Nuclear commander rejects deep cuts suggested by anti-nuclear group
OMAHA – The commander of the U.S. Strategic Command on Wednesday rejected a call by a former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman to cut U.S. nuclear warheads to as few as 300 deployed weapons.
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the commander, also said Iran’s nuclear program remains a major problem and expressed worries about China’s large-scale, hidden underground nuclear facilities.
Kehler said during a conference on nuclear deterrence that he disagrees with the proposal to make the deeper nuclear warhead cuts suggested in a study conducted by the anti-nuclear group, Global Zero, under the direction of retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, the former vice chairman.
“I do not support what former vice chairman [Cartwright has said], although he and I are friends, and I certainly respect his opinion, I respect his intellectual horsepower on these kinds of issues,” Kehler said.
“But I do not think that we are in the place that he suggests now, nor do I see that particular place any time soon,” he said, referring to a world where nuclear forces can be cut beyond current planned reductions.
Cartwright, a former Strategic Command commander who headed the Global Zero study published in May, has called for cutting U.S. nuclear forces to 900 warheads but deploying only half that number and putting the rest in storage.
Kehler said the current force reduction target of 1,550 strategic warheads mandated under the 2010 U.S.-Russia New START arms treaty is best suited to deter nuclear adversaries such as Russia and China, and will provide adequate nuclear protection for allies in Europe and Asia.