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US wants low-yield nukes to prod Russia to respect nuclear pacts
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 6, 2018

Pentagon pushes for new, low-yield nuclear weapons
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2018 - The US military wants to revamp its nuclear arsenal and develop new low-yield atomic weapons, largely in response to Russian actions in recent years, the Pentagon said in a policy statement released Friday.

The so-called Nuclear Posture Review outlines the Pentagon's nuclear ambitions under President Donald Trump and is the first time since 2010 that the military has spelled out how it foresees nuclear threats in the coming decades.

"The strategy develops capabilities aimed at making use of nuclear weapons less likely," Trump said in a statement. "It enhances deterrence of strategic attacks against our Nation, and our allies and partners, that may not come in the form of nuclear weapons."

"And, importantly, it reaffirms our commitment to arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, maintains the moratorium on nuclear testing, and commits to improving efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism," he said.

The document marks a sobering break from the vision for America's atomic future under Barack Obama, who during a famous speech in Prague in 2009 called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

While it underscores the administration's concerns about North Korea, Iran and China, the focus falls largely on Russia.

"This is a response to Russian expansion of their capability and the nature of their strategy and doctrine," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote in the introduction to the 75-page document.

"These developments, coupled with Russia's seizure of Crimea and nuclear threats against our allies, mark Moscow's decided return to Great Power competition," he also wrote.

The Pentagon worries Russia assumes America's regular, large-yield weapons are essentially too big to ever be detonated, as their use would likely result in large-scale retaliation and wipe much of humanity off the map.

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

"The US and NATO require a wider range of credible low-yield nuclear options to do a very specific thing: to convince the Russian leadership that if they initiate limited nuclear use, in a war with the alliance, our response will deny them the objective they seek and impose costs that far outweigh those benefits they can achieve," he added.

The US plan to deploy new low-yield nuclear weapons is aimed at convincing Russia to respect existing agreements on limiting the weapons, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday.

Mattis told a hearing in Congress that Moscow is violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and Washington want to pressure it to get back in line.

"As you know, we have an ongoing issue with Russia's violation of the INF. I want to make certain that our negotiators have something to negotiate with, that we want Russia back into compliance," he told the House Armed Services Committee.

"We are going to stay inside the INF-compliant requirements but we are going to do research and development of an alternative weapon that should put Russia in a position to see the value to returning to being INF-compliant," he said.

For several months Washington has accused Russia of developing a new intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile that violates the treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and implemented in 1988.

Moscow denies breaking the agreement.

Last week the Pentagon released an updated nuclear strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review, that details how the US plans to face threats from North Korea, Iran and China, but mainly Russia.

The new stance envisages a new submarine-launched ballistic missile armed with a low-yield mini-nuke, and a new nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile.

The ballistic missile would not violate the INF, but the cruise missile, if developed over the next 7-10 years, would.

But Washington could hold off on it if Moscow falls back into compliance with the 30-year-old INF, according to Pentagon deputy director for strategic stability Greg Weaver.

US defends controversial new nuclear policy at UN
Geneva (AFP) Feb 6, 2018 - The United States defended its controversial new nuclear policy at the United Nations on Tuesday, insisting a more assertive stance was needed to confront a worsening security climate.

The Pentagon's so-called Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), unveiled last week, outlined US plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal by developing new low-yield atomic weapons.

Washington has portrayed the policy as a necessary response to actions taken by Russia and China, claims Moscow and Beijing have fiercely denounced.

"Today's security environment is more dynamic, complex, demanding, and threatening than any since the end of the Cold War", the US ambassador to the UN's conference on disarmament, Robert Wood, said as he unveiled the NPR at the Geneva-based body.

He accused Russia, China and North Korea of boosting their nuclear stockpiles and "raising the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies".

"Some in that room may think that we should just put our heads in the sand and ignore the threats that are being faced out there and just let Russia and China and North Korea continue to do what they are doing," Wood told reporters outside the conference hall.

"This NPR reflects the reality of the security situation", he added. "It is important to strengthen nuclear deterrence."

Moscow has called the new US policy "bellicose" and "anti-Russian" and warned it might take responsive measures to boost its own security.

China has said that Washington's assessments of its nuclear intentions amounted to "wild guesses", while Iran charged the US with bringing the world "closer to annihilation".

The new NPR is the first time since 2010 that the US military has spelled out how it foresees nuclear threats in the coming decades.

It has triggered accusations that President Donald Trump's administration was seeking to lower the threshold needed for a nuclear strike and breaching non-proliferation agreements.

"The nuclear threshold is not being lowered", Wood said.

"Our intention is to reduce the risk that others might miscalculate or gamble that they have some exploitable advantage. The objective is to make clear it is not in others' interest to use nuclear weapons."

Related Links
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com

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Russia deploying ballistic missiles to Baltic enclave: Lithuania
Vilnius (AFP) Feb 5, 2018
Lithuania on Monday accused Russia of deploying nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic, as relations between Moscow and the West sink to post-Cold War lows. Russia has previously sent Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad for drills, but Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that this time they were being deployed for a "permanent presence". Speaking to reporters, Grybauskaite warned that the deployment in the Russian region bordering Baltic NATO members Po ... read more

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