Defense budget: nuclear or conventional?

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - The U.S. government's fiscal year begins on October 1 of the previous calendar year, and the Senators have already compiled a $459.3 billion draft defense budget for 2008 and sent it to the president for approval.

The Russian military have not been marking time either - the new Topol-M (NATO reporting name SS-27) mobile missile division will be deployed in mid-December. By the way, in line with the three-year defense budget (2008-2010), Russia is going to spend next year a total of $36.8 billion on defense.

The difference is impressive, although I am not going to discuss or compare the figures. The main point is how this money is going to be spent.

Let's start with the United States. Having announced the start of the new fiscal year, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told journalists that in 2007 the United States has dismantled almost three times more nuclear arms than required by the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. Apparently, the Pentagon is not planning a strategic attack for the coming year, either.

Congress has allocated a mere $15 million to develop the nuclear Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), whose purpose is to make storage safer. It looks like the United States is shooting off some nuclear systems and conducting patrol duty. It is not even actively upgrading its existing nuclear arsenal.

Does this mean that America is not afraid of lagging behind Russia, which is building up its nuclear arms? Or has it lost touch with reality? Not in the least, but I'll get back to this later. Let's see what we are doing in the sphere of arms.

If we ignore Russia's verbose rhetoric about its new role and the challenges and threats it is facing, it will be obvious that its defense strategy rests on the build-up of all three legs of its strategic triad. In a couple of years, it is planning to develop the MIRVed RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile to supplement the land-based Topol-M missiles.

It is also going to build submarines which will be equipped not only with the liquid fuel Sineva RSM-54 missile (Scythian) but also with the solid-fuel Bulava (SS-NX-30). Like RS-24, the latter is an upgraded version of the omnipresent Topol. Russia is also planning to resume the production of its new strategic bomber - Tupolev Tu-160 (Blackjack) at the Kazank aircraft plant.

Moscow is making no secret of the fact that this is its response to the U.S. plans to create a third ABM positioning area in Europe. Moreover, it is actively considering withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and may decide to resume the production of nuclear missiles with a range of up to 5,000 km (3,000 miles).

It appears that we have already countered ten ground-based interceptors (GBIs), which have not been placed in Poland yet, with impressive plans and a handsome arsenal of weapons. Their number is not likely to go up into dozens, not to mention hundreds. Speaking of dozens, everything that is new today will turn obsolete in a dozen years, not to mention the old Topols and Pioneers (SS-20). The Russian General Staff wants to resume the production of these missiles, which were developed in the 1970s.

To sum up, the Americans are not particularly worried about their nuclear arsenal, while we are very serious about ours, and view Czech, Polish and other territories as targets.

The Americans have been thoroughly calculating the real threats to their security to be ready to go to war, if need be, in real earnest. As for nuclear weapons, it is not possible to use them without destroying everything on the planet. In the meantime, minor conflicts are growing in number and scale. They are more often rooted in economic, religious and demographic problems rather than politics.

The 20th century saw two world wars and a third one is looming large. During its last decade alone, the world saw 38 major armed conflicts. Nuclear weapons have not prevented a single shot.

Sooner or later, there will be another war. We may not take part in it, but someone will. Nuclear weapons are obviously a low priority in this context. This is why instead of Minuteman missiles Pentagon has concentrated on high precision new generation conventional weapons of a long range. Despite the obvious threat to civilization the United States may soon acquire orbital weapons under the Prompt Global Strike plan. They will give it capacity to deal a conventional strike virtually anywhere in the world within an hour.

Indeed, it all depends on decision-makers rather than amounts of money.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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