Pentagon wants low-yield nuclear bombs

Larry Hoffman
February 4, 2018

The report also said that a terrorist nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners would qualify as an "extreme circumstance" under which the USA could consider the "ultimate form of retaliation".

The nuclear posture also outlines the unprecedented use of nuclear weapons in response to a nonnuclear attack and emphasizes the potential use of "low-yield" nuclear weapons, which the administration says would provide a different range and would improve readiness and "survivability".

US officials say the Russian program includes a drone-type device fired underwater with the potential of traveling thousands of miles and the capability of striking USA targets along the coast, including military bases and cities.

Underlining the policy is the idea that a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russian Federation could be limited to the least destructive weapons in both countries' nuclear stockpiles. The Pentagon worries that Putin's army could take control of a US ally and detonate a small nuclear weapon to prevent USA troops from responding. Known officially as a nuclear posture review, and customarily done at the outset of a new administration, the report drew blistering criticism from arms control groups.

"President Trump is embarking on a reckless path, one that will reduce U.S. security", said Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

She added the administration was blurring the line between nuclear and conventional war-fighting.

"There are strong indications that our current strategy posture and capabilities are perceived by the Russians as potentially inadequate to deter them", Mr Greg Weaver, the deputy director of strategic capabilities for the military's Joint Staff, told reporters.

The NPR also projected development of new low-yield warheads for ballistic missiles on submarines and a new sub-launched nuclear cruise missile, and included "tailored" strategies to deter North Korea, Russia, China and Iran.

The treaty, negotiated under President Barack Obama, entered into force on February 5, 2011, and its weapons limits must be met by Monday. American deployment of the missile would violate an existing arms-control treaty between Moscow and Washington.

It adding that Russia's military doctrine allows the use of nuclear weapons only in case of aggression involving the use of weapons of mass destruction or where the existence of the nation is at stake. Earlier, MSBNC's Joe Scarborough reported that Trump asked an adviser, "What's the point of having nuclear weapons if you can't use them?" But Trump sees a fuller deterrent role for these weapons, as reflected in the plan to develop new capabilities to counter Russian Federation in Europe.

Weaver, speaking alongside Shanahan, added that the US would be willing to sideline development of the low-yield weapon should the Russians "redress the imbalance in non-strategic nuclear forces". He noted the NPR says the nation would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in "extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners". Therefore the Pentagon must increase the number of low-yield weapons.

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