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As Number of US, Russia Nukes Falls, Lethality Rises

Modernization means countries' arsenals are growing more deadly: Reuters
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2017 1:25 PM CST

(Newser) – President Trump's policy goals show he aims to dismantle much of President Obama's legacy, but there's one element of that legacy he's embracing: a nuclear modernization program that Scot Paltrow at Reuters writes is leading to a new arms race. In the lengthy piece, Paltrow explains how: Though the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed in 2010 limits the US and Russia to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads each (about 2,000 in actuality), both countries are modernizing their arsenals so they become more deadly even as the number of weapons falls. William Perry, defense secretary under President Clinton, argues this makes nuclear war more likely, not less likely as had been Obama's goal with New START before concessions to Congress meant modernization would be allowed.

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Trump now aims to create a nuclear force that is "modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies," says a White House rep. On this, he's facing little to no opposition in Congress, though the program will cost at least $1.25 trillion over 30 years and likely more. A new B61 bomb, with a guidance system directing it to its target and a "dial-down capacity" triggering a 0.3 kiloton to 340 kiloton detonation (23 times the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima), costs $20.8 million alone—more than its weight in gold. Some argue such weapons are "more tempting to deploy," Paltrow writes. Others say they act as a deterrent. But Russia is modernizing, too, and mostly in secret. Click for the full piece, which mentions a purported Russian bomb that could make the entire US East Coast unliveable. (Read more Longform stories.)

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