Background on Defense

‘Hollow Military’
The ‘hollow military’ refers to a reduced size of the US armed forces resulting in lack of readiness. The term was popularized in the post-Vietnam 1970s, but has come back into use for the post-Cold War. Current US military policy is to achieve sufficient ‘readiness’ to fight two ‘nearly-simultaneous’ wars.

‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defense Initiative
  • President Reagan in the 1980s proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, popularly known as the ‘Star Wars’ Missile Defense).
  • Its cost is estimated at $60 billion ($26 billion for the initial phase).
  • Some aspects of testing and deployment of SDI would breach the ABM Treaty and the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In particular, deploying a missile defense system only within the US would breach the ABM Treaty, but the US and Russia have issued numerous statements advocating a ‘global protection system’ as well as ‘theater defense systems.’
  • The ‘Aegis defense system’ is the Navy’s existing ship-based anti-missile system.
  • The newer term for SDI is ‘NMD’, for ‘National Missile Defense’, which generally implies a smaller system.

    ABM Treaty
    The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 is an agreement that neither the USA nor the USSR would build any nation-wide missile defense, on the theory that ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ was the best means to avoid nuclear war. Russia and the 3 other post-Soviet nuclear states have agreed to abide by the USSR’s limitations within the ABM Treaty.

    In general, calling for abrogating the ABM Treaty implies support for NMD, while supporting nuclear test bans of any kind implies opposition to NMD.

    ‘Loose Nukes’ and Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Concern over nuclear war has been replaced by concern over proliferation of nuclear technology and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs, referring to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons). The concern is that terrorists or ‘rogue states’ will unleash WMDs on the US or elsewhere.
  • ‘Loose Nukes’ refer to the sale or theft of nuclear weapons from the former USSR. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) addresses loose nukes, and is the primary arms control treaty under negotiation today. Existing treaties address ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), both of which can reach the US; recent negotiations include non-missile nuclear threats.

    Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
    The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty intends to limit nuclear proliferation. As of April 1999, it has been signed by 152 countries and ratified by 32, but requires 44 ratifications to enter into force of law. Ratification implies that a nation will not advance its nuclear technology beyond its present status. India & Pakistan, who both exploded nuclear devices in 1998, have promised to sign the Treaty now that their testing is complete.

    CountryNuclear StatusSigned
    China400 warheads; at most 50 on ICBMs; 45 nuclear tests9/24/96; unratified.
    France450 warheads; 210 nuclear tests9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98
    IndiaConducted tests, 1998Unsigned
    IranSeeking nuclear capability9/24/96
    IraqSeeking nuclear capabilityUnsigned
    Israel Unacknowledged nuclear capability9/25/96; unratified.
    North KoreaFrozen development programUnsigned
    PakistanConducted tests, 1998Unsigned
    Russia23,000 warheads; 715 nuclear tests; 3,630 warheads on ICBMs,
    including missiles in Belarus, Ukraine, & Kazakhstan
    9/24/96; unratified.
    South AfricaDeveloped weapons but relinquished them in 19939/24/96; unratified.
    United Kingdom260 warheads; 45 nuclear tests.9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98
    United States1,030 nuclear tests and 12,000 warheads,
    including 2,000 ICBMs & 3,450 SLBMs.
    9/24/96; rejected 10/13/99.

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    Treaty texts and associated documents:

    ABM Treaty
    Test-Ban Treaty
    START Treaties
    Other arms treaties
    ICBM counts
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