und "Schurkenstaaten" richte, aber das Nukleararsenal Rußlands und Chinas nicht beeinträchtigen werde. Wirklich? Keir Lieber und Daryl Press äußern in einem lesens- und bedenkenswerten Aufsatz in der Zeitschrift Foreign Affairs vom Frühjahr 2006 gut begründete Zweifel an dieser Auffassung:
"[...]Während die USA an ihrer nuklearen Überlegenheit arbeiten, ist das Atomarsenal Rußlands dahingeschmolzen (weshalb auch die jüngsten Raketentests besser nachvollziehbar sind) und das chinesische stellt aus amerikanischer Sicht keinen ernstzunehmenden Faktor dar:
This debate may now seem like ancient history, but it is actually more relevant than ever -- because the age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.
One's views on the implications of this change will depend on one's theoretical perspective. Hawks, who believe that the United States is a benevolent force in the world, will welcome the new nuclear era because they trust that U.S. dominance in both conventional and nuclear weapons will help deter aggression by other countries. For example, as U.S. nuclear primacy grows, China's leaders may act more cautiously on issues such as Taiwan, realizing that their vulnerable nuclear forces will not deter U.S. intervention -- and that Chinese nuclear threats could invite a U.S. strike on Beijing's arsenal. But doves, who oppose using nuclear threats to coerce other states and fear an emboldened and unconstrained United States, will worry. Nuclear primacy might lure Washington into more aggressive behavior, they argue, especially when combined with U.S. dominance in so many other dimensions of national power. Finally, a third group -- owls, who worry about the possibility of inadvertent conflict -- will fret that U.S. nuclear primacy could prompt other nuclear powers to adopt strategic postures, such as by giving control of nuclear weapons to lower-level commanders, that would make an unauthorized nuclear strike more likely -- thereby creating what strategic theorists call "crisis instability."
"[...]In welchem Zusammenhang steht nundie nukleare Überlegenheit der USA gegenüber allen anderen Atommächten (zusammen mit ihrer Überlegenheit bei den konventionellen Streitkräften) mit der geplanten Raketenabwehr? Lieber und Press geben eine vielleicht überraschende und vom 'wohlmeinenden common sense' abweichende Antwort:
Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use. Russia's strategic bombers, now located at only two bases and thus vulnerable to a surprise attack, rarely conduct training exercises, and their warheads are stored off-base. Over 80 percent of Russia's silo-based ICBMs have exceeded their original service lives, and plans to replace them with new missiles have been stymied by failed tests and low rates of production. Russia's mobile ICBMs rarely patrol, and although they could fire their missiles from inside their bases if given sufficient warning of an attack, it appears unlikely that they would have the time to do so.
The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces.
Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess. Neither Soviet nor Russian satellites have ever been capable of reliably detecting missiles launched from U.S. submarines. (In a recent public statement, a top Russian general described his country's early warning satellite constellation as "hopelessly outdated.") Russian commanders instead rely on ground-based radar systems to detect incoming warheads from submarine-launched missiles. But the radar network has a gaping hole in its coverage that lies to the east of the country, toward the Pacific Ocean. If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. Russia's radar coverage of some areas in the North Atlantic is also spotty, providing only a few minutes of warning before the impact of submarine-launched warheads.
Even as Russia's nuclear forces deteriorate, the United States is improving its ability to track submarines and mobile missiles, further eroding Russian military leaders' confidence in Russia's nuclear deterrent. (As early as 1998, these leaders publicly expressed doubts about the ability of Russia's ballistic missile submarines to evade U.S. detection.) Moreover, Moscow has announced plans to reduce its land-based ICBM force by another 35 percent by 2010; outside experts predict that the actual cuts will slice 50 to 75 percent off the current force, possibly leaving Russia with as few as 150 ICBMs by the end of the decade, down from its 1990 level of almost 1,300 missiles. The more Russia's nuclear arsenal shrinks, the easier it will become for the United States to carry out a first strike.
