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BOULDER, Colo. –

The “Peace Train” column on March 13 (“Take Colo. nukes off hair trigger”) had many factual errors, and consequently understated the problem.

Just north of us is a field of 150 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each with two to three independently targeted warheads. These missiles and 400 more like them are on launch-on-warning, two-minute alert. The two minutes includes the time for verifying orders.

The launch sequence, including target selection, is 45 seconds.

This is because submarine-launched ballistic missiles can destroy them eight minutes after leaving their tubes. If a computer at Peterson Air Force Base says it sees the infrared signature of an SLBM, President Barack Obama will have two to four minutes to decide whether to risk his ICBMs or fire them.

On Nov. 28, 1996, President Boris Yeltsin of Russia was in that position.

What looked like an American D5 SLBM carrying eight independently targeted warheads to his command posts was a satellite launch. The notice got lost. If Yeltsin had not waited you would not be alive to read this.

Russia’s missiles remain on launch-on-warning.

At all times, eight Ohio-class submarines are at sea. Each carries 24 D5 missiles. At all times, four subs are “on station” to destroy Russia’s nuclear forces in a surprise attack.

Assuming two warheads per target and a 50 percent failure rate, 10 percent of Russia’s missiles might get off. To destroy that 10 percent, the Pentagon plans to deploy X Band radars and interceptor missiles in Finland and eastern Europe and deploy interceptor missiles on Aegis warships off Russia’s coasts.

The object is unfettered domination of the oil resources of the Caspian Sea basin.

Russia is reinvesting in its nuclear forces and navy. Every day it gets more likely that a lost document or something that silly will cause the world to end.

The Minuteman 3 is a vulnerable and obsolete weapon. Retire it.

That done, we need to negotiate with Russia to step down from two-minute alert to five minutes, then 15 minutes, then a phased, mutual disarmament. Since 1945 we have been sacrificing security for domination.

We must sacrifice domination for security.

Gary Erb


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