WASHINGTON — Taking U.S. and Russian missiles off high alert could keep a possible cyberattack from starting a nuclear war, a former commander of U.S. nuclear forces says, but neither country appears willing to increase the lead-time to prepare the weapons for launch.
Retired Gen. James Cartwright said in an interview that "de-alerting" nuclear arsenals could foil hackers by reducing the chance of firing a weapon in response to a false warning of attack.
Essentially adding a longer fuse can be done without eroding the weapons' deterrent value, said Cartwright, who headed Strategic Command from 2004 to 2007 and was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before retiring in 2011.
The Obama administration has considered and rejected the idea before of taking nuclear missiles off high alert. There appears to be little near-term chance that Moscow would agree to pursue this or any other kind of nuclear arms control measure, given the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations after Russia's intervention in eastern Ukraine.