CD168: Nuclear Desperation

CD168: Nuclear Desperation

Feb 25, 2018

Executive Producers (1): Stephen McMahan

Cold War: Part Duex

In early February, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva testified to Congress about two recently released war strategy documents: The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review.

In this episode, hear some of the most powerful people in the world discuss their plans to reboot the Cold War, including an extremely expensive plan, which has already begun, to replace the United States entire nuclear weapons arsenal.

Executive Producer: Stephen McMahan

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Hearing: National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review, C-SPAN, House Armed Services Committee, February 6, 2018.


  • James Mattis – Secretary of the Department of Defense
  • General Paul Selva – Vice Chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff
  • 12:25 Defense Secretary James Mattis: To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm’s way, in effect, signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives. They do so despite Congress’ abrogation of its constitutional responsibility to provide sufficient stable funding. Our military have been operating under debilitating continuing resolutions for more than 1,000 days during the past decade. These men and women hold the line for America while lacking this most fundamental congressional support: a predictable budget. Congress mandated—rightfully mandated—this National Defense Strategy—the first one in a decade—and then shut down the government the day of its release. Today we are again operating under a disruptive continuing resolution. It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning we are again on the verge of a government shutdown, or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution. I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time because no strategy can survive, as you pointed out, Chairman, without the funding necessary to resource it.
  • 19:15 Defense Secretary James Mattis: Our second line of effort is to strengthen traditional alliances while building new partnerships. History is clear that nations with allies thrive. We inherited this approach to security and prosperity from the Greatest Generation, and it has served the United States well for 70 years. Working by, with, and through allies who carry their fair share is a source of strength. Since the costly victory in World War II, Americans have carried a disproportionate share of the global-defense burden while others recovered. Today the growing economic strength of allies and partners has enabled them to step up, as demonstrated by more than 70 nations and international organizations participating in the Defeat ISIS campaign and again in the 40-some nations standing shoulder to shoulder in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Most NATO allies are also increasing their defense budgets, giving credence to the value of democracies standing together.
  • 24:33 Defense Secretary James Mattis: As Senator McCain said last week, since the end of the Cold War, we have let our nuclear capabilities atrophy under the false belief that the era of great power competition was over. As the new National Defense Strategy rightfully acknowledges, we now face the renewed threat of competition from Russia and China, and we cannot ignore their investments in nuclear weapons in addition to conventional forces. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms the findings of previous reviews that the nuclear triad—comprised of silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, bomber aircraft, and nuclear submarines—is the most strategically sound means of ensuring nuclear deterrence. To remain effective, however, we must recapitalize our Cold War legacy nuclear-deterrence forces, continuing a modernization program initiated during the previous administration.
  • 27:05 Defense Secretary James Mattis: We need Congress to lift the defense spending caps and support the budget for our military of 700 billion for this fiscal year and 716 billion for next fiscal year. Let me be clear: as hard as the last 16 years of war have been on our military, no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating for 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration. The Budget Control Act was purposely designed to be so injurious that it would force Congress to pass necessary budgets. It was never intended to be the solution.
  • 34:50 General Paul Selva: Two supplemental capabilities recommended in the Nuclear Posture Review—the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile and a modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads—would enhance deterrence by ensuring that no adversary under any set of circumstances can perceive an advantage through the use of a limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack. Fielding these capabilities will not lower the threshold at which the U.S. would employ nuclear weapons; rather, it will raise the nuclear threshold for potential adversaries, making the use of nuclear weapons less likely.
  • 35:45 General Paul Selva: It is important to note that the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review both make the assumption that the military will receive timely, predictable, and sufficient funding to execute these strategies. As General Mattis has emphasized, we in uniform appreciate the support of this committee and the Congress, and we trust that the Congress will provide the funding needed to turn these strategies into reality.
  • 1:03:05 Representative Joe Wilson (SC): Secretary Mattis, your Nuclear Posture Review, NPR, recommends that U.S. develop two supplemental nuclear capabilities: first, a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile, SLBM; and second, a sea-launched cruise missile. Why are these needed for deterrence and assurance? And following on that, some are arguing that they lower the threshold for the U.S. to use nuclear weapons. Do you believe that the addition of these capabilities to the U.S. nuclear arsenal is an increase or decrease the likelihood of a nuclear war? And another angle: why should we need a low-yield SLBM when we already have a low-yield nuclear gravity bomb? Are these capabilities redundant? Defense Secretary James Mattis: Congressman, I don’t believe it lowers the threshold at all. What it does, it makes very clear that we have a deterrent. If the Russians choose to carry out what some of their doctrine people have promoted, their political leaders have promoted, which would be to employ a low-yield nuclear weapon in a conventional fight in order to escalate to de-escalate; in other words, to escalate to victory and then de-escalate. We want to make certain they recognize that we can respond in kind. We don’t have to go with a high-yield weapon; thus, the deterrent effort stays primary. It is not to in any way lower the threshold to use nuclear weapons. On the sea-launched cruise missile, as you know, we have an ongoing issue with Russia’s violation of the INF. I want to make certain that our negotiators have something to negotiate with, that we want Russia back into compliance. We do not want to forgo the INF, but at the same time, we have options if Russia continues to go down this path.
Discussion: Kissinger and Schultz on Global Challenges, C-SPAN, Senate Armed Services Committee, January 25, 2018.


