Rand Paul Favors Multi-Lateral Nuke Reductions

Judy Elliott on January 04, 2016
In response to a question about the trillion dollar plan for a new generation of nuclear weapons systems, Senator Rand Paul expressed support for multi-lateral negotiations leading to arms reductions. Although he supports some degree of "modernization," he said we already have "more than we need to blow up the world many times over."

In his opening remarks, Rand Paul made reference to recent debates over nuclear weapons on the campaign trail. 

"We had a debate over the nuclear triad, or a question. The nuclear triad says we launch missiles from the sea, from submarines, from the land – intercontinental ballistic missiles – we have the ability to, and also from planes.  So air, land, and sea... 

Now nuclear weapons, I’m not saying we could live in a world without them.  But for most people that’ve been watching the world and war and the Cold War, they were seen as a deterrent.  They were seen as something that we could match the Russians with and we hoped never have to use them.  And we kind of grew to a period of time, over decades, where we kind of both kind of decided that it would be sort of destroying the world … [Audio garbled]

I was recognized for the first question, and said, "I’m really glad that you brought up nuclear weapons.  As you know, the Pentagon and the nuclear weapons labs are beginning a massive new spending emphasis on nuclear weapons, shifting funds into nuclear weapons, hundreds of billions of dollars. 

"In terms of fighting terrorism, those weapons are not going to do us a bit of good. We already have a good deterrent.  And yet, we’re going to have more submarines than we need from Grumman, we’re going to have more missiles than we need from Lockheed, and more warheads than we need from Lockheed, and have more bombers than we need from Boeing.*

"I don’t think it makes us any safer. And yet funds are being shifted into nuclear weapons from other parts of the Pentagon budget. I want to know, do you support this?"

"Do I support expanding the nuclear arsenal?," Senator Paul asked.

"Yes," I said.

"You know, I think we have to decide what we need.  Is some of it outdated that we’re not going to keep?  Is some of it out there that [there] needs to be upkeep, and there has to be some modernization?  I think we have, as far as overall numbers, probably more than we need to blow up the world many times over.

"I do think that it’s better, if you’re going to adjust your nuclear arsenal, to do it in conjunction with the other major superpowers.  That’s one thing Reagan did.  So, some people who didn’t like Reagan thought, 'Oh, he was too reckless in all this.'  He turned out to be, I think, a very reasonable Commander-in-Chief in the sense that he continued to discuss with Gorbachev, eventually negotiated reductions. 

"So I’d be willing to say yes, let’s have open lines of communication with the other superpowers and see if we can reduce it.  I do think there still is a deterrent value, not only to the other major superpowers, but ultimately even to a rogue nation, that there is some idea of deterrence.  And you hope that there is some rationality on the other side.  We figured the Russians, after a while we decided, were rational enough not to want their country destroyed and we were the same, and the counterbalance worked. 

"It doesn’t mean that you need a hundred times what you need.  So I am willing to look at that and figure out if there are ways that we can negotiate a reduction in it. But I would not say absolutely I would not do anything to modernize it, because I think they have to work.  So you have to decide that.  But I am open to looking at the cost and how we can always conserve," he concluded.

"I do have a white paper for you on that," I said.

"Yeah, we’ll take it," he responded, and I gave a staffer the Arms Control Association’s 2014 paper “Unaffordable Arsenal.” 

*I misidentified major contractors for the nuclear modernization plan.I was correct that Lockheed makes missiles and runs Sandia Labs, which works on nuclear warheads. But the new submarines will be built by General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls.The major contractor for the new bomber is Northrup-Grumman. I’ll get it right next time.


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