Air Force General: A World Without Nuclear Weapons Looks A Lot More Deadly

Russ Read | Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

The top military officer in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal doesn’t want a world without nuclear weapons, because such a place led to tens of millions of people dying in war.

“Can I imagine a world without nuclear weapons? Yes, I can. That’s a world I don’t like,” said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during a speech to the Military Reporters and Editors Association annual meeting Friday.

Hyten argued in favor of the deterrent factor provided by nuclear weapons. That is, the fact that nuclear weapons have a constraining factor on transnational conflicts that did not exist before them.

The general pointed to World War II as an example, and how 60 to 80 million people were killed — an average of 33,000 deaths a day.

“As horrible as the world is today — and it is nasty — it is not anywhere near that,” insisted Hyten.

He added that the reason for this is not because the world is any better at resolving conflict, but because the deterrent factor of nuclear weapons “prevented that major power conflict from ever going horrible.”

Hyten’s comments came just days after the U.S. Amb. Nikki Haley led a walkout of the United Nations’ talks on a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. European Command and NATO forces, also reacted to the talks by claiming such a ban is “just not realistic,” especially in a world where North Korea and Russia are increasingly aggressive.

Hyten argued for an increase in nuclear spending “somewhere between 2.5 and 4 percent” in order to properly modernize the U.S. nuclear force, which he said is the backbone of U.S. homeland defense.

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