On June 13, 2017, Rebeccah Heinrichs, a Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a writer for Providence Magazine, gave a guest lecture at The Institute of World Politics on the increasing need and reliance the U.S. places on the threat and deterrence provided by nuclear weapons.
She stated that since their first use on Japan, the U.S. has utilized nuclear weapons every day as a form of deterrence. Ms. Heinrichs pointed out that, in recent years, the U.S. government has not adequately addressed the fact that the nuclear program is aging, becoming unreliable, and is fading as a “credible threat of force.” Without this credible threat, the U.S. will lose the ability to deter other actors from waging attacks against nations under the “nuclear umbrella” of the U.S. and from working towards the creation of their own nuclear weapons.
Ms. Heinrichs then made some recommendations about how the U.S. can regenerate its credible threat of force. She stated that the U.S. must build, maintain, and modernize a nuclear system that will be feared by other nations. An arsenal that only employs outdated nuclear weapons will be useless against an enemy that understands U.S. nuclear forces.
Ms. Heinrichs emphasized the need for policy makers and leaders in the U.S. government to have a “clear eyed view of the world.” Without a realistic view, the U.S. will not make significant strides in securitizing itself or allies, as shown by the U.S.’s past involvement in treaties, such as New Start and the Iranian nuclear deal.
During the question and answer portion of the lecture, Ms. Heinrichs elaborated on nuclear treaties and the possible development of any such treaties in the future. She stated that it was extremely smart for the U.S. not to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; however, there is a need to test more in the U.S. Furthermore, she noted that any nuclear reduction treaty would be foolish to attempt.
Ms. Heinrichs stated that the U.S. needs to “shore up credibility, budget appropriately, and war game more” to re-establish its nuclear clout. Anything short of this mindset will result in a failure for the U.S. to adapt to changing global threats. Lastly, Ms. Heinrichs recommended that the Nuclear Posture Review is a must read for anyone interested in U.S. nuclear forces.