Last week, President Obama feted Communist China’s Xi Jinping, the man who hopes to lead his country as it emerges as the world’s next superpower. Mr. Xi must have been delighted to see press reports that his host is poised to end America’s claim to such status – at least with respect to the traditional means of measuring it: nuclear weaponry.
According to a story first reported by the Associated Press, Mr. Obama has directed the Defense Department to come up with plans for reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal by as much as eighty percent. Evidently, he is prepared to take such a step unilaterally in order to encourage by our example other nations to join in his longstanding ambition to “rid the world of nuclear weapons.”
It is unclear whether the topic came up during the various meetings the PRC’s vice president had with his White House and other interlocutors. Even if it did, Xi presumably would not have disclosed a closely held Chinese secret: How many missiles and warheads have been squirreled away in 3,000 miles of hardened tunnels that make up what has been called the “Underground Great Wall of China.”
The Obama administration continues to assume that the People’s Liberation Army has only a few hundred nuclear weapons – approximately the level to which our Commander-in-Chief would like to reduce the American arsenal. A radically different estimate was recently provided, however, in a Georgetown University study led by former Pentagon strategic forces expert, Prof. Phillip Karber. To the fury of arms controllers in and out of the U.S. government, Dr. Karber’s team concluded that, based on the vast infrastructure China has created to conceal its missiles, it may have as many as 3,000 nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, China is not the only nuclear state or wannabe that is engaged in a feverish build up. Last week, Russia’s autocratic Vladimir Putin unveiled a $770 billion military modernization plan that he says would introduce 400 new intercontinental ballistic missiles presumably equipped with state-of-the art nuclear warheads.
Pakistan, North Korea and Iran are also among those who may wish us ill and are spurning President Obama’s exemplary, unilateral efforts at nuclear disarmament. With the help of such regimes or in response to their threats, others in the Far and Middle East are likely to see the need for their own deterrents. That is especially true as confidence in the reliability of America’s security guarantees collapses along with its once-mighty “nuclear umbrella.”
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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