United States plans new, smaller atomic bombs to keep Russian Federation in check

Javier Stokes
February 4, 2018

In its newly released Nuclear Posture Review, the Defense Department has focused much of its multibillion nuclear effort on an updated nuclear deterrence focused on Russian Federation.

Shannon said that nuclear terrorism remained a major threat in the 21st century and countries need to work to mitigate it.

Critics say the new stance will increase the chance of a miscalculation between the pair, with Russia's response unlikely to dampen such thoughts.

"Our strategy will ensure Russian Federation understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable", the document, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, said.

The NPR, which was overseen by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, stated that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners.

"While just having a flick through the document, one can notice that its confrontational charge and anti-Russian focus stare in the face", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Certainly, we will be compelled to take into consideration the approaches introduced now by Washington and to take necessary steps in order to ensure own security", it noted.

It also casts China as a potential nuclear adversary, saying the United States arsenal is tailored to "prevent Beijing from mistakenly concluding" that it could gain advantage by using its nuclear weapons in Asia.

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The Obama administration's nuclear posture, released in 2010, also called for modernizing nuclear facilities, nuclear weapons and "investing in human capital", but it asserted the world should aspire to be free of nuclear weapons entirely. With less power and destruction, the low-yield option would potentially be more likely to be used, serving as an effective deterrent.

The new strategy calls for two new kinds of nuclear weapons, both of which can be launched from submarines. The missile could have the less powerful option, but a decision has not been made, and will take up to a decade to develop, officials said. At the same time, the NPR notes that states like Russian Federation could use non-nuclear strategic means, including conventional and other attacks, to cripple USA critical infrastructure, nuclear command and control and early warning systems. This postulates that Russian Federation would threaten the use of tactical nuclear weapons to bring to an end a military confrontation with the West it feared eventually losing.

That would include nuclear attacks on non-nuclear states, in keeping with the USA refusal to establish itself as never carrying out a nuclear first strike, as well as potentially used in a sneak attack against North Korea.

According to the 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review, published on Friday, the country will maintain and enhance the capability to deploy nuclear bombers and dual-capable aircraft around the world, and it is committed to working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to ensure the readiness and operational effectiveness of such aircraft based in Europe.

Second, "in the longer term", the administration would develop a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile - re-establishing a weapon that existed during the Cold War but was retired in 2011 by the Obama administration. The treaty bans testing and fielding missiles with ranges of 500-5,500km.

This is the first time since 2010 that the USA military has outlined its perception of future nuclear threats, the BBC reported.

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