The United States will continue to make investments to sustain its nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, even as Washington seeks to enter talks with Russia about slashing the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to a third.
The U.S. will “maintain a ready and credible nuclear deterrent” while ensuring the effectiveness of existing nuclear weapons, Hagel said during a speech in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday.
The U.S. military will maintain its nuclear-capable bombers, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to a Pentagon report on U.S. nuclear strategy released on Wednesday.
During a speech in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced he would pursue a joint effort by Russia to reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one third.
Moscow rebuffed President Obama’s proposal, citing Washington’s efforts to develop capabilities to intercept Russia’s missiles.
"How can we take the idea of strategic nuclear weapons' reductions seriously when the United States is building up its ability to intercept these strategic nuclear weapons?" Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.
Under the terms of a 2010 agreement known as the New START Treaty, the U.S. and Russia should reduce their nuclear stockpiles to 1,550 each by 2018.
The two former Cold War rivals are pursuing a nuclear reduction accord at a time when tensions continue to rise between the two countries over the conflict in Syria.
The Obama administration is pressing Moscow to stop supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Washington is considering a range of military options against the Middle Eastern nation.
Meanwhile, Obama’s pledge to cut the United States' nuclear arsenal was met with resistance in Washington with a number of Capitol Hill lawmakers saying it would send the wrong message to the world.
“Now is not the time to pursue further strategic nuclear force reductions,” Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Wednesday.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, called the president’s decision “misguided and dangerous.”
At the end of the Cold War in 1991, the United States had deployed more than 10,000 nuclear warheads on delivery vehicles. The U.S. spends an estimated $31 billion a year to support and maintain its nuclear arsenal and infrastructure.