A long-range ground-based missile silo where the United States is testing the missile defence shield at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, U.S., July 17, 2007. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
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Imagine it is 3 a.m., and the president of the United States is asleep in the White House master bedroom.Early warning systems show that Russia has just launched 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles at the United States, the officer informs the president.Bruce Blair, a Princeton specialist on nuclear disarmament who once served as an ICBM launch control officer, says the president would have at most 10 minutes to decide whether to fire America's own land-based ICBMs at Russia.Of all weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the ICBM is the one most likely to cause accidental nuclear war, arms-control specialists say.ICBMs, detractors say, are largely useless as a deterrent against threats such as North Korea. They argue the land-based missiles can be fired only at one conceivable U.S. adversary: Russia.ICBMs are part of the overall U.S. nuclear modernization program, which is expected to cost at least $1.25 trillion over 30 years.The United States is building a new class of ICBMs to be fielded around 2030 .In 1985, for example, a full nuclear alert went out when a U.S. Strategic Command computer showed that the Soviet Union had launched 200 ICBMs at the United States.
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