David Guttenfelder, AP
Christine Meecham's letter of Jan. 4, "Dismantle nukes," is truly a commendable wish but Pollyanna in nature. It ignores the reality of the world we live in as China and Russia continue their military buildup. Increasing terrorism and North Korea and Iran attempting to increase or achieve nuclear military capabilities make for a poor climate to dismantle our nuclear capabilities further.
China is showing every intent to control the Western Pacific out to the "second island chain," including Guam. The type of control may be in question, but what they are trying to achieve is not. For the past 15 years, China has been engaged in a massive military buildup. Its purpose is to deny the United States access to the East and South China Seas. China is also threatening Japan and India, claiming ownership of islands that are considered Japanese territory. They also intimidate some of India's shipping with close encounters at sea.
In an article by Jim Talent of National Review Online, he states, "[China] will double its arsenal of nuclear warheads by 2015. By 2020, the Chinese Navy will be substantially larger than America's." The projected fleet will number in excess of 300 ships, most with cruise missile capabilities except for some of its amphibious ships. China only has to have its navy in the Pacific while our Navy covers the world's waterways. Because of that, their navy will far outnumber our available assets, even after we rebalance our fleets to put the majority of available vessels in the Pacific.
The U.S. military continues to decline. The Navy has fewer ships than anytime since World War I. The number decreases because more ships reach end of operational life faster than current finances allow replacement. The inventory of the Air Force is smaller and older than any time since the inception of the service. Pentagon planning reduces the active-duty Army to 420,000 troops, far fewer than projected needs in the 1990s before China's buildup, the increasing threat of terrorism, and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.
Russia commissioned two new Borey-class submarines in 2013 with two more to follow shortly. They carry 16 Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Each missile can be equipped with 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads.
On Dec. 30, the first of a total of eight Yasen-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines was delivered to the northern fleet. Its main armament consists of 24 Oniks and Kalibr cruise missiles, self-guided torpedoes and mines.
With the continuing modernization of the Russian submarine navy, it also delivered the first of six new Kilo-class diesel-electric boats to its Black Sea fleet. The Kilo boats are a very formidable foe because of better sonar equipment and more silencing.
Now is not the time for the United States to reduce our nuclear capability, the main deterrent during the Cold War. Scenarios take on a different look considering that terrorists have declared their goal to destroy us. Other large military powers who wish us ill must look at us with hope. If we let our military become too small to defend us on more than one theater of operation, reducing our nuclear capability will present a position of weakness, which is never a good thing.
We must "Speak softly, and carry a big stick!"
Ken Caye is a retired Navy officer.
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