To determine how much the nuclear balance has changed since the Cold War, we ran a computer model of a hypothetical U.S. attack on Russia's nuclear arsenal using the standard unclassified formulas that defense analysts have used for decades. We assigned U.S. nuclear warheads to Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: the most accurate weapons were aimed at the hardest targets, and the fastest-arriving weapons at the Russian forces that can react most quickly. Because Russia is essentially blind to a submarine attack from the Pacific and would have great difficulty detecting the approach of low-flying stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, we targeted each Russian weapon system with at least one submarine-based warhead or cruise missile. An attack organized in this manner would give Russian leaders virtually no warning.
This simple plan is presumably less effective than Washington's actual strategy, which the U.S. government has spent decades perfecting. The real U.S. war plan may call for first targeting Russia's command and control, sabotaging Russia's radar stations, or taking other preemptive measures -- all of which would make the actual U.S. force far more lethal than our model assumes.
To be clear, this does not mean that a first strike by the United States would be guaranteed to work in reality; such an attack would entail many uncertainties. Nor, of course, does it mean that such a first strike is likely. But what our analysis suggests is profound: Russia's leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent. And unless they reverse course rapidly, Russia's vulnerability will only increase over time.
China's nuclear arsenal is even more vulnerable to a U.S. attack. A U.S. first strike could succeed whether it was launched as a surprise or in the midst of a crisis during a Chinese alert. China has a limited strategic nuclear arsenal. The People's Liberation Army currently possesses no modern SSBNs or long-range bombers. Its naval arm used to have two ballistic missile submarines, but one sank, and the other, which had such poor capabilities that it never left Chinese waters, is no longer operational. China's medium-range bomber force is similarly unimpressive: the bombers are obsolete and vulnerable to attack. According to unclassified U.S. government assessments, China's entire intercontinental nuclear arsenal consists of 18 stationary single-warhead ICBMs. These are not ready to launch on warning: their warheads are kept in storage and the missiles themselves are unfueled. (China's ICBMs use liquid fuel, which corrodes the missiles after 24 hours. Fueling them is estimated to take two hours.) The lack of an advanced early warning system adds to the vulnerability of the ICBMs. It appears that China would have no warning at all of a U.S. submarine-launched missile attack or a strike using hundreds of stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles.
"[...]Folglich muß man die zumeist (auch von mir einmal) geäußerte Annahme, die Einlassungen Putins und einiger russischer Generäle seit dem Februar diesen Jahres seien bloße Rhetorik ohne Bezug zur sicherheitspolitischen Wirklichkeit (oder, noch schlimmer, Putin sei gar verrückt geworden), mit erheblicher Skepsis betrachten. Wer diese Position weiterhin vertritt, ohne valide Einwände gegen das von Lieber und Press oben vorgetragene zu formulieren, setzt sich dem Verdacht aus, die strategische Lage fahrlässig oder böswillig zu mißdeuten.
Washington's pursuit of nuclear primacy helps explain its missile-defense strategy, for example. Critics of missile defense argue that a national missile shield, such as the prototype the United States has deployed in Alaska and California, would be easily overwhelmed by a cloud of warheads and decoys launched by Russia or China. They are right: even a multilayered system with land-, air-, sea-, and space-based elements, is highly unlikely to protect the United States from a major nuclear attack. But they are wrong to conclude that such a missile-defense system is therefore worthless -- as are the supporters of missile defense who argue that, for similar reasons, such a system could be of concern only to rogue states and terrorists and not to other major nuclear powers.
What both of these camps overlook is that the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one -- as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield. If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China), the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal -- if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes, because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys left.
During the Cold War, Washington relied on its nuclear arsenal not only to deter nuclear strikes by its enemies but also to deter the Warsaw Pact from exploiting its conventional military superiority to attack Western Europe. It was primarily this latter mission that made Washington rule out promises of "no first use" of nuclear weapons. Now that such a mission is obsolete and the United States is beginning to regain nuclear primacy, however, Washington's continued refusal to eschew a first strike and the country's development of a limited missile-defense capability take on a new, and possibly more menacing, look. The most logical conclusions to make are that a nuclear-war-fighting capability remains a key component of the United States' military doctrine and that nuclear primacy remains a goal of the United States.