Feb 2, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Trump’s nuclear posture review homes in on Russia

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Photo: Jorge Silva / AFP / Getty Images

Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, officially released today, proposes the U.S. develop low-yield warheads for a submarine launched ballistic missile and a new submarine launched cruise missile, per Defense News.

Why it matters: The new strategy "will ensure Russia understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable,” it says. It comes after concerns that current U.S. nuclear weapons are too big to appropriately respond to tactical nuclear threats from Russia. Greg Weaver, deputy director of strategic capabilities for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "there are strong indications that our current...capabilities are perceived by the Russians as potentially inadequate to deter them."

Big picture: The 2010 review emphasized the goal of reducing nuclear stockpiles, and this is a dramatic shift from that, according to Defense News.

Highlights from the review:

  • On cyberattacks: Earlier reporting by HuffPo referred to a provision in the NPR draft that indicated cyberattacks would be grounds for a nuclear response. But per Bloomberg, the final review "was deliberately ambiguous about whether a debilitating cyberattack ... would trigger a nuclear response."
  • The prospect of allowing cyberattacks to trigger a nuclear response met some backlash after HuffPo's report: critics said this would lower the nuclear threshold — or what it would take to provoke the use of nuclear weapons — but Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said Friday that wasn't the case.
  • The document expresses hope that China will engage in "meaningful dialogue" to improve transparency between nations and to help "manage the risks of miscalculation and misperception."
  • As for Iran, the NPR says that while it has "agreed to constraints on its nuclear program...it retains...much of the capacity necessary to to develop a nuclear weapon within one year of a decision to do so."
  • Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this week that the new review "was consistent with U.S. policy dating back decades," per the Washington Post.

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