Speaking over the weekend at a defense forum, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter talked up the massively expensive plan to revamp the entire US nuclear weapons arsenal, presenting it as something wholly about “Russian aggression” and the dispute over the status of Ukraine.
Far from a sudden reaction to Ukraine, however, the Obama Administration has been pushing this scheme, and its ever-growing price tag, since early 2010, several years before Ukraine, and amid some of the better US-Russia ties in a generation.
Estimates on the cost grew and grew, with the “official” price tag in the $348 billion range, and many NGOs arguing that the cost will be far more, and well in excess of half a trillion dollars, a budget-breaking amount in a time when Pentagon expenses are already spiraling out of control.
That Russia is a sudden excuse likely reflects the Pentagon’s growing desperation to avoid serious debate about bankrupting another generation with more and more advanced nuclear arms decades after the Cold War’s conclusion. With Russia serving as a ready-made excuse for hasty escalations elsewhere, there’s probably not going to be much pushback in Congress.