  • Henry Kissinger
    • National Security Advisor & Secretary of State in Nixon & Ford Administrations
  • George Shultz
    • Secretary of State in Reagan Administration
  • Richard Armitage
    • Deputy Secretary of State in the first term of the George W. Bush administration
  • 12:45 Henry Kissinger: The international situation facing the United States is unprecedented. What is occurring is more than a coincidence of individual crises. Rather, it is a systemic failure of world order, which is gathering momentum and which has led to an erosion of the international system rather than its consolidation, a rejection of territorial acquisition by force, expansion of mutual trade benefits without coercion, which are the hallmark of the existing system are all under some kind of strain. Compounding this dynamism is the pace of technological development, whose extraordinary progress threatens to outstrip our strategic and moral imagination and makes the strategic equation tenuous unless major efforts are made to sustain it.
  • 19:45 Henry Kissinger: There is no doubt that the military capacity of China, as well as its economic capacity, is growing, and there have been challenges from Russia which have to be met, especially in Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria. And this raises these fundamental questions: What is the strategic relationship between these countries vis-a-vis the prospect of peace? Is their strength comparable enough to induce restraint? Are their values compatible enough to encourage an agreed legitimacy? These are the challenges that we face. The balance of power must be maintained, but it is also necessary to attempt a strategic dialogue that prevents the balance of power from having to be tested. This is the key issue in our relationship.
  • 25:10 George Shultz: And I take the occasion to particularly underline one of the things that Henry brought out in his testimony, that is the concern we must have about nuclear proliferation. As you remember in the Reagan period, we worked hard. President Reagan thought nuclear weapons were immoral, and we worked hard to get them reduced. And we had quite a lot of success. And in those days, people seemed to have an appreciation of what would be the result of a nuclear weapon if ever used. I fear people have lost that sense of dread. And now we see everything going in the other direction, nuclear proliferation. The more countries have nuclear weapons, the more likely it is one’s going to go off somewhere, and the more fissile materials lying around—anybody who gets fissile material can make a weapon fairly easily. So this is a major problem. It can blow up the world. So I think we have to get at it. And the right way to start is what Henry said, is somehow to be able to have a different kind of relationship with Russia. After all, Russia and the United States have the bulk of all the weapons.
  • 31:20 George Shultz: First, let me talk about the economy. What is happening as a result of these forces is de-globalization. This is already happening. This is not something for the future. The reason is that it’s becoming more and more possible to produce the things you want close to where you are. So the advantages of low labor costs are disappearing. And the more you produce things near where you are, the less you need shipping, and it has a big impact on energy, and it has a huge impact on the countries that are providing low-cost labor and a huge impact on places like ourselves which will wind up being able to produce these things near where we are. It’s a revolution. And a revolution in the economy has all sorts of security implications that need to be thought about. But this is a very big deal.
