On Monday, April 15, ASP was honored to welcome former Ambassador and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Linton Brooks, for an event titled “The Future of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent: A Conversation with Amb. Linton Brooks.” After a short introduction from ASP CEO Stephen Cheney and ASP Nuclear Director Terri Lodge, Mr. Brooks began the event with a brief talk, outlining the prospect for disarmament and his take on the key elements of the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Although broadly supportive of disarmament efforts, Mr. Brooks gave a frank assessment of the barriers that stand between the world today and large scale nuclear reduction. Mr. Brooks argued that Russian lack of cooperation, cost inefficiency, and international obligations, would all contribute to an environment in which total or complete elimination is unlikely for many decades to come. On the lack of Russian enthusiasm for disarmament, Mr. Brooks explained how the Russians perceive their nuclear arsenal. With their influence and power declining in other areas, including conventional capabilities, the Russian leadership sees the arsenal as a way of maintaining Russian relevance on the international stage.
Although the US nuclear arsenal was built to face the challenges of a different era, the end of the Cold War has not reduced its significance completely. Despite the current, relatively good U.S.-Russian relationship, Mr. Brooks cautioned the audience about trying to predict the future. However unlikely the prospect of a more aggressive Russia is, it remains a frightening prospect to the new US allies from the former Soviet Union. These regional partners feel much safer under the US nuclear umbrella, and their opposition to US reductions without Russian reciprocity is significant.
On the topic of disarmament, Mr. Brooks discussed the paradox that while keeping aging weapons and delivery systems in operation can be costly, it may be more expensive to decommission them, especially in the short term. The nuclear capable bombers, used as an example, plays an important part in the conventional arsenal, and although their non-conventional capabilities may no longer be vital for national security, eliminating it will not bring about substantial savings.
During the Q & A session, Mr. Brooks covered a broad range of topics, including balance of forces with Russia, the implications of life extension programs, the challenges of unilateral disarmament and missile defense.
To listen to the event click below: