COMMENT: Why Trump Wants To Leave A Cold War Treaty
Mr Trump says Russia has not been following the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty - so he's pulling the US out.
A handshake between American and Russian Presidents (Picture: PA).
By Defence Analyst Christopher Lee
In the next couple of days, US President Donald Trump is expected to announce he is giving six months' notice that he will be pulling out of one of the most important nuclear weapon peace treaties ever signed between the old Soviet Union and the United States.
Mr Trump wants the option to use nuclear weapons and has ordered the people who do these things down in the Texas Panhandle to make him some low yield nuclear warheads. But can they fix it for him?
They’ve said yes. Why is small beautiful for the President? The warheads would not be the giants on the current US intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has ordered nothing bigger than Hiroshima-Nagasaki sized explosions (just a quarter million people killed with the two bombs 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' in August 1945) and the first of the Trump warheads would be ready for loading by the end of 2019.
In the complex business of arms control, there are four things to get right: a treaty limiting numbers of warheads; distance missiles can fly; a system to verify compliance and for each state that signed and a ratification process - no point Mr Trump signing a treaty if Congress fails to agree.
Its purpose was to get rid of missiles with ranges between 500 and 1000 kilometres - but not sea-launched missiles. By the first full verification report in 1991, about 2,300 missiles had been scrapped. It was considered a success inasmuch that it was the only treaty in town, even if China had never signed up for it. This was a problem for Russia rather than for the US, as Chinese missiles are in the range of Russia.
When Mr Trump ordered low powered warheads from the good people of the Panhandle he had asked a nuclear warhead power game question that others had avoided: if the US has around 10,000 nuclear warheads, how come they cannot be used in places the country gets beaten up by conventional soldiers? Answer Mr President: devastation and escalation. Too powerful.
So build some very small weapons aim them at, say, Syria. Shock and awe? You ain’t seen nothing yet, as President Reagan would have said. Even drop one on Damascus and the people in Wisconsin won’t notice a thing.
The warning of nuclear conflict. Not quite. More the warning of miscalculation – the most common cause of warfare.
Could be that the bald eagle school swoops on Saturday. Then what? Ask Mr Putin.