With President Donald Trump announcing a $54 billion — or 10% — increase to US defense spending, many on both sides of the aisle are left wondering what exactly the Pentagon will be paying for with all that money. Many on the Left have criticized Trump’s stance that “Russia has been expanding their nuclear weapons” and that “they have a much newer capability than we do.” CNN, with Steven Pifer of the leftist Brookings Institute, has gone so far as to rebuke Trump’s claims, saying, “[N]o country can match the US for the strength, size or modernity of its nuclear weaponry.”
Right off the bat, CNN’s claim that the nuclear weapon arsenal of the United States is more “modern” is unequivocally false. While Russia has been developing, improving, and releasing new ICBM designs every decade or so, the Minuteman III used by the United States will be turning 47 this year. The age of the missile system, of course, isn’t any indication of quality or capability. According to Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Russian military doctrine — a preference for often immoral destructive capability over precision and accuracy — in some ways makes the Russian nuclear force more formidable.
One key difference between the Russian and US launch platforms is the decision between silos and trucks; with Russians preferring the latter. While the American’s opted for immobile silos (which although more accurate provide an easier target), the Russians decided to mount their nuclear missile force onto trucks. This makes the Russian nuclear force, actually, incredibly capable of bringing a massive amount of nuclear warheads to bear in a potential conflict — a reflection of wider Russian military doctrine than anything else. “[Americans] prefer accuracy over destructive capability,” says Lewis, “a tiny little nuclear weapon we’ll fly right through the window and blow up the building. Meanwhile, the Russians would rather put 10 warheads on the building and level the whole city, civilians and all.”
Because of this attitude, which we saw in action during WWII, in Chechnya, and in Syria, the mathematics of defending ourselves from a Russian attack makes such an endeavor impossible. We have very capable missile defense systems on paper, but the system as a whole could never defend against potentially thousands of warheads moving through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is the only credible deterrent to a nuclear attack from any of the nuclear powers. This is why we have a need to maintain our own nuclear delivery capabilities through our nuclear triad (sea, land, and air based nuclear weapons).
Our nuclear capabilities are more capable than President Trump would have you believe but the maintenance of this superiority is paramount to the security of our nation and all mankind.