US May Consider Nuclear Response to 'Extreme' Non-Nuclear Attack: DoD

Alexei Druzhinin

The US wants to build new nuclear arsenal because Russian Federation now perceives its nuclear capabilities as inadequate, officials told Reuters.

The NPR does feature sections geared toward North Korea, China and Iran, but its main focus appears to be Russian Federation. The U.S. government would consider the circumstances of any attack - including a cyber attack - before deciding whether or not to respond with nuclear or conventional weapons, he said. This NPR defines extreme circumstances to include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks and those are further defined as including attacks on United States, allied, or partner civilian populations or infrastructure, U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.

United States officials argue that since the last nuclear review, Russian Federation has expanded and modernized its non-strategic nuclear weapons, annexed Crimea in 2014, and deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that breaches the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Also, Gronlund said that the new nuclear warhead isn't needed because the US already has bombs and air-launched cruise missiles with a low-yield capability.

SAUL LOEB
US May Consider Nuclear Response to 'Extreme' Non-Nuclear Attack: DoD

A potential spike in funding would likely funnel into New Mexico's laboratories, where Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories are collectively among the highest-funded nuclear weapons sites in the nation, with New Mexico raking in around $5 billion from the U.S. Energy Department annually - roughly $1 billion more than any other state.

What is new is the perceived need for two new types of nuclear weapons to provide - in the words of U.S. officials - "more flexible capabilities to give tailored deterrence".

The goal of the NPR was to "keep America safe in this century with a deterrent that is modern and credible", and also to "give our diplomats leverage so they always speak from a position of strength", Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at the briefing.

It sounds like the stuff from a Cold War novel: A Russian intercontinental nuclear-armed torpedo that can travel thousands of miles and strike US coastal cities with minimal warning.

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The document, an earlier version of which was leaked last month, says that by having additional smaller nukes, the Pentagon can counter adversaries' "misperceptions" that the United States would not respond to another country using its own low-yield bomb. "We want to see a world that is free of nuclear weapons, but our nuclear policy needs to be rooted in the reality of the world we live in, where aggressive regimes like North Korea threaten us and our allies with their pursuit of illegal nuclear and ballistic weapons".

In reality, the review is a balanced document carefully weighing the impact of unsafe worldwide trends like a resurgent Russian Federation and an aggressive China on USA nuclear posture.

The United States now operates 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and will continue to take the steps needed to ensure those submarines remain operationally effective and survivable until replaced by the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, the NPR explains.

But according to some experts, the plan translates Trump's urge to "greatly expand and strengthen" the arsenal into policy.

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Today, the Trump administration's released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review.

"The strategy develops capabilities aimed at making use of nuclear weapons less likely", Trump said in a statement.

According to the document, the US nuclear forces have suffered as a result of "consistent underfunding" and it argues that the nation must make "significant and sustained investments" over the coming decade to deter rival superpowers. It also mentions threats posed by North Korea and Iran.

"China, too, is modernizing and expanding its already considerable nuclear forces", the NPR said.

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