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Nuke Plans for a New Nuclear Cruise Missile via US News

Obama is wrong to think costly new nuclear cruise missiles will make us any safer.

In 2009, President Barack Obama made an impassioned speech in Prague, laying out his nuclear security agenda. In it, he stated “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Six years later, Obama’s nuclear security legacy hangs in the balance. Parts of his legacy are in limbo: the budget cuts on nuclear non-proliferation programs and the administration’s massive plans to modernize the aging nuclear weapons force. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of that modernization effort is the administration’s plan to build a new nuclear cruise missile that is expensive, unnecessary and inconsistent with the president’s stated policy.

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Cruise missiles are, by nature, destabilizing. When fired, an adversary, or a country over which the missiles might fly, has no way of knowing whether the missile is carrying a nuclear or convention warhead. Of course, there is also the potential for error. Earlier this month, when Russia launched 26 cruise missiles into Syria, four crashed in Iran. What if those malfunctioning missiles had been carrying a nuclear weapon?

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, argues that the new cruise missile is necessary to “make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in.” But a nuclear-capable missile is not necessary to “make holes and gaps”; the Air Force plans to equip all U.S. bombers with conventional cruise missiles that would, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at Federation of American Scientists, “provide sufficient capability against the same air defense targets that [long-range standoff weapons] proponents argue require a standoff nuclear cruise missile on the next-generation bomber.” Moreover, in the very unlikely case of a nuclear attack, the United States still maintains a nuclear triad and has the option to employ nuclear weapons using land-based missiles, sea-based missiles and gravity bombs delivered by penetrating bombers.

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