If you’re having trouble sleeping thanks to, well, you know who… you’re not alone. But don’t despair. A breakthrough remedy has just gone on the market. It has no chemically induced side effects and, best of all, will cost you nothing, thanks to the Department of Defense. It’s the new Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, among the most soporific documents of our era. Just keeping track of the number of times the phrase “flexible and tailored response” appears in the 75-page document is the equivalent of counting (incinerated) sheep. Be warned, however, that if you really start paying attention to its actual subject matter, rising anxiety will block your journey to the slumber sphere.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the United States devoted $611 billion to its military machine in 2016. That was more than the defense expenditures of the next nine countries combined, almost three times what runner-up China put out, and 36 percent of total global military spending. Yet reading the NPR you would think the United States is the most vulnerable country on Earth. Threats lurk everywhere and, worse yet, they’re multiplying, morphing, becoming ever more ominous. The more Washington spends on glitzy weaponry, the less secure it turns out to be, which, for any organization other than the Pentagon, would be considered a terrible return on investment.
The Nuclear Posture Review unwittingly paints Russia, which has an annual military budget of $69.2 billion ($10 billion less than what Congress just added to the already staggering 2018 Pentagon budget in a deal to keep the government open), as the epitome of efficient investment, so numerous, varied, and effective are the “capabilities” it has acquired in the 17 years since Vladimir Putin took the helm. Though similar claims are made about China and North Korea, Putin’s Russia comes across in the NPR as the threat of the century, a country racing ahead of the United States in the development of nuclear weaponry. As The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has shown, however, that document only gets away with such a claim by making 2010 the baseline year for its conclusions. That couldn’t be more chronologically convenient because the United States had, by then, completed its latest wave of nuclear modernization. By contrast, during the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s economy contracted by more than 50 percent, so it couldn’t afford large investments in much of anything back then. Only when oil prices began to skyrocket in this century could it begin to modernize its own nuclear forces.