Russian annexation of Crimea has provoked concern in Western capitals about what Moscow’s next moves might be. Dealing with Russia isn’t like dealing with most countries, because it has an extensive arsenal of nuclear weapons. So any hint of resurgent Russian nationalism or a return of the Cold War inevitably leads American military planners to reflect on whether the U.S. deterrent is adequate. That deterrent has been gradually shrinking and aging for two decades, and if steps are not taken soon it will begin to wither as bombers, submarines and missiles retire. The military has plans to modernize all three legs of the nuclear “triad,” although President Obama’s preference has been to gradually reduce reliance on nuclear weapons through arms control and other measures. However, Vladimir Putin’s moves in Crimea have now bolstered the case for going forward with revitalizing U.S. strategic forces, an effort that the Congressional Budget Office estimates could cost $355 billion over the next ten years. Putin does not seem to have thought through how his Crimean campaign might strengthen the hand of Washington’s hawks. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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