  • 33:30 George Shultz: Robotics, 3-D printing, and artificial intelligence are driving manufacturers to reconsider not only how and what they make but where they make it. The world is on the very front end of a big shift from labor to automation. Robot sales are expected to reach $400,000 annually in 2018. This estimate does not account for the newly developed cobots, that is, collaborative robots. They assist human workers and, thus, dramatically increase human productivity. There are other things about all this that I won’t go into which underline it, but the new technologies are bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The United States has lost manufacturing jobs every year from 1998 to 2009, a total of 8 million jobs. Over the last 6 years, it regained about a million of them. With the cost of living no longer a significant advantage, it makes little sense to manufacture components in Southeast Asia, assemble them in China, and then ship them to the rest of the world when the same item can either be manufactured by robots or printed where it will be used. So this is a huge revolution taking place. It also underlines the enhanced ability to protect your intellectual property because you don’t have to ship it around.
  • 35:35 George Shultz: You want to look at the dramatic improvements in nano-energetics, artificial intelligence, drones, and 3-D printing. They’re producing a revolution of small, smart, and cheap weapons that will redefine the battlefield. Open-source literature says nano-aluminum created ultra high burn rates which give nano-explosives four to ten times the power of TNT. The obvious result, small platforms will carry a very destructive power. Then you can put these small platforms on drones. And drones can be manufactured easily, and you can have a great many of them inexpensively. So then you can have a swarm armed with lethal equipment. Any fixed target is a real target. So an airfield where our Air Force stores planes is a very vulnerable target. A ship at anchor is a vulnerable target. So you’ve got to think about that in terms of how you deploy. And in terms of the drones, while such a system cannot be jammed, it would only serve to get a drone—talking about getting a drone to the area of where its target is, but that sure could hit a specific target. At that point, the optical systems guided by artificial intelligence could use on-board, multi-spectral imaging to find a target and guide the weapons. It is exactly that autonomy that makes the technologic convergence a threat today. Because such drones will require no external input other than the signature of the designed target, they will not be vulnerable to jamming. Not requiring human intervention, the autonomous platforms will also be able to operate in very large numbers.
  • 38:48 George Shultz: I think there’s a great lesson here for what we do in NATO to contain Russia because you can deploy these things in boxes so you don’t even know what they are and on trucks and train people to unload quickly and fire. So it’s a huge deterrent capability that is available, and it’s inexpensive enough so that we can expect our allies to pitch in and get them for themselves.
  • 40:10 George Shultz: The creative use of swarms of autonomous drones to augment current forces would strongly and relatively cheaply reinforce NATO, as I said, that deterrence. If NATO assists frontline states in fielding large numbers of inexpensive autonomous drones that are pre-packaged in standard 20-foot containers, the weapons can be stored in sites across the countries under the control of reserve forces. If the weapons are pre-packaged and stored, the national forces can quickly deploy the weapons to delay a Russian advance. So what’s happening is you have small, cheap, and highly lethal replacing large, expensive platforms. And this change is coming about with great rapidity, and it is massively important to take it into account in anything that you are thinking about doing.
  • 54:10 George Shultz: Well, I read what I guess was an early version—somehow it was sent to me—of the national-security strategy. And I liked the beginning of it because it talked about our commitment to getting rid of nuclear weapons. But as you read on, it almost sounded a little bit as though there might be this or that occasion where we would use nuclear weapons. And this notion of using them that is spreading around is deeply disturbing to me.
Video: Pinky and the Brain – The Really Great Dictator, March 6, 2011.
Video: War on Iraq Breaking News – Shock & Awe Iraq, Sky News, October 20, 2006